Welcome to the Shropshire Breakfast Blog
The winter is always a quiet time here at Hopton House B&B, so I spend it resting, recharging and shawl knitting! Because Ralph joined us in October, I didn’t get to do any knitting before Christmas. However since then I’ve been knitting like a woman possessed.
My favourite knitting is shawls, cowls and scarves. No need to worry about swatching and sewing up seams, or spending hours knitting a jumper just to find out it doesn’t fit or suit me!
I’ve never been particularly brave with colour, sticking with blues, greys and black in my clothes. However I’ve recently discovered mosaic knitting and got into colour in a big way.
I only taught myself to knit 5 years ago, using YouTube videos. The Timehop app has just been reminding me of some of my first attempts, like a huge pink infinity scarf made of cheap acrylic wool. None of the items I knit are particularly complicated so if you fancy giving them a go, but are new to knitting – go for it!
Some of my finished projects have been proving very popular on Instagram so here are 5 of my favourite shawl knitting patterns, with links to buy the yarns I’ve used and the patterns.
If you’re new to knitting, Ravelry is an amazing resource for knitters and crocheters. You can search for patterns, then see what yarns, colourways, needles etc other knitters have used to create the project. I’m on Ravelry as KJT1966. Here’s the link to my project page.
Some of the links are affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage if you buy the yarn through my link. It helps contribute to my serious yarn buying habit!
I can’t tell you just how much I enjoyed knitting this shawl. The colours are rich and so vibrant and the yarn I used, Malabrigo Rios, is a joy to work with. The beauty of this shawl is that you can really make it your own with endless potential colour combinations. It’s simple knit, using knit, purl, M1R ( make one right ), M1L ( make one left ) and slip stitches.
The shift cowl ( pattern available to buy here ) is the baby sister of the Nightshift. It’s seamed at the back which makes it easy to wear. I’m currently knitting my third in the original yarn, Spincycle – Dyed in the Wool. This is the most expensive yarn I’ve ever bought. But you can make it very effectively with cheaper yarns. The pink one was made with 3 balls of Drops Delight, which is just £2.30 a ball in the UK at the time of writing. The blue/green was made with Malabrigo Rastita, which personally I don’t like that much as a yarn. It’s lightly felted. But as an alternative, the most popular yarn to knit it with on Ravelry, after the Spincycle, is Malabrigo Arroyo
One of my favourite things to do when travelling is to find local yarn stores and spend a while discovering yarns I can’t buy in the UK. There’s a lovely shop in Portland, Oregon called Knit Purl, where I spotted this shawl ( pattern available to buy on ravelry here ) made up in the shop. The yarn is a pure alpaca, Galler Yarns Prime Alpaca, and comes in a 227g skein. The shop wound it into a cake for me and I was able to knit it for the rest of my trip. With just knits and purls and increases, it was the perfect travel knit! You can’t buy the yarn in the UK but any alpaca DK or Aran/worsted weight would make a great substitute
This is another beautiful knitted shawl, that looks really effective but is oh so simple, just lots of knit rows and increases. We had a long drive down to Devon, and it’s a perfect travel or netflix bingeing knit. I knitted it in the same Malabrigo Rastita that I knitted the Shift Cowl in above.
This is a lovely lightweight shawl and would be perfect for summer evenings or weddings.
I’ve knitted this wrap 4 times now, using 3 different yarns. It’s a simple pattern just made up of knits and purls. As a shawl, it’s very wearable either as a big chunky scarf or draped round your shoulders in the evening. My favourite yarn to knit it in has been this WYS Croft in this glorious orange colour. The yarn is available here and the pattern here.
4 weeks ago we welcomed Ralph to our little family here at Hopton House. He’s another rescue dog, a 9 month old golden retriever crossed with a border collie ( probably ). If you’re on Instagram, you can follow the adventures of Saffy and Ralph here.
Like Saffy ( read more about Saffy’s arrival here ), he loves meeting new people. So he’s always available for a cuddle. But we know not everyone likes dogs, so guests only get to meet the dogs on request. Our garden is split into 2 and our dogs stay on their side. And the dogs can’t go near the guest rooms, which are both outside in a separate annex.
Saffy, our German Shepherd / Rough Collie cross is beside herself and loves having someone to play with. So our main problem, apart from pulling on the lead, is trying to stop her from constantly nagging him to play! For a 9 month old puppy, Ralph is actually very calm.
Unfortunately, because he still pulls quite a bit on the lead, I have to walk Saffy and Ralph separately. This means I’m getting lots of exercise, walking up our lovely lane and enjoying the autumn colours. Luckily Ralph is very keen to please, and also very fond of roast chicken, so he’s learning quickly.
