'The quietest under the sun' was how AE Housman described the county of Shropshire in his poem A Shropshire Lad. He was not wrong. Come and forget all your troubles during caravan holidays in Shropshire. That relaxation might be stretched out beside the river in Corve Dale, picnicking among the heather on The Long Mynd or buying delectable honey direct from the farm along a quiet country lane lined with the prettiest of wild flowers.
Being a border county with Wales, Shropshire hasn't always been so quiet. It has witnessed turbulent times along its western edge, back in the days of the Medieval Marcher Lords and the 8th Century King Offa; they've all helped to shape the landscape. Indeed Offa's Dyke, which protects the border between England and Wales, passes through (and along the edge of, naturally) Shropshire, providing opportunities to walk the associated National Trail. Further east, things got a little noisy too when Medieval blast furnaces blackened Corve Dale and iron foundries chuntered away in Coalbrookdale at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
With gorgeous countryside that rivals the Lake District for hills (Shropshire's lakes are considerably smaller) and charming pocket-size market towns to enjoy a nose around – places like beautiful Church Stretton, Much Wenlock and the border post of Knighton – you'll probably not want to go home!
There's history a-plenty in the county town, Shrewsbury, where you can float down the River Severn with a drink in hand. As you drift along, why not learn about the natural world of Charles Darwin, Shrewsbury’s most famous son?
Arguably, though, if you want to see the best of the best towns in Shropshire, visit Ludlow. It's got it all with unrivalled scenery, a lovely river (the Teme), an ancient bridge, hotchpotch houses and a great reputation for food – including the Ludlow Food Centre on the outskirts. Pricy but worth it, you'll find plenty of local produce for sale, perfect when you want to cook up a feast back at the caravan.
Sir John Betjeman described Ludlow as, 'probably the loveliest town in England.' The poets will have to fight it out.
Top five things to do in Shropshire
See much of the county by climbing one of the Shropshire Hills. A great place to start is at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms, where you can find out more about this designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and pick up tips for local walks.
If you liked the BBC 2 living history production, Victorian Farm TV series, you'll love Acton Scott Historic Working Farm near Church Stretton. The farm, where the television programme was based, offers a great insight into rural life during the 19th Century. There are opportunities to learn traditional rural crafts and skills. You can even learn how to plough with a shire horse!
Go boating at Ellesmere from the National Waterways Museum on one of the glacial meres. The Mere within the town is the largest, covering over 100 acres, of the nine lakes in the area. Select between a rowing boat if your feeling energetic or sit back and relax on the steamboat. There are plenty of places around the water's edge for a picnic, though the abundant waterfowl might take a fancy to your sandwiches.
Visit the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the heartlands of iron smelting, china production and clay pipes at Ironbridge. Cross the famous Iron Bridge that spans the River Severn, take a walk along Ironbridge Gorge or step inside the former homes of the Darby family, the ironmasters of Coalbrookdale. Buy a 'passport' to all the Ironbridge Gorge Museums at least a week in advance to save money when you visit the bridge, Blists Hill Victorian Town, Coalport China Museum, Enginuity, Jackfield Tile Museum, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and the Tar Tunnel.
Visit the castles of Shropshire. With 32 castles in the county, you'll never be far from the walls of one of these mighty bastions. From little more than stone remnants to imposing residences, you'll see the finest fortresses in Shropshire when you visit Ludlow Castle, Clun Castle and Stokesay Castle are among the finest to visit while the ruins of Bridgnorth Castle arguably has the best position, standing as they do, on the edge of a cliff overlooking the River Severn.
When to visit Shropshire
Most of Shropshire's big events take place between May and September, focussing in particular on food, walking and music – a good combination!
Starting in May, number one on the list is the annual Shropshire County Agricultural Show. Celebrating the best of Shropshire’s rural community, outdoor pursuits and great food, it's based at the West Mid Showground in Shrewsbury. And with camping available on site, it provides a perfect opportunity to visit Shrewsbury at the same time.
In July, taking a step away from the three main themes, you can look to the skies in June at the RAF Cosford Air Show.
Also in mid-July, open your ears to the Festival at the Edge storytelling extravaganza at Much Wenlock.
In August, while music lovers head to the sumptuous Weston Park for the V Festival, flower power takes over at the Shrewsbury Flower Show when all things floral take centre stage. It's not just about begonias and gladioli though – you'll find an arena programme of show jumping, male voice choirs and quad bikes, attractions for the young and loads of delicious food and drink.
In August you can also enjoy guided walks at the Church Stretton Walking Festival.
September welcomes the Ludlow Food Festival, one of the highlights of the foodie calendar throughout the UK.
How to get to Shropshire
There's just one motorway that covers a matter of miles within Shropshire – the A54, a spur off the M6, but it's useful for reaching the heart of the county quite quickly, especially as the route joins onto the A5 dual carriageway to Shrewsbury.
From the north, use the A49 to Whitchurch, the A483 and A5 to Oswestry or the A53 to Market Drayton. Indeed the A49 runs north to south the length of the county and this is also the best route, via Ludlow, from the south.
Caravans will have few problems with the A- and B-roads within the county. Take care on minor roads, though, particularly within the area of the Shropshire Hills, as roads can be both narrow, steep in places and with sharp bends. If you are staying at a remote campsite within this area, it would be worth checking if the owners recommend a certain route in and out to avoid major problems.