Pocket Britain

An old market town on the Welsh border, full of architectural wonders

Ludlow is a market town in Shropshire, close to the Welsh border. It stands on a green and leafy hill, with the River Teme bending around it. In old English, the town's name literally translates as "place on a hill by a loud river". Ludlow has a long history, stretching back at least a 1000 years to Norman times.
Back then, the town's proximity to Wales gave it a high strategic value. Sometime in the 11th century, a large castle was built to defend the border. It started out as a basic fort but, over the next couple of centuries, it was enlarged into a formidable stronghold. Ludlow Castle went on to play a big role in such historic conflicts as the War of the Roses, and the English Civil War. For a time, it even served as a royal palace. The fortress was finally abandoned in 1689, and since then years of neglect have turned it into a ruin. Even so, much of the building is still standing, and it's still an imposing sight. Daniel Defoe, the writer of Robinson Crusoe, described it as "the very perfection of decay".
Despite being in ruins, Ludlow Castle is still at the centre of town life. Dozens of events and gatherings are held within its grounds throughout the year. One example is the Ludlow Festival, featuring all kinds of musical and theatrical performances. Its centrepiece is the Shakespeare production, which always starts during daylight, and ends under the dark night sky.
In September, the castle hosts an even more famous event: the Ludlow Food Festival. This is definitely the highlight of the town's calendar. Huge marquees are erected inside the castle walls, which are then filled with hundreds of farmers and merchants. Each of them offers their locally made foodstuffs for tasting and for sale. Outside, there are several different food and drink trails, where sausages, breads, cheese and ales are put to the test! Members of the public move round sampling all of the products, and voting for their favourites. At the end of the day, the votes are tallied, and the winners are announced.
Even when the Food Festival isn't happening, Ludlow is still a great place to eat a meal. At one time, it had the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the country outside of London. There are dozens of good restaurants, and plenty of places to buy fresh ingredients.
One good shopping destination is the marketplace, next to the castle. Merchants first started gathering here at least 5 centuries ago, when they mostly sold wool and cloth. These businesses brought Ludlow incredible wealth. You only have to look at the extravagant buildings scattered throughout the town to see how the townsfolk spent their money!
The most obvious of these is St Laurence, the largest parish church in Shropshire. During those affluent years it was expanded greatly, and furnished with huge stained glass windows. Another eye-catching structure is the Feathers Hotel, with its fabulously detailed black and white timber facade. The rest of Ludlow is stuffed full of beautiful old buildings, mostly from the Medieval and Georgian ages. There are so many that Ludlow is practically an architectural museum.
Visitor Information
Ludlow Castle is open daily from 10am to 4pm with extended hours in summer (weekends only in December and January). Entry costs around £4.50 for adults, £2.50 for children. Castle Square, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1AY. Tel: 01584 873 355

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