Welcome to the Shropshire Breakfast Blog
On 24th July, Hopton House B&B celebrated its 15th birthday Happy Birthday to Hopton House!
It was on that day in 2004 that we opened the doors to our first guest, who happened to be the hotel inspector – a baptism by fire! She awarded us a 4 star rating with a silver award, and 4 years later we went on to receive a 5 star gold award.
In that time, we’ve welcomed many hundreds of wonderful guests to the B&B. I decided to leave the rating scheme, as I’m not really a 5 star landlady. And quite a few people told me that they are put off by a 5 star rating, worrying the B&B will be too formal. Those of you that have visited will know that we’re anything but formal.
My aim is to create a warm, contemporary, welcoming and relaxing space for guests, whilst indulging my love of wildlife ( the garden is designed to be wildlife friendly ) and my dogs ( only 1 dog right now but hopefully that will change soon ).
I’m delighted to say that this year about 70% of the guests staying have visited us before, which is far more important to me than a few stars
It’s quite difficult to explore the Welsh Marches without bumping into a castle.
The Welsh Marches is a beautiful area with green hills, hidden valleys and woodlands. It covers the borderlines between England and Wales. If you stay away from the touristy parts ( and to be honest we don’t have too many of those ) it’s possible to walk all day without seeing another person. But today’s peace and quiet belies a violent and bloody past.
We’re in the border lands here between England and Wales. Some of the bloodiest battles of the English Civil War were fought here. Castles were built all along the border to help in the defense of the lands.
One of the most well known battles of the War of the Roses took place at Mortimer’s Cross. It’s here, in 1446, that the army of Edward ( crowned Edward IV later that year ) saw a parhelion, which looked like 3 suns were rising at once. They took this as a sign from God that they would be successful. Philippa Gregory fans will have read about this time period in her White Queen Series.
Just north of Mortimer’s Cross is Wigmore castle ( 7 miles South of Hopton House ), which was the castle of the powerful Mortimer clan.
Just a mile from us, a lovely 20 minute walk, is Hopton Castle. It’s known for the bloody massacre that followed a 5 week siege by a group of parliamentarians in 1644. They surrendered, expecting to be taken prisoner, but all but one of them( about 30 men ) were massacred and their bodies left in a pit.
The Channel 4 series, Time Team, investigated the site in 2010 ( the whole programme is available on Youtube ). They didn’t find any bodies but decided against searching in the place they were most likely to be buried.
If you believe in these things, Hopton Castle is meant to be the most haunted castle in the Welsh Marches. I wouldn’t go there at night ….but I’ve never had any problems during the day
Six miles to the west of us lie the ruins of Clun castle. It was besieged by King John in 1216. Clun is a lovely little village with local pubs, tea rooms, the river Clun running through it and a starting point for some beautiful circular walks.
If you travel 6 miles to the east of Hopton House, you’ll be able to visit Stokesay Castle. Built by Laurence of Ludlow in the 1200’s, it remains one of the best preserved fortified manor houses in England.
Finally, I nearly forgot Ludlow Castle ( 11 miles from Hopton House ) Founded in the 11th century, Ludlow has been a very important castle throughout the ages. Probably most famous ( depending on your favourite historical era ) for being the place where Henry VIII’s brother, King Arthur, died whilst he was living there with Catherine of Aragon. Prince Arthur’s heart is buried in St. Laurence’s Church in the town.
Shropshire Events 2019
Many of our guests visit just to walk or drive around, exploring our beautiful countryside and market towns. But there are also lots of events on throughout the year. If you fancy Shropshire for a staycation and want to stay with us for any of these events make sure you book soon!
For those events in Ludlow, especially those involving some of our lovely local beers, you can get a bus from Hopton Heath on Monday-Saturday. It’s the 740 and doesn’t run terribly regularly so you’ll need to plan your journey. Here’s a link to the timetable.
If you’re heading up to Craven Arms, Church Stretton or Shrewsbury you can get the train from the Heart of Wales request stop at Hopton Heath. Again we’re not talking a huge number of trains, but perfectly doable with some planning. Here’s a link to their timetable
There can’t be many rural B&Bs where you can around using a bus and a train a few minutes walk from the door!
