Family travel: five new ways to explore Shrewsbury with teenagers in tow

Shrewsbury is an ideal UK getaway with teens, home to centuries of history and plenty of opportunity for active adventures.

By Maria Pieri
Published 11 Dec 2022, 15:00 GMT
Shrewsbury Market Hall is home to more than 70 independent businesses.

Shrewsbury Market Hall is home to more than 70 independent businesses.

Photograph by Barry Phillips

History is writ large across Shropshire’s county town. This is the birthplace of renowned naturalist Charles Darwin, home to narrow streets lined with Tudor buildings, and the red-brick Shrewsbury Castle, which stands grandly above a bend in the River Severn. But that’s only part of the town’s appeal — it makes the perfect base for exploring the county’s glorious countryside, too, with quiet woodlands and heather-covered hills offering an array of activities, from scenic hikes to watersports.

Tour on two wheels

Best for: Seeing the sights at a gentle pace
Set off on a self-guided tour of Shrewsbury on one of the town’s new e-bikes. Partly following the River Severn and finishing at Flaxmill Maltings, the route is easy to follow with lots of stops along the way, including the Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery and the Victorian-era Shrewsbury Prison, which closed in 2013 and is now open for tours. Be sure to stop off at The Boathouse inn for a drink. It’s most suitable for ages 14-plus, but attachable trailers are available to hire for younger ones.

Shop till you drop

Best for: Food and vintage finds (and gin stops for the adults)
Situated in the centre of town, Shrewsbury Market Hall was an innovative example of modern architecture when it opened in 1965, controversially replacing the old Victorian Market Hall in the process. Recent revamps mean it’s now home to more than 70 independent businesses, including traditional market stalls, kitsch cafes, artisan producers, craft shops and antique dealers. Swing by in the morning for breakfast at local favourite The Bird’s Nest café – the waffles and gourmet breakfasts are a must.

Swot up on history

Best for: Inspiring budding architects
Purpose-built in 1797, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings is the world’s first iron-framed building, a forerunner of the modern skyscraper. A new visitor centre and cafe in the main mill opened in September as part of a huge restoration project led by Historic England – it’s also the end point of the Heritage Trail e-bike tour. An exhibition explores how the building has grown and been repurposed over the years, including its century-long spell as a maltings, and a temporary army barracks in the Second World War.

Head down to Shrewsbury's Alderford Lake and hire a wetsuit to tackle the new Aquapark.

Photograph by Maria Pieri

Make a splash

Best for: Thrills and spills
Head down to Alderford Lake and hire a wetsuit to tackle the new Aquapark, with ninja warrior-style inflatable obstacles. Alternatively, pick up an Aquabike (literally a bike on the water), try the Mega Sup (a standup paddleboard for four) or find your way off the island in the new Escape Islands activity. This winter, Santa Island Experience returns for a second year running, along with a new undercover ice rink.

Bed down

Opened in 2020, Riverside Cabins is a rural collection of wooden pods and lodges on the wildlife-rich, wooded banks of the River Perry, a 20-minute drive from Shrewsbury. Cabins sleep between two and six guests and each come with their own hot tubs and firepits, as well as wi-fi and Netflix. Try your hand at SUP and kayaking along the river, with equipment available to borrow on site or head off on a scenic walk to the natural quarry. From £175 for a minimum of two nights for a family of four. 

Published in the December 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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