All in a Day: Wroxeter Roman City & Stokesay Castle

Date Posted: 07/03/2013

The ruins of Wroxeter Roman Fort - great for a group travel trip

Pictured: The ruins of Wroxeter Roman City.

Spend a foodie-orientated day in Shropshire and combine a group trip to English Heritage sites Wroxeter Roman City & Stokesay Castle.

Now firmly on England’s gastronomic calendar, Shropshire is one of the UK’s loveliest counties, with a lush rolling landscape producing the delicious meat, fruit and vegetables which are fast making it a must-visit for foodie groups.

Perhaps it was this abundant larder (as much as its strategic importance bordering Wales) that brought our ancestors to settle here as far back as Roman times. Many of their settlements survive today, and the landscape is dotted with medieval castles and timber framed houses.

This day trip for coach groups takes in two of Shropshire’s most interesting and contrasting places from the past, with a sprinkling of culinary delights thrown in for good measure. The day’s itinerary comprises Wroxeter Roman City and Stokesay Castle - both English Heritage properties - with a lunch stop at foodies’ paradise, Ludlow.

10.30am - Arrive at Wroxeter Roman City

By far the best way to visit this fascinating site - which as Viroconium, was the fourth largest city in Roman Britain - is by calling in advance to book a guided tour, suitable for up to 40 people.

Once you are parked up in the free on-site coach park, a guide will meet the group and start your trip back 2,000 years. Wroxeter was one of the first archaeological visitor attractions in Britain. In February 1859, workmen began excavating the baths complex, and by April, fascinated visitors - including Charles Dickens - clamoured to see the buildings that had been revealed.

10.45am - Step inside a recreated Roman town house

The hour-long tour takes in the archaeological remains of the second century municipal bath house and the Marcellum or market hall, where Roman foodies’ would have purchased the finest luxury foods. 

Roman town house at Wroxeter - Visit for a group travel idea

Pictured: Step inside the reconstructed Roman town house at Wroxeter.

The finale to your tour will be a visit to Wroxeter’s piece de resistance - a recreated Villa Urbana, or Roman town house, built in just six months by a team of modern day builders using Roman techniques for a Channel 4 series

11.45am - Explore Wroxeter’s ruins

After this introduction, the ruins outside will be easier to visualise as the buildings where the Roman inhabitants once lived, shopped, worked, and bathed.

Take time before you leave to look around Wroxeter’s fascinating museum which contains just a small proportion of the extraordinary finds discovered during an excavation of the once-bustling town, called home by around 5,000 Roman citizens. Group travel organisers may also like to spare five minutes to pop into the gift shop too.

12.00pm - Depart for Ludlow

Board your coach for the 50-minute drive to Ludlow. The route offers fantastic views of Stokesay Castle as you drive past on the A49 to reach Ludlow just seven miles beyond. 

1.00pm - Lunch in Shropshire’s gastronomic capital

The gastronomic capital of Shropshire is also one of England’s best preserved historic towns, with 500 listed buildings - many Georgian or half-timbered. Once appetites are sated, leave a little time for your group to stroll and browse. Ludlow boasts a lively market, food fairs and specialty food shops, as well as an abundance of restaurants and inns. 

2.30pm - Depart Ludlow for Stokesay Castle

Leave for the short coach journey back to Stokesay Castle at Craven Arms. Park at the pay-and-display car park, which offers coach spaces for four vehicles.

2.45pm - Civil War history at the church of St John the Baptist
 
On your way to the castle, the stroll from the car park will take you past the little church of St John the Baptist, where a group of cavaliers and their horses are said to have been slaughtered whilst hiding during the English Civil War. If you have time to spare, pop in for a look around. 

Stokesay Castle Shropshire - Visit for group travel trip

Pictured: Stokesay Castle boasts a mix of medieval and mid-17th century buildings.

3.00pm - Start your visit to Stokesay Castle

Utterly charming, the cluster of medieval and mid 17th century buildings of Stokesay Castle, set amid sublime countryside, has to place it as one of the most picturesque of all English Heritage properties. 

Its lopsided timber-framed gabled gatehouse stands on one side of an enclosed grassy courtyard. On the other is a medieval great hall, flanked by two towers - one topped by turrets, the other by a timber-framed room, jutting out above the moat which encircles the castle.

3.15pm - Relive medieval history with a guided tour

Group travel organisers can opt from a free audio tour or a guided tour to relive Stokesay in its medieval heyday.

Created by wealthy wool merchant, Laurence of Ludlow in the 1280s and 90s, you will tour the Great Hall where he and his family feasted and their private rooms in the two-storey solar block. Look out for the spy holes where they kept a watchful eye on the activity in the hall.

4.00pm - Tea and cake in Stokesay's picturesque gardens

If there’s room after your lunch in Ludlow, Stokesay Castle’s tiny tea room bakes delicious cakes to go with a refreshing cuppa. Group leaders are advised to telephone a few days ahead of their visit to pre-order their favourites, lest they run out!

Summer is the best time to visit to see the castle’s pretty cottage-style garden in bloom. As the tea room only seats 20, groups can overspill onto the tables and chairs outside to enjoy the garden scents and colours and soak up the stunning country views beyond. 

For further group travel information contact:

Stokesay Castle:
01588-672544
www.english-heritage.org.uk/stokesaycastle

Wroxeter Roman City:
01743-761330
www.english-heritage.org.uk/wroxeter

Group travel organisers should note that parties of 11 or more people will receive a 15 per cent discount on admission to all English Heritage sites (ten per cent at Stonehenge). One tour leader and coach driver will be admitted free with each group.

For more information on English Heritage group visits, to obtain a copy of the new 2013/14 Group Visits Guide or to subscribe to the free travel trade newsletter Attractions, e-mail: traveltrade@english-heritage.org.uk

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