Most Popular Shropshire Events 2019
I’ve listed a few of this year’s main events here:
Ludlow Spring Festival 11th and 12th May 2019
Enjoy great local food, beer and the Marches Transport Festival at the Ludlow Spring Festival.There’s a pudding trail and a pie trail, lots of different talks and, if beers not your thing, a gin and jazz bar. Their website is here
Here’s a picture of Mr B&B at last year’s festival looking at a car ( don’t ask me what type ;-))
Shrewsbury Food Festival 29th and 30th June
A newer festival but growing each year, the Shrewsbury Food Festival has over 200 food, drink and craft exhibitors, as well as talks, demonstrations and entertainment. Website is here
Ludlow Dog Day 21st July
If you’re a dog lover, the Ludlow dog day on 21st July is a must. There are lots of activities to watch or get involved in with your pooch. It’s held at Stokesay Court, where the film Atonement was filmed. There are tours of the house on the day too. Website is here
This is our own Saffy enjoying here visit there last year.
Ludlow Food Festival 13th,14th and 15th September
The famous Ludlow Food Festival is on the 13th,14th and 15th September. Website is here
Ludlow Medieval Craft Fayre 23rd and 24th November
The very popular Ludlow Medieval Christmas Fayre is on the 23rd and 24th November. It’s a great atmosphere with all the stallholders dressed up in medieval costume. It’s a great place to eat, drink and buy unusual Christmas gifts. Website is here
Those are just some of the main Shropshire events 2019. There are many, many more events, attractions and place to visit over the year. Take a look at the Shropshire Events Guide or if you’re on facebook, then Let’s Go Ludlow share as many events at these can. Give them a follow!
Whilst it’s still officially Winter, there are signs that Spring is nearly here! And the first day of spring is less than 4 weeks away.
We had some snow last week and yesterday we drove to the top of a hill and enjoyed a walk in quite deep snow with Saffy. But today has been glorious.
Throughout the winter, I’ve been out everyday walking Saffy, no matter what the weather. It’s rather wonderful when an unseasonal warm day comes along. Today I took my coat off and sat down next to a stream, enjoying the sound of the water and the birds serenading me. The sun was warm on my face and there was just a light breeze.
The snowdrops are just about at their best right now. They’re out up the lane to Hopton Castle and there’s a rather wonderful field filled with them on the drive to Clungunford.
If you’re planning a break to Hopton House, April is getting quite booked up but we have still got good availability in February, March and May.
If you’re a fan of food festivals ( and beer and vintage cars ) we still have availability for the Ludlow Spring Festival on 11th and 12th May.
We’ve been enjoying a lovely autumn in Shropshire. I’ve been taking the opportunity to take lots of lovely dog walks in the woods.
Purslow Woods, which you can walk to from Hopton House, but I tend to cheat and drive the 2 minutes up there, is looking magnificent. It’s full of sessile oak which has the most amazing coloured leaves right now. A lot of them have fallen, but in a few weeks time, when all the leaves have fallen, there’s a thick carpet of them to kick through.
We have lots of availability for the rest of the autumn. The autumn duvets are on the beds and each room has completely controllable heating, so you won’t go cold. Book now for a late autumn break!
Here are some of my favourite autumn photos
9 Things to do in Shropshire this autumn
Shropshire is an undiscovered county sitting on the edge of the West Midlands between Birmingham and Wales. Here at Hopton House we’re just 6 miles from the Welsh Border and only 1/2 mile from Herefordshire.
It’s not on the main UK tourist trail but one thing is certain; when travellers accidentally come across Shropshire, normally driving through it to get somewhere else or visiting a food festival, they invariably fall in love and return many times.
I love Shropshire for its wonderful countryside; dramatic hills, valleys and woodlands but it’s more than just countryside. There are a few things about Shropshire you might find quite surprising and many things to do and places to visit. Here are a few of my favourites.
1. Home to the first successful food festival in the UK
Ludlow, in the South of the county and 20 minutes from us, has become well known in recent years for its food festival. It’s held every year in the 2nd weekend of September and was the first successful food festival in the UK. It’s held in the grounds of Ludlow Castle and in the surrounding town. If you want to avoid the crowds, go first thing on a Friday.
2. Home to royals
Long before Ludlow became known for food, it was the administrative capital of Wales. Arthur, Prince of Wales, and probably better known as older brother to Henry VIII, was living at Ludlow Castle with his wife, Katharine of Aragon, when he died in 1502. His heart is buried in St Laurence Church. The castle is home to the annual Medieval Craft Fair during the last weekend in November.
