Lately we’ve been pretty focused day trips that are easy to get to an within an hour’s journey. For next weekend we’re planning on going a little farther (had to look that up just now) and then staying overnight because 2 hours is such a long drive. Ha. Gone are our college days of driving 3 hours one way to go hiking in a National Park for the day. I suppose we’re adopting a more European and child-friendly philosophy. Anyway, last Saturday we drove less than an hour to see a few sites.
We started at Buildwas Abbey, a medieval church that both the English Heritage and Wikipedia pages say is unaltered…except for the insignificant lack of a roof. Because I knew that the building was not too different than it was when in use I tried to fill in the blanks with a little imagination – some pews here, a tapestry there, a thatched roof overhead with Cistersian Monks beneath. Illuminating maybe?
The old stone of building itself was beautiful, but coupled with lots of grass and England-typical trees around the edges… it was a great site.
Since we had the abby all to ourselves we just left L to hang out while we ran down some steps (like 5, don’t you worry) to see the chapter house and its tiled floor. She was cool with it.From Buildwas we drove just 2 miles to see the Ironbridge Gorge. We started at the Museum of the Gorge then walked over to the bridge itself.The Iron Bridge is a World Heritage Site (along with Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza – no big deal) because it was the first arched bridge to be made from cast iron.Previously cast iron had been too expensive to make to build an entire bridge out of it, but Abraham Darby figured out how to make it with coke, his son, Abraham Darby II assisted by making blast furnaces (bigger furnaces, more output), and Abraham Darby III built the Iron Bridge in 1778. Really though, the Iron Bridge is so famous because it was such an important site for the Industrial Revolution. You know the cliche if you want something done ask a busy person? I think that holds true for this area during the Industrial Revolution. The people who lived here were turning out iron, china, tiles, glass, etc.After seeing the bridge we drove a little ways to Blists Hill – a recreated Victorian town. We saw some performers, bought some sweets, took a funicular up a hill, and just appreciated the Victorian atmosphere. I loved the Outfitters – a clothing/fabric shop while Derek liked seeing the workings of an old steam engine. We also had a little extra appreciation for the time period because we had randomly watched Young Victoria on Netfix the night before.Since it’s so close and since our tickets (like those we bought for the Shakespeare sites in Stratford-upon-Avon) are good for a whole year, we plan on returning to see the museums we missed.
If you find yourself in Shropshire:
The IronBridge website has lots of helpful travel advice and FAQs.
This driving tour looks interesting, though we chose not to follow it.
We didn’t go to all the museums, so when we do I’ll report back on the others, but as it is unless you purchase a passport for all of the museums I don’t think the China Museum or the Museum of the Gorge are worth the price of the individual ticket fare. Blists Hill was fun for us and would probably be especially great for children ages 5-14.
How much you walk is up to you. We wandered around all 52 acres of Blists Hill and walked on some paths around the bridge, but it didn’t seem like much. Do plan for weather. We were grateful for our umbrellas when it started to rain and I wish we’d had more water with us during the heat of the day.
Parking at most of the locations is £1.50 and that’ll cover you all day at most of the museums. (Not for the Museum of the Gorge and the actual bridge and the Tollhouse). There is local pay and display (only £2.30 I think) or we saw free parking along the road between the Museum of the Gorge and the Iron Bridge, so long as you’re there less than 40 minutes you’re fine. There is some information about parking here, though I didn’t see that until writing this… Typical:)