If you want to bring your own dogs to Hopton House, we have one ground floor dog friendly room, the Barn Room.
If you like to walk your dogs in the woods. We have both Hopton Woods ( about a 6 minute drive to the car park ) or Purslow Woods ( less than 5 minutes drive ) from us. For on lead walking ( or very well behaved dogs ) our daily walk is along the lane to Hopton Castle.
Heart of Wales Line Trail Accommodation
The Heart of Wales Line Trail is a new long distance walk that weaves its way along the beautiful Heart of Wales railway Line. This 150 year old rural railway, mostly single track, starts in the the Shropshire Hills. It then passes through green valleys, past wooded hillsides, over viaducts and finally ends on the South Welsh coast.
The new trail starts at Craven Arms and ends at Swansea. At 141 miles long, it would take you about 10 days to do the whole walk. Or you could use the train to access sections of the walk. If you don’t want to do the whole trail, read more about other walks from Hopton House here
Why Hopton House B&B is the perfect place to start your journey
- We’re just a few minutes walk from Hopton Heath Railway Station
- Pre order a supper platter to eat in your room after a days walking (£30 for 2 people – can be made vegetarian/vegan/pescetarian on request)
- Packed lunches provided on request ( £6.50 each )
- Water bottles refilled from our filter tap
- Homemade lemon drizzle cake and shortbread biscuits waiting in your room
- Fully controllable heating in both rooms
- Large baths and separate powerful showers
- Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and soap provided
- Forget me not box of essential items you may have forgotten
- Comfortable 6 foot wide beds and sofas and chairs to chill out
- Heart of Wales Line Trail guide book and local maps to borrow
- We can wash and dry clothes on request
- Boot trays and outside hose
- One ground floor dog friendly room
Find out why one Guardian journalist fell in love with the Heart of Wales Line here.
For a full description of the route and links to the timetables on the Heart of Wales Line, visit their website here
If you’re planning to do the whole walk, then Hopton House B&B is perfectly situated to start your journey. Being just a few minutes walk from Hopton Heath Station, you can easily get the train to Craven Arms. Stay here as an overnight stop between Craven Arms and Bucknell or you could stay a couple of nights. Take the train up to Craven Arms on your first morning and walk back , then walk onto Bucknell the next day.
For those of you who just want to do sections of the walk, we’re obviously in the perfect location to do that. With maps and and copies of the Heart of Wales Line Trail guidebook to borrow, you can plan your trip.
We’re heading into one of my favourite times of the year here at Hopton House Bed and Breakfast in Shropshire. The trees are beginning to change colour and the nights are drawing in. But there are still lots of things to do in Shropshire this autumn and winter.
Hopton House B&B is perfectly situated to explore Shropshire, Herefordshire and Powys. Check availability and book securely online here.
It’s time to take long walks in the countryside, explore local market towns for unique Christmas gifts and then come back to a long bath and an evening in front of the fire at a local country pub. Take a look at my suggestion for 5 walks in the Shropshire Countryside blog post for some ideas.
Or, if you prefer not to go out in the evening, you can order one of our platters to enjoy in your room. Then spend an evening curled up on one of the sofas in the room, reading, knitting or just watching some TV.
There was a time when the countryside shut down over the winter, but not anymore. There are many fairs and events to enjoy. In fact far too many for me to blog about here. I’ve added a few to my Hopton House B&B Facebook Page here.
Hergest Croft Gardens
Hergest Croft Gardens are a 35 minutes drive south of us at Kington in Herefordshire. Our favourite drive down there weaves along the welsh border, via Knighton, with beautiful views to the West. And now is the perfect time to visit with the spectacular autumn colour. They are open daily from 12 to 17.30 until Sunday 3rd November. Dogs are welcome on leads.
To quote their website
“Hergest Croft Gardens extend over 28 ha (70 acres) with more than five thousand rare trees and shrubs. Described as “one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the British Isles”, the Gardens hold the UK National Collections of Maples, Birches and Zelkovas. The six distinct areas are Hergest Croft, the Azalea Garden, the Maple Grove, the Kitchen Garden, the Park and Park Wood”
Another must for the autumn months is Arley arboretum, which sits on the banks of the River Severn at Upper Arley, and is one of the oldest and most spectacular arboreta in the country. It’s about 55 minutes drive from Hopton House and dogs are welcome on lead. You could combine it with a day out on the Severn Valley railway, which has a stop at Arley. It’s open 10-5, Wednesday to Sunday until 3rd November.
NT Croft Castle
Croft Castle is one of our favourite places to visit with Saffy the dog. It’s just 25 minutes south of us. There’s lots of lovely walking in the parkland and woods, including a walk up to the top of an Iron Age Hill Fort, with magnificent views. There’s a lot of deciduous trees there so the autumn colours will soon be very special there.