3. The Oldest Brewery in the UK
If you like your beer then Shropshire is the place to visit. It is awash with breweries and Bishops Castle is the home to the Three Tuns brewery, the oldest licensed brewery in the UK. There are several beer festivals held through the year, The Clun Valley beer festival is held in October.
4. The world’s industrial revolution started here
Given how rural it is, it may come as a bit of a surprise that Ironbridge in Shropshire was home to the industrial revolution in the 18th century. Today there are many museums for you to explore Shropshire’s industrial past. Blist’s Hill is an open air recreated Victorian Town.
5. Amazing geology
The Long Mynd is well known for being one the most beautiful areas in the UK, but it also has some of the most fascinating geology. The most famous Silurian site in the world is Wenlock Edge. A 400 million year old coral reef is now exposed and lots of fossils have been found here.
6. Walk in the steps of Keira Knightley
If history, food and geology aren’t your thing and you’re more of a film buff, then Stokesay Court was the country house used in the film, Atonement. It’s open for guided tours once a month. A special thank you to Tim King for letting me use his photo of Stokesay Court.
7. Visit the place where the modern Olympic Games all start
If you watched the Olympic Games in London in 2012, you may have wondered why one of the mascots was called Wenlock. Much Wenlock in Shropshire is home to the Wenlock Olympian Games., which were started by Dr. William Penny Brookes. These games are thought to have inspired the modern Olympic Games that began in 1896.
Much Wenlock is a lovely town to visit and you can follow the Olympic Games Trail.
8. Enjoy amazing autumn colours
Whilst New England in America is renowned for its autumn colours, we also have some amazing displays here in Shropshire on a smaller scale. Last year the colours lasted well into November, which is when I took this picture. The hills turns purple with heather – visit the Stiperstones or the Long Mynd to get the best displays.
9. Visit Stokesay Castle
Just 6 miles from Hopton House, visit the finest and best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England.
Discover Shropshire for yourself. Hopton House is perfectly located to visit all of these places. Check availability and book online today!
I’m very sad to tell you that we had to say goodbye to Mitsi the B&B Dog last Monday. She was 14 and had gone downhill quite rapidly in the last 7 months since we lost Murphy. Whilst she enjoyed some of the perks of being an only dog, I really think she missed her best mate too much.
She came to us 13 years ago as a nearly 1 year old rescue dog. She’d belonged to an old Welsh lady who became too ill to look after her, so she was a well loved dog even before she arrived with us.
I hope she’d tell you she’d had a wonderful life here; a big garden to play in filled with rabbits, squirrels and mice, lots of games of ball, walks in the wood and up the lane, a wonderful best friend in Murphy and, of course, endless love and cuddles from us.
We’re all very sad, especially coming so soon after losing our lovely boy.
I’ve been running the B&B for 14 years this week. Murphy arrived 2 months after we opened and Mitsi 6 months after that. It’s taking some getting used to not having my 2 best pals around.
We do, however, have some slightly happier news. We have a new arrival, Saffy. Saffy arrived a few weeks before we realised we’d be losing Mitsi. She will never be able to replace either Mitsi or Murphy but she is keeping us occupied and amused, which is what both Rob and I need right now.
She’s another rescue dog; an 8 month old German shepherd/rough collie ( lassie ) mix. She’s a very clever girl and also displaying typical puppy behaviour!
She adores people and other dogs. So she’s the perfect B&B dog. It can be quite a struggle getting anywhere with her when we’re out where there are people, as everyone keeps stopping to make a fuss of her, which she loves.
If you’re on Instagram, you can follow her adventures there
Hopefully you’ll come and meet her soon!
Most B&B owners, myself included, will have a whole section on things to do on their website. But I was thinking the other day about my own favourite holidays and they seem to involve doing nothing much at all.
My favourites have been; lying on our hotel bed in Rome watching hundreds of swifts flying round the Pantheon, sitting on a beach in Maine looking out to sea for hours on end, lying in a Swiss meadow looking up at the mountains, sitting by a Scottish loch.
Luckily, living in Shropshire, I’m able to indulge in my favourite hobby of not doing very much in nature on a regular basis. I present to you;
The Art of Doing Nothing Much in the Shropshire Hills
Last Monday was an unexpected glorious morning. I had a long to do list but abandoned it to do the short walk to the top of our nearest hill and lie in the grass and just breathe it all in.
And it’s not the first time I’ve done that. I have an app called Timehop on my phone. It shows me pictures that I’ve posted on social media in previous years. It would appear that for the last 5 years in this 2 weeks in April, I’ve been walking to the top of that hill and doing nothing!
