A gourmet guide to Food, drink and producers in the Shropshire Hills
The Shropshire Hills know few rivals in England as a destination for lovers of fine food and drink. Ludlow occupies an important place in the history of the slow food movement and remains a town celebrated for its many independent food shops. The area boasts many family producers, including several small breweries, apple and hop orchards and an award-winning vineyard
Some of the area’s breweries offer tours to the public, including Ludlow Brewing Company, in an attractively converted railway shed beside Ludlow Station. The brewery uses local hops to create its range of artisan ales, and its attractively converted space serves also as a pub, café and events venue.
Hobsons Brewery, at Cleobury Mortimer, runs group tours and brewery nights, aimed at couples and small groups, on scheduled evenings, including beer tasting and food. The brewery also offers a small number of overnight pitches for motor homes.
The Three Tuns Brewery, at Bishop’s Castle is housed in a very distinctive four-storey building in the town and claims to be the oldest licensed brewery in the country, with a history of brewing on the site since 1642. When the Campaign for Real Ales was launched in the 1970s it was, with the Three Tuns pub, next door, one of only four “home brew” pubs in the whole country. How times change! Group visits by arrangement.
The Corvedale Brewery was started by Norman Pearce, landlord at the Sun Inn, Corfton, in 1997 in an old chicken and lumber shed behind the pub. It is a true low-tech microbrewery much loved by real ale fans, who travel from far and wide to admire both the brews – including the flagship ale, Norman’s Pride – and the vintage beer pumps. All the beers are also available by the bottle at the Sun Inn.
The White Horse, at Clun, is a magnet for real ale lovers. The Clun Brewery is presently housed to the rear of the pub and visits are not normally possible, but the pub is a friendly place to try the ales in good company.
Kerry Vale is a small vineyard right on the Welsh border, on the Newtown road from Bishop’s Castle. Its wines have won a number of awards during its short history and it offers a choice of different tours and wine tastings, as well a café, where you can take afternoon tea.
Half of all the food products on sale at Ludlow Food Centre are produced on the 8,000 acres of the surrounding Earl of Plymouth’s Oakly Park Estate. They include cheese, butter and other dairy products; meat; and a range of bakery products made on the site.
Not very long ago Ludlow could boast no fewer than three Michelin Star restaurants. Such stars, however, come and go like their night sky namesakes and currently (2018) there are none. That does not mean, however, that the town is not blessed with some excellent fine dining establishments.
The Cliffe at Dinham, just across the river, in the shadow of Ludlow Castle, was built in the mid-19th century as a gentlemen’s residence. After 12 successful years as Ludlow hoteliers, Paul and Barbara Brooks bought the property in 2014, turning it from a hotel to a restaurant with rooms. Chef Ian Pugh’s AA Two Rosette restaurant offers modern British fine dining featuring the best of local produce.
The AA Rosette Clive restaurant with rooms is just next door to Ludlow Food Centre and under the same ownership, and specialises in modern British cuisine using the most local ingredients.
The restaurant at the Feathers Hotel, under Chef Stuart Forman, is another high quality venue, offering the best of local produce in a fine dining setting.
Other places to stay that can boast an excellent food offer include a number of intimate country inns, all also boasting their own accommodation.
The Baron at Bucknell is a great base for a walking holiday or for exploring the peaceful border hills and, besides its new and superbly appointed garden rooms, its restaurant delivers a varied menu packed with fresh and simple quality home-cooked food, all prepared by owner Debra – alongside classic pub favourites, such as signature pizzas with the Baron’s own recipe tomato sauce.
The Bridges, at Ratlinghope, offers a varied set of menus directly inspired by the produce of the pub’s own suppliers, and including a selection of vegetarian dishes. Home-baked puddings are also a speciality.
The oak-panelled restaurant at the Castle Hotel, Bishop’s Castle, is believed to feature in the Mary Webb novel, The House in Dormer Forest. Here you’ll find modern, good pub food that is healthy, hearty, flavoursome, fresh – and beautifully presented. Enjoy the most local ales and wine from Kerry Vale.