They also run lots of events during the autumn and winter, including an Ancient Tree Walk om 19th and 20th October. This is a guided autumnal walk through the parkland. From the 16th November, the house will be decorated for a 1940’s Christmas. And on 7th and 8th December they are running Christmas wreath making workshops. More details of all their events here
Powis Castle is beautiful at any time of year, but the gardens take on a very special beauty in the autumn and winter months.
Dogs at Powis
Dogs aren’t allowed at Powis Castle in the summer months, but from October through to March they relax the rules. From October through to December, dogs are allowed in the gardens on Thursdays and Fridays, then every day from January through to March. So, this is an ideal time to visit if you like to come away with your four legged friend
Christmas at Powis
From 30th November you can step back in time and experience a 1940s Christmas.
From 6th – 22nd December on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 17.00-21.00, “explore the Formal Garden, Terraces, Orangery and Courtyard which will all be spectacularly lit in a rainbow of colours and glittering with festive cheer.”
If you have any more ideas for things to do in Shropshire this autumn please let me know! Check availability and book soon if you want to enjoy autumn at Hopton House B&B Shropshire.
I’ve tried quite a few granola recipes in my 15 years of running a B&B. And this is one is our favourites. Our guests love it and it’s what Rob has every morning for his breakfast, on top of chopped banana and natural Greek yoghurt.
This granola recipe is full of healthy nuts and seeds, as well as heart friendly oats, healthy oils and no refined sugar. If you make it with gluten free oats, then its gluten free. I make it with maple syrup, so it will be suitable for my vegan guests. But you could easily substitute the syrup for honey.
You don’t need to be too exact with the ingredients. If I find I’m missing some of the dry ingredients ( with the exception of the oats of course ), I just leave them out. And speaking of oats, it really works best with jumbo rolled oats. If you’re in America, you might find them called rolled or old fashioned oats.
I make a big batch of granola and store it in a couple of large kilner jars. It never lasts more than 2 weeks here, before being eaten, so I can’t guarantee how it long it will stay fresh. But I’d say about a month at least.
- 400g jumbo rolled oats
- 100g chopped brazil nuts
- 100g chopped walnuts or pecans
- 100g flaked almonds
- 100g sunflower seeds
- 100g pumpkin seeds
- 25g chia seeds
- 75g milled flaxseed
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 125ml sunflower or coconut oil
- 125ml maple syrup or honey
Preheat an oven to 160 degrees celsius
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Warm the sunflower oil and maple syrup together, add the vanilla extract and then pour onto the dry ingredients. Mix really well.
Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. The baking parchment needs to hang over all of the edges of the baking tray, so you can easily pick it up and pour the finished granola into you jar once it’s cooled.
Pour the granola onto the baking tray and put into the oven. It will probably take about 30 minutes. Stir it a couple of times during the cooking time and make sure it doesn’t get too brown.
5 Best Breakfast Recipes
I’ve been running Hopton House Bed and Breakfast here in Shropshire for 15 years now. I have no idea how many breakfasts I’ve cooked, but it’s quite a few! Here are the top 5 breakfast recipes.
Guests often ask me for my recipes, thinking they may all be secret. However, I’m always happy to share and have written nearly all of them up here and on another blog. I thought I’d link back to the 5 Best Breakfast Recipes in this blog.
Each morning, at the B&B, I load the buffet table up with freshly squeezed orange juice, local apple juice, homemade nut granola, homemade white and granary bread to toast, natural Greek yoghurt, freshly prepared fruit, a fruit compote such as blueberry and lime and some sort of baked good, such as banana bread or muffins.
To start their breakfast, my guests can also order porridge, which I slow cook in the bottom of the AGA or bircher museli – oats soaked overnight in apple juice with Greek yoghurt and grated apple ( recipe below ).
It’s rare that guests then don’t go on to have some sort of cooked breakfast. Of course, there’s the full English but I also offer lots of breakfast specials such as Eggs Benedict or Buttermilk Pancakes. If I know in advance that guests are vegan, vegetarian or can’t eat some foods, I also offer a few extra options.
These recipes are some of the favourites that my guests enjoy. I’ll be writing another blog post soon linking to some more.
Apple and Blackberry Pancakes
This recipe is perfect in autumn when the hedgerows are heaving with blackberries and the apples are just ripening. The recipe uses my favourite pancake recipe and adds a blackberry and apple compote.
Healthy Breakfast Bowl
I’ve converted a lot of my guests to bircher muesli over the years. It’s a fabulous healthy but delicious breakfast recipe, which you can make several days ahead. If you’re too busy in the morning to make breakfast, it’s great to have sitting in the fridge ready to eat or take it to work with you! It’s full of all the foods that are really good for you like heart friendly oats and apples and tummy friendly natural yoghurt.