The previous week we had another perfect day, so my to do list was once again abandoned and I drove to Rhos Fiddle nature reserve. Here I sat in a lay by watching lambs and listening to skylarks.
In February, I rediscovered a favourite road from here to Clunton Coppice. It’s a tiny lane with amazing views. This time I sat and closed my eyes and meditated for a while. On opening my eyes there was a Goshawk sitting on the post by the car watching me.
Back in May, I’d driven along the same road in search of a field of bluebells and ended up lying in a field doing nothing for an hour. That photo of my boots got on the BBC weather!
Even on a rainy day I’ll quite often drive out and park up a lay-by with a book, just so I can listen to the rain on my car roof, with a beautiful green backdrop. Though on a very rainy day I’ll often just head to the Granary Room and sit and read or knit and listen to the rain.
I’ve yet to do it ( it involves leaving a Mitsi for too long ) but one day I’m planning to jump on the Heart of Wales line at Hopton Heath with some mindless knitting and enjoy the beautiful journey down to Swansea just so I can come back again.
If you’re planning a visit and the idea of doing nothing much at all appeals, let me know and I’ll share my favourite “doing nothing” places.
And if your Idea of doing nothing involves not going out to eat in the evening, remember you can always order a platter to be waiting for you in your room fridge!
We have good news for everyone who loves the Jolly Frog. It has got a new chef and management team, has had a good spruce up and is now open for business!
Whilst the fish menu is not as extensive as before, it still features a good amount of fish, as well as meat and vegetarian dishes and the pizza oven is still producing lovely pizzas.
There’s a bar menu and an a la carte menu – you can mix and match and order from both. And also a list of daily specials.
We’re very much looking forward to getting up on the deck on the first sunny day evening that’s warm enough.
Another one of our favourite local restaurants, that we head for on a sunny day, is the Lion down at Leintwardine ( about 3 miles from us ). The food is very good and it’s rather idyllic sitting there on the riverbank watching the kingfishers, dipper, sand martins and jumping fish.
Take the train to dinner
We’re very lucky to have the Heart of Wales line of the doorstep, just a few minutes walk from us. There are very few trains a day but the timings do mean that you can get a train down to Knighton or Bucknell in the evening and then get it back again to Hopton House.
The Baron at Bucknell is a favourite of many of our guests and is about a 10 minute walk from the station.
The evening train runs from Monday through to Saturday ( Sunday hours are different ), leaving Hopton Heath at 7.04 and returning from Bucknell at 10.04 and Knighton at 9.58. Please do double check the train times before you set out and always book your pub as they can get very busy.
If you’d rather stay in in the evening, we can provide you with a cold platter. I leave these in your fridge ( it is a silent fridge! ) in your room ready for your arrival, along with a freshly baked loaf of my homemade honey granary bread.
The ploughman’s platter is very popular with local pork pie, pate, ham, cheese and chutney. The smoked salmon platter has several different types of smoked salmon. The local cheese platter has 5-6 local cheeses. I can also do a vegetarian or vegan platter on request.
I charge £25 for a platter for 2. Please make sure you either book your platter at the same time as you book your room or give me several days notice before your arrival.
We aren’t licensed so can’t sell you wine, but we provide both wine and champagne glasses in the room so please bring your own. If you’re a beer or cider drinker we have an amazing array of local ciders and beers. Harry Tuffins Supermarket in Craven Arms isn’t on the normal tourist trail but it’s local beer and cider department is a sight to behold! Let me know and I’ll leave pint glasses in your room.
Yesterday, Rob and I popped down to see the Weeping Poppies at Hereford Cathedral. Thousands of ceramic poppies cascade down the front of the Cathedral until 29 April 2018 as part of the final year of 14-18 NOW’s UK-wide tour. The display is free and open to the public.
There will special events at the Cathedral and throughout Herefordshire to mark the contributions of the men and women of Herefordshire to the war effort. You can find more details here https://herefordcathedral2018.org/
Hereford is about a 50 minute drive from Hopton House. The cathedral itself is very interesting to visit. It’s home to the Mappa Mundi, believed to be the largest Medieval map still to exist. More details can be found here https://www.themappamundi.co.uk/index.php
Hereford is an interesting city with a mix of independent and chain stores. It has new shopping area with lots of different restaurants. Rob and I ate at The Beefy Boys which is great if you love beefburgers!