Ludlow has recently been flagged up as one of the cheapest places in the UK for a short break.
That’s as may be and, while it has a number of attractive guest houses and pubs with accommodation, it may be more practical, given the town’s relative compactness and easy navigability, to consider a day trip instead. The West Midlands/Welsh Border location make this quite achievable for many people in mainland Britain
If you’re also fortunate enough to live near the Manchester to South Wales line, a day trip by train, without the annoying need for a change at Crewe or Shrewsbury, is also on the cards. Two hours each way from Manchester, and it was possible to buy advance tickets from the Arriva Trains Wales website for a total of £28 – though prices can and do vary considerably. This allowed for eight hours in the town, which was plenty, and in midsummer enabled a trip that could start and finish in daylight.
Don’t expect perfection. Arriva’s wi-fi-free zones – what do you think this is, the 21st Century? – mean that you’re going to need a crossword or two to hand if you’re not prepared to sit back and enjoy the scenery; and the promised trolley service didn’t materialise until Shrewsbury. But the sunday morning outward journey was comfortable enough and quiet, except maybe for the screaming kids off on holiday who thankfully left the train at Crewe.
Ludlow station is a minor affair, unstaffed and free of ticket machines, coffee bars and, for a lot of the time, passengers as there was only one train per hour each way. The town plan on the platform was ultimately more help than could be provided by any human, though.
One of the first things you’ll see if you arrive by train is the Ludlow Brewing Company, which proudly announces that it’s open to the public. An ideal place to spend a couple of hours waiting for your train home, were it not for the “Private Function Only” sign on the door. Welcome to Middle England, where inbred faces haunt the cobbled streets, and dog owners discourage their pets from interacting with strangers.
That said, the town centre is well worth a look. Free for the most part of the chainstore nightmare of most market towns, there are plenty of reasonably priced places for the book and antique collector to search.
Castle Square hosts a themed market on Sundays and Thursdays, and the regular themes are food and antiques. In addition, there are annual Food Festivals in May and September. Pork pie heaven, although vegetarian and gluten free alternatives are available.
Not surprisingly, you won’t have trouble finding a pub or cafe for lunch, or eat alfresco at the market if weather permits. As ever, the less costly (but equal in quality) places are set back from the tourist traps.
you can spend time in the castle if you’re happy to part with the £5 entrance fee, but if you’re reasonably fit and don’t mind a couple of slight gradients, take a free walk alongside the River Teme or the town walls. Few visitors seem to want to take this option, but those who do will be well rewarded by the views.
The return journey would have been alright if the train’s doors and air conditioning had been working. Unfortunately they weren’t.