Shropshire is simply a great place for families to visit, whether it be just for the day or for a longer stay. For active families, there are country walks aplenty as well as options for adrenaline-filled adventures on rivers and lakes and even up in the air. For more culturally-minded families, Shropshire has some outstanding museums geared to youngsters, particularly in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, and more than its fair share of atmospheric ruined medieval castles to explore. For those just after a bit of fun, trips on steam trains await, as do farm animals to say hello to, along with a 12ft-high gorilla made out of 40,000 spoons…
We’ve picked out the best family-friendly things to do and places to visit all over Shropshire, and we’ve also selected some of the best places for families to stay, with recommendations to suit every budget.
Shropshire Hills and the South
The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms is a good starting point for families in south Shropshire. Its Shropshire Hills Through Time exhibition, complete with film show and replica of a mammoth skeleton discovered nearby, provides a great introduction to the area’s landscapes and history. Paths across the Onny Meadows are ideal for gentle family walks and bike rides, you can follow a stretch of the River Onny with paddling possible in places, and there are lots of organised family-friendly activities such as pond dipping and bird watching.
Thanks to its proximity to the once-belligerent Welsh, Shropshire has over 30 medieval castles. Arguably the most awesome is Ludlow Castle, a substantial ruin with battlemented curtain walls, towers and gatehouses to explore. It hosts Ludlow’s fun-packed Spring Festival and Food Festival.
Up for thrills and challenges? With the Great Escape Company on the Great Hagley Estate, you can ride one of the longest zip lines in England and test your skills on a vast low-ropes adventure course laid out through woodland.
Where to stay
Walcot Hall offers holiday cottages, yurts, showman’s caravans and a shepherd’s hut to rent, dotted over its extensive grounds. Bishop’s Castle is a short drive away.
YHA Wilderhope Manor is an Elizabethan manor turned into a memorable youth hostel. It’s midway between Much Wenlock and Church Stretton.
The Severn Valley Railway is one of the UK’s best heritage railways. Vintage steam trains, and some diesels, run 16 miles through lovely countryside between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster. Freedom-of-the-line tickets give flexibility to get on and off any train at any station throughout the day. Check dates for memorable events such as steam galas and “Step Back to the 1940s”.
Ironbridge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, has plenty of educational entertainment for families. Of its ten museums, the sure-fire winner with children is Blists Hill Victorian Town, a recreated town with shops, workshops and cottages occupied by “real” Victorian people going about their day-to-day lives.
With kids in tow in Ironbridge, also make a beeline for Enginuity. In this fun-filled museum focused on science and engineering, hands-on, interactive exhibits reveal how water power can be used, how a blast furnace works and much else besides.
Have an adventure on the River Severn in the Ironbridge area. Shropshire Raft Tours rents out canoes, kayaks, mini-rafts and giant stand-up paddle boards: you’re given a shuttle ride up the river, then paddle back to Ironbridge. Children aged from four are welcome, or from 10 and up for the paddle boarding. Coracles are also available for hire.
In the hangars of RAF Museum Cosford, you can view up close some 75 planes, ranging from the world’s oldest Spitfire to V-Bombers from the Cold War period. The museum is free to visit, but there are modest fees for exciting simulated experiences such as flying in a Spitfire or with the Red Arrows.
Where to stay
Coalport Station Holidays has two converted railway carriages, sleeping four and six, in a scenic spot in a disused country railway station within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.
YHA Ironbridge Coalport is a youth hostel housed in one of the original factory buildings of the Coalport China Works. It’s alongside a bank of the River Severn.
Shrewsbury and around
Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery is a good place to dip kids into Shropshire’s long and rich history. Its Roman gallery, which features many finds from the nearby Roman town of Wroxeter, is particularly engaging.
With older children, consider taking a tour of Shrewsbury Prison. Used as a jail up to as recently as 2013, the historic prison is now a thoroughly engrossing tourist attraction. You get to visit the tiny cells and exercise yards, and even the macabre execution room. There are also ghost tours and escape room games.
Getting out on the River Severn and taking in its scenic loop around Shrewsbury is a must. The easy option is a 45-minute cruise on the Sabrina, with live commentary to keep everyone entertained. Alternatively, head to Quarry Park and rent a canoe from Shrewsbury Canoe Hire.
The number one attraction for families near Shrewsbury is the National Trust’s Attingham Park. Family-friendly walks explore the glorious parkland, and the vast Field of Play has willow tunnels, earth mounds and room for ball games. Look out for seasonal activities pitched at families too, such as Easter egg hunts.
Where to stay
Love to Stay holiday park just outside Shrewsbury features lodges with private hot tubs, caravan pitches, a natural swimming pool, watersports on a lake, an assault course and adventure play zone.
Hencote provides luxury safari lodges complete with wood-burning stoves, hot tubs and bathrooms with underfloor heating. The lodges are on a wine-producing estate in a stunning spot looking across to Shrewsbury.
For a walk with a difference, take the family to Hawkstone Park Follies. In the 18th and 19th centuries, man-made gullies, caves, arches, towers and bridges were added to the 100 acres of wooded parkland and its sandstone hills, and it became a famous tourist attraction. You can discover the quirky follies and monuments and enjoy far-reaching views on walking trails that range from an hour to three hours in length.
Alderford, just outside Whitchurch, offers all sorts of watery action on its 14-acre lake, from wild swimming to an inflatable aquapark, along with paddle boarding, kayaking and canoeing (rentals and lessons available). There’s also a lakeside walk, woodland play area and great café.
Just outside Oswestry, Park Hall Farm is a hit with younger children. There are farm animals – goats, sheep, alpacas, pigs – to meet, rabbits and guinea pigs to pet, plus indoor play barns, nature walks, recreated World War trenches, and rides on pedal go-karts and a “barrel train”.
Also near Oswestry is The British Ironwork Centre. It has vast showrooms filled with one-off metal handicrafts. But for children the big attraction is the outdoor sculpture park, which includes life-sized metal safari animals threatened with extinction and a gorilla made out of 40,000 spoons. You can also see Knife Angel, which is covered with 100,000 steel blades from knives handed in in amnesties around the country, when it’s not on display elsewhere as part of the National Anti-Violence UK Tour.
Where to stay
Riverside Cabins comprises nine luxurious cabins and lodges, most with hot tubs, in a hideaway spot in woodland next to the River Perry, about 15 minutes’ drive from Oswestry.
Wild ConTENTment offers “nearly wild camping”, with just eight pitches available on a Shropshire dairy farm near the Welsh border. Luxury bathrooms and bell tents can be hired.