I like to put some baked goods on the breakfast buffet table. One of my favourites and probably the easiest is this banana bread. It smells wonderful, keeps getting better for several days and uses up those overripe bananas!
Lemon Drizzle Cake
Ok, this isn’t strictly a breakfast recipe, but this is the cake waiting for my B&B guests when they arrive. It would actually work well as a sweet breakfast cake. This recipe is based on Mary Berry’s Lemon Drizzle Cake, but I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it my own
Gluten Free Oat and Banana Pancakes
If you’re avoiding gluten, these gluten free banana pancakes are really nice. They are quick to prepare with just a few ingredients and they taste really good, even for the gluten eaters!
I have lots more breakfast recipes on a separate blog here http://shropshirebreakfast.blogspot.com/
5 Walks in the Shropshire Hills
We are lucky to enjoy the most amazing countryside here in the Shropshire Hills and the best way to get out and explore it is on a walk. As Shropshire is still relatively undiscovered, the countryside is perfect if you want to escape from the crowds. I’ve put together 5 walks in the Shropshire Hills that you can from Hopton House B&B.
There are walks of all types, from short circulars to long distance trails. The most exciting new walk is the Heart of Wales trail, with walks from one railway station to the next on the lovely Heart of Wales Line.
1. Heart of Wales Trail
Hopton House is a couple of minutes walk from the station at Hopton Heath. It’s a request stop, so you need to put your hand out to ask the driver to pick you up!
You’ve got a couple of options. You can walk to one of the next stations, then get the train back or get the train and walk back. You can either travel north to Broome or Craven Arms or south to Bucknell or Knighton.
It does need a bit of careful planning as there are only a few trains a day. The timetables are here.
The trail is described here. We do have ordnance survey maps and copies of the trail book that you can borrow.
We don’t normally offer one night stays at Hopton House, but if we have availability mid week and you’re walking the trail and just need 1 night, please drop me an email and I’ll see if we can fit you in.
There are no pubs or restaurants within walking distance, but we do offer platters to be enjoyed in your room. You can choose from a local cheese, ploughmans, smoked salmon, vegetarian or vegan platter all served with homemade granary bread. The cost is £30 for 2 people and needs to be booked in advance.
2. A short walk to Hopton Castle
We’re about 25 minutes from the castle at Hopton Castle. This is the walk a lot of guests enjoy when they arrive to stretch their legs or in the morning to work up an appetite for breakfast. It’s mostly up a fairly quiet lane but part of it can be across fields. The castle is open to the public with no charge. It was featured on Time Team a few years ago. You can watch the episode on YouTube here.
Since that episode was filmed, a lot of work has been done to make the castle safe to visit, including installation of information boards and a car park.
3. Shropshire Lad Walk
The poet AE Housman wrote a small volume of poems called A Shropshire Lad. It was very popular and sold in it’s millions at the beginning of the 20th century. This walk is based on the section:
‘Clunton and Clunbury,
Clungunford and Clun
Are the quietest places
Under the sun.’
Christopher Sommerville wrote up the walk and described it here. He starts the walk in Clun but we’re very close to the mid section of the walk, so you can walk it from the house.
The pubs or tearooms in Clun are a good place to stop off for lunch or I can do a packed lunch if booked in advance.
4. A Walk to Purslow Wood
Purslow Wood is one of my favourites to take Saffy for a walk. It’s lovely at all times of the year, but particularly lovely in October and November when the red oaks are at their most magnificent.
I tend to drive up to the woods and park up at the entrance. It’s about a mile from us ( turn left out of our drive, past the first road to Hopton Castle, then turn left by the farmhouse and the entrance is just on your right up the hill )
However if you want to walk it, the Bucknell Walking Group have described it from Hopton Castle here. I wouldn’t recommend walking on the road I drive to it as there are no verges.
5. The Long Mynd
Church Stretton is called Little Switzerland. It’s a beautiful part of the Shropshire Hills with loads of walking opportunities. A few years ago it was featured on a stamp as one of the most parts of the UK. It’s 12 miles from us and is about a 30 minute drive.
It is particularly stunning in Autumn and Winter. Church Stretton has lots of restaurants and cafes and is a dog friendly town.
You can get the train ( or a combination of bus and train ) from Hopton House to Church Stretton if you didn’t want to drive. Again it takes careful planning as there aren’t many buses or trains a day.
If you fancy trying any of these 5 walks in the Shropshire Hills, Google maps is a great way of planning your train and bus journeys from Hopton House.
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!