5 free things to do in... Shrewsbury

Date Posted: 10/01/2013

Statue of Charles Darwin, one of Shrewsbury's most famous sons.

Pictured: Charles Darwin is one of Shrewsbury's most famous sons, and your group can embark on the Darwin Trail.

With its higgledy-piggledy streets and quirky buildings, there are surprises at every corner in the county town of Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Here’s five suggestions for free activities your group can enjoy on their visit.

1. Follow the Darwin Town Trail

Charles Darwin was born and bred in Shrewsbury. Charles didn’t get on particularly well at Shrewsbury School and preferred to go fishing for newts in the Severn. All those hours he spent playing here as a boy fuelled his passion for the natural world, and Shrewsbury still looks very much the same.

The Darwin Trail will lead your group to the significant places around the town that influenced a young Charles Darwin and helped shape him into one of the world’s most famous people.

Some locations, such as St. Chad’s Church and The Lion Hotel, have QR codes which you can download with your smart phone and watch a brief video explaining their connections to Darwin.

Group travel organisers can pick up a Darwin Trail leaflet from Shrewsbury Visitor Information Centre or download it in advance at discoverdarwin.co.uk.

2. Explore medieval Shrewsbury

You can still see traces of medieval Shrewsbury in the maze of narrow streets with funny names in the centre of town.

The narrow alleyways that criss-cross the town centre are called ‘shuts’ and these reveal the medieval town plan. Some of their names are quite revealing too: Milk Street, Butcher Row, and even Grope Lane!

There are over 600 listed buildings in Shrewsbury and many remain what they have always been - independent shops. So as you explore the medieval shuts and passageways you can also do a spot of window shopping - we can’t promise that you won’t want to spend some money though.

The Dingle, Shrewsbury

Pictured: Relax in The Dingle, a garden within The Quarry.

3. Visit Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery at Rowley’s House occupies two adjoining buildings, one of which is timber-framed (originally built as a merchant’s warehouse in the 16th or early 17th century) and the other a stone and brick building built around 1618 (the mansion of the merchant William Rowley). Admission is free.

4. Relax in Shrewsbury Quarry

The Quarry wasn’t always the idyll it is today. Before 1719, it was not only a working mine, but the site of smelly tanneries - and also where the women of the town came to wash their dirty laundry.

Today, it’s a different story, and the Quarry is a picture-perfect 23-acre park. At its heart lies the Dingle, a sunken flower garden, designed by Percy Thrower of Blue Peter fame (he was Shrewsbury’s town’s Park Superintendent for 28 years).

Walking groups can also choose to venture along the whole loop of the river Severn by following the towpath, lined with willow trees and pasture, which passes right through the heart of The Quarry Park.

5. See spires and stained glass windows

In A Shropshire Lad, A.E. Housman waxes lyrical about Shrewsbury’s: “steepled crest”. Those steeples belong to St Mary’s, St Alkmund’s and St Chad’s.

Special-interest groups can visit St Mary’s, with its 500-year-old medieval spire purported to be the tallest in England. But its real treasure is its glorious stained glass windows - including the world-famous 14th century Jesse window, which traces Christ’s family tree all the way back to Jesse of Bethlehem, King David’s father.

Those organising a group excursion to St Chad’s should look out for Ebenezer Scrooge’s tombstone in the graveyard - a leftover prop from the filming of A Christmas Carol.

For further group travel information visit www.shrewsburyforgroups.com.

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