The Pheasant at Neenton is a pub with a difference: risen like a phoenix after a nine-year closure, it is now owned and run by the community and received the Alastair Sawday Community Pub Award for 2016-17, as well as being selected to appear among InnPlaces’ Britain’s Best Inns collection. Classic English dishes supplemented daily by seasonal specials in a cosy, friendly log-fire setting.
The Stiperstones Inn is another friendly local with cosy fires, and its hallmark is desserts featuring handpicked whinberries – crumbles and pies, plus whinberry jams, not to mention whinberry and other gin infusions.
The White Horse Inn, at Clun, is the epicentre of the community and can be justly proud of its adventurous menu featuring the best of local food and drink, the latter including its own ale, brewed on the premises. Landlord Jack Limond seems to have a finger in every pie, from Clun Green Man Festival to the local walking group, which publishes its own collection of 33 walks from the town.
The Sun Inn is a 17th century family-run pub at Corfton, in Corvedale, on the Much Wenlock road from Ludlow and Craven Arms. Besides being home to Corvedale micro-brewery, it’s also a long-standing popular eating destination. All food is prepared and cooked on the premises using local produce, including eggs from local free-range hens and fresh vegetables.
The Old Rectory, Wheathill, near Ludlow, is a luxury B & B and also offers a three-course candlelit dinner and coffee by arrangement. The small, but select wine cellar offers a variety of European and New World wines and champagne.
Local produce from the Shropshire Hills is, of course, not destined exclusively for the area’s restaurants. Ludlow is the place to head to find a wide range of shops owned, run and supplied locally. Local to Ludlow is dedicated to helping to guarantee their continued prosperity, alongside underscoring the principle of local produce by specifically promoting produce from within 30 miles of the town. It offers its own loyalty card and organises twice monthly farmers’ markets, as well as occasional food fairs at Ludlow Brewing Company. Call at the café and shop on Castle Square or see all the events on the website.
Watch out for Ludlow’s various food and drink festivals at the Castle and the Magnalonga food and drink walk.
Ludlow Food Centre, a few miles north of the town, is a veritable hive of activity, selling produce from its own estate and the surrounding area.
For the very best of food on the go, you can try Van Doesburg’s delicatessen, in Church Stretton, specialising in quality products, cooked on the premises using fresh ingredients, free of additives or preservatives.
If you want to keep on enjoying your taste of Shropshire after you get home, Buy-From Shropshire sells produce from a variety of local artisan suppliers, from beer to chocolate and cheese to spices.
The Shropshire Hills are also a great place to come and learn about food and the food and hospitality business.
Eaton Manor estate includes a number of activities for guests staying in its range of self-catering accommodation. Just some of the subjects covered in its courses include Egyptian cookery, cocktail-making, cheese and chocolate making, and cookie and cupcake decoration.
Hopton House is the kind of beautifully appointed bed and breakfast establishment that tempts guests to wonder if maybe, just maybe, they might be able to run their own guest house or B & B. Well, wonder no more! Owner Karen Thorne runs weekend courses at her Bed and Breakfast Academy specifically aimed at helping would-be bed and breakfast owners to get started. It may also, she says, help you to decide that perhaps, after all, the hospitality industry is not for you after all! Karen runs the courses in small groups of six to12, allowing the opportunity to ask lots of questions and to network with other potential B & B owners. Note that Hopton House’s own accommodation is NOT available to course participants.
Ludlow Food Centre also stages special events from time to time, including a Gin Masterclass, where you can find out about this increasingly popular tipple and, of course, sample a range of gins and tonics. Follow the link for these and other events.
Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, at Craven Arms, also hosts cookery courses. Watch the website or register to find out about planned courses.This product has been developed as part of the Shropshire Hills Tourism Cooperation Project, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under the auspices of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The project is delivered by Gravity Consulting Ltd on behalf of Shropshire Hills and Ludlow Destination Management Partnership.