Ludlow and the castle

Our next day out would be focused on the historic market town of Ludlow situated around 7 miles south of our holiday cottage.  We were almost reluctant to go out after enjoying a very peaceful night.  We all felt it to be delightful not to be woken in the night by cars, planes, neighbours or late night party goers but if nothing else a trip to Ludlow would allow us to see some more of amazing local countryside.  Furthermore the previous night we had enjoyed a lovely home-cooked meal comprising of nothing but local meat and vegetables and we wanted more of both.

Ludlow is an extraordinarily pretty old town with buildings dating from over 900 years ago and a whole number of later quaint and slightly wonky looking tudor buildings and more recent grand looking georgian residences.  From several miles off you can see the tall church spire but really the town of Ludlow is dominated by its castle.

Ludlow Castle drawbridge

From inside the outer walls there is a vast open space before you reach the old drawbridge and front gate house. Some of the rooms still have glass windows as the castle was in use for centuries and was modernised and expanded upon through the ages.

The castle was built around 1075AD by Walter De Lacy, one of William The Conquerors barons who was rewarded with large estates after the Norman conquest and is one of a number of castles built in this area in an attempt to secure the region from Welsh attacks as Wales is only a few miles away.

Inside Ludlow Castle

This is the view of one side of Ludlow Castle from the interior. In the old days the grassy area would be full of soldiers and and wooden buildings for workshops such as blacksmiths and carpenters.

Walter died in 1085AD before the construction was completed but the castle survived numerous interesting periods including the English Civil War when as a Royalist stronghold, it avoided destruction by negotiating with the besieging Parliamentarian forces.

Spiral Stairs

Some castles have very well preserved stairs and others are a death trap. Despite this castle being semi-ruined, the stairs are ok at least going up. Going down is always a bit of an adventure. Thankfully I don’t have vertigo or a bad heart so I like to climb every tower I can.

You may have noticed that most castle staircases spiral rightwards going upwards.  This is because most soldiers are right handed and cannot swing their sword going up the stairs due to the build of the steps and wall whilst the defenders would have no such problem.  Cleverly most castle would have a spiral staircase with the spiral going leftwards, this allowed all of the left handed garrisoned soldiers to defend the castle there.  Clever old Normans!

Afterwards the castle gradually fell into disrepair but as you can see from the photos below, it is still a good ruin with lots of rooms and walls to explore and with excellent views from the tops of the towers.

Flooded river

The castle towers aren’t just good for seeing when the Welsh are going to attack but also to see flooded sports fields.

Each castle is different, some are just a pile of stones whilst others are still lived in.  Ludlow falling in between is fairly typical of a semi ruinous castle and most of the floors have rotted away leaving just the shell.  However some floors have been re-instated to allow visitors to explore.  The floors on the 4th floor can be a bit nervy as they are made of wooden grills and you can see all the way down the ground beneath your feet.

No floors

Here is a view from one of the towers looking back inside the castle. You can see multiple levels with different styles of windows befitting the status of their residents along with a large fireplace at the bottom. Sometimes looking up from the ground all you can see are various old fireplaces in walls far above with just a few stone supports of where floors used to be.

Following our visit to the castle went began to explore the town.   Many towns and cities in Britain are suffering either from the ongoing global economic problems or because once thriving centres which once offered unique shopping experiences now all have just the same high street chains and large out of town supermarkets suck out the trade and people out of the old streets.  Happily this is not the case in Ludlow nor several other towns we visited in Shropshire.  There are the obvious butchers, bakers and confectionery shops but also taylors, independent clothing shops, shops selling gear for outdoors life such as fishing equipment, walking sticks and somewhere we even saw a bespoke hat designer.  The wide range of goods on offer made such a nice change compared to where I live which has a much bigger population and commercial area but much of it is just selling the same old rubbish as in hundreds of towns across the country.   As you can see from some of the photos below, many of the shop windows and streets look anything other than run-of-the-mill.

Ludlow bakers

Prices The Bakers: Freshly baked bread, just one of several bakers in Ludlow and so many varieties.  Don’t mention the cake and pastries and a particularly fine sausage roll.

As if the weather knew that we were having too good a time, the clouds opened and we sought refuge in DeGreys tea-room which opened in 1570.  This was a good place to rest a while and tuck into some local and not so local delicacies with mine being some scones with cream and jam and a rather sinful looking hot chocolate with cream and marsh-mellows!

DeGreys of Ludlow

Keeping with the same format of centuries past with a restaurant downstairs and lodgings upstairs. Note the original tudor beams in the wall.

Following some free wi-fi-ing on the internet we headed off to the most prominent church which just so happened to involve going past an exquisite Chocolate Shop.   St Laurence’s Church was founded in the 11thC by the Norman occupiers and has a tower which is 135 feet high (about 41 metres).  It was subsequently expanded several times as Ludlow became very rich due to the wool trade which is why it is so large these days with some fine windows and interior architecture.


Old fashioned chocolate shop… shame we were already stuffed from our stop-off at DeGreys

St Laurence's Church Window

This old window tells the story of Edward The Confessor, the penultimate Anglo-Saxon King of England

After a further exploration of the town centre we headed back to our car via the local butchers and bakers.  The previous night we had enjoyed some delicious local sausages and having developed a taste for them we bought a dozen of them,one set of  Pork and apple with the pork being derived from the Gloucester Old Spot Pigs and the other of Beef and Venison as well as various other meats.  We also stopped off at the bakers which had perhaps 20 different varieties of bread.  We settled on some wholemeal Herefordshire bread with lots of seeds and grains and a circular Welsh white bread with a similar consistency to bread rolls which you might eat hot dogs or burgers in only much larger and with a slightly denser consistency. We also treated ourselves to some cakes and sausage rolls.


From the townside of the market square

Back street lane in Ludlow

Back street lane in Ludlow. There is an old pub on the right.

We drove back through the Teme Valley and enjoyed the wooded hilltops on both side of the road making note of a small picturesque castle just a few miles from our cottage, this is where we decided we would visit one day.   For now though we wiled away the evening eating, drinking and admiring the views from the conservatory or as we had named it, “The Smoking Room” after the habit of Victorians who would eat their meal before going to an adjoining room to drink alcohol and smoke cigars.  Well, we didn’t smoke anything but no promises on the drinks!

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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