A weekend of fell running and walking in Shropshire and one of discoveries: Bridges Youth Hostel in Ratlinghope was a great place to stay, cosy and warm, with power showers, hearty vegan/vegetarian breakfasts, lots of advice on the best routes and a lovely pub a stone’s throw away. Shropshire exceeded all expectations, with stunning views, deserted routes and the wonderful sound of silence. I will be back!
I had originally planned to go for a weekend away with 5 other friends to the Yorkshire Dales but after 4 of them were caught up in local lockdowns that trip was cancelled. The remaining 2 of us able to travel made last minute plans to get away. I was coming from Derbyshire Dales, and my friend from mid-Wales so we chose to go to Shropshire which was roughly equi-distant from us both. I found the Bridges Youth Hostel in Ratlinghope which seemed like just the ticket.
I had previously never been to Shropshire and it occupied something of a black hole in my geography of the country. We hoped to do a bit of fell running, walking and relaxing in pubs.
We both arrived in darkness on the Friday night, checked in and then headed to the nearby Bridges pub for a bit to eat and a catch up over a couple of beers. The food and beer were both excellent and it was great to have a pub just a stone’s throw from our accommodation.
We had arranged to have breakfast at The Bridges Youth Hostel, which turned out to be a great move. The vegan & vegetarian cooked breakfast was very hearty with some lovely veggies from Angela’s, (the hostel owner), garden.
Over breakfast we discussed our plans for the weekend with Angela who helped us plan a running route for that morning. It was great to have her local knowledge so that we could make the best of the area in a short time.
We set off on our run which started through some light woodland alongside a babbling brook, from there it was a fairly brutal steep uphill for a few kilometres to Pole Bank. It was a this point that I realised Shropshire was far hillier than I had given it credit for! The view from the moorland at Pole Bank was spectacular. The low Autumnal sunshine added to the atmosphere and the 360 degree panorama. Definitely worth the trudge up the hill!
From Pole Bank we descended down the spectacular Ashes Hollow gorge down into Little Stretton. Here we refuelled on some apples that had been left for passers-by at the roadside. Once we felt we had the energy we pressed on through woodland paths that went up and straight back down to Church Stretton. It was then up Townbrook Valley back to Pole Bank and a final descent to Bridges Youth Hostel at Ratlinghope. It was a spectacular, hilly and very tiring run and we ended up clocking up a half marathon in the process!
After a refreshing powerful shower we headed to Bishops Castle for a mooch about the town and a late lunch at the Chai Cafe. Bishops Castle has some beautiful Tudor-period buildings and was a pleasant place to wander around for a bit. Be warned, bizarrely Saturday is half-day closing in Bishops Castle so many places were closed! Our lunch at the Chai Cafe was great – a big thali of different Indian dishes and a nice laid-back chat with the cafe owner and various customers who popped in and out.
On the Sunday, after another hearty breakfast at the hostel, we walked up to to Stiper Stones. We took another route recommended to us by Angela. This was a challenging 10km walk, again featuring plenty of hills, mostly through farmland. Up at Stiper stones we were again rewarded with spectacular views and the most wonderful, absolute, total silence. I’m not sure if Shropshire is usually this quiet, but it was lovely to be in such a peaceful place with very little man-made noise in many parts.
All in all we had a fantastic stay, and now that I know what Shropshire has to offer I will definitely be back. As well as hill walking and fell running it’s also very well set up for mountain biking and road biking with some excellent off-road trails and a network of small, un-trafficed lanes.
It really helped having Angela’s local knowledge and I felt that we very much made the most of our short time there. I would highly recommend Bridges Youth Hostel as a place to stay – it was cosy, warm and comfortable, with excellent food on offer and a friendly welcome.