Not too long back, we took a nice walking tour of the town of Shrewsbury, basking in the sun as we walked the Severn after having stuffed our faces, all said and done we can say it was a spectacular day - but we missed one of the main attractions to the town, its castle! Shrewsbury Castle is right in the heart of the town, barely a minute's walk from the shops and sights and is well worth your time to at least walk the modest castle grounds and check out Laura's Tower with its great vantage point over the river and town beyond (plus the train station, so any train spotters can enjoy it too!). For a castle on these isles, it is a bit on the smaller size, and its red sandstone walls make it distinct amongst the castles we typically tour around Wales, but inside is a treasure trove of military history - a museum spanning the entire building, with displays spanning hundreds of years of history, well worth the price of admission. With all that in mind, let's get you to the castle...
Shrewsbury Castle sits to the north of the town centre, right by the train station and sandwiched between two meanders of the River Severn. The castle has no dedicated parking itself, but the town has ample parking and the castle is perhaps best enjoyed as part of a larger day in the town - we typically park at Abbey Foregate Car Park and wind our way through the streets, but the nearest car parks are Frankwell Car Park (cross the river by footbridge and you are a short walk away) or Raven Meadows Car Park (roughly the same distance away, without crossing the river). Being such a historic town, car parks are dotted wherever they fit and spaces can be limited so arrive early or consider parking a little further out to guarantee a spot - plus the windy narrow roads mean the town has a one-way system, so pay attention as you navigate. As mentioned previously, the train station is right next door to the castle, so this is a convenient way to give the castle a visit, and of course, busses run through the town with ring & ride options available too. Those walking in the town need only follow the A5191 away from Pride Hill, where the Darwin shopping centre is, and the castle will soon pop into view.
When you first arrive at Shrewsbury Castle, you are more than likely to notice just how colourful and alive the surroundings are, not one to be overwhelmed by the typical greys of urban life, Shrewsbury town's deep links with all things floral (of course, its flower show is well known) means that no corner of the town is without a splash of vibrance. The castle is equalled as awe-inspiring as the beautiful union jack display, and as you head inwards it continues to impress - we visited in early spring, the time of year when the daffodils are just coming in as a lot of the snowdrops fade away, but the flowerbeds, pots and planters at the castle were booming with life which made for the perfect ambience to relax in. I could only imagine the castle grounds are a popular spot for the local workforce to take their lunch breaks, especially as the sun shines. The lawns were as well kept as you may expect and just every inch of the modest inner courtyard was a joy to explore - you should take the time to ascend the stairs to Laura's Tower, this spot offers some great views out over the town and back over the castle grounds too.
Once you are ready to step inside, head up the stairs and to the reception to buy your ticket and start exploring. The staff were friendly and helpful, suggesting the optimum route to explore, starting upstairs, and winding through the main floor before heading down to the final floor. Every display is well documented, with tonnes of fascinating information around as well as some interactive bits and movies to watch. The displays range from the 1700s all the way up to the modern day, with things like uniforms and weapons all the way to trinkets and pieces of everyday life for the soldiers of the time. It was a joy to wander around at our own pace and fully recommend it to anyone, even if you do not have much knowledge regarding history or a fascination with all things war.
Shrewsbury Castle was constructed in 1067 by the order of William the Conqueror and was extended greatly by Roger de Montgomery in 1070. The castle would act as an administrative centre for operations into Wales, as well as a defence for the town - the town would have also had walls, most of which no longer remain. It saw some use during 'The Anarchy', an English civil war where King Stephen besieged and held the castle in 1138, it would also briefly be held by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Wales in 1215. The castle would have originally had a much more substantial outer bailey, which has been absorbed into the surrounding shops and buildings over time. Like many castles of the era, it fell into decay for a time, before becoming a domestic residence in the 1300s, before becoming the property of the town council in the 1600s. It would once again briefly see conflict during the Civil War, as it would be besieged by Parliamentary forces before its surrender and eventually passing back into private ownership. The castle would be purchased by the Shropshire Horticultural Society and be returned to the town in 1924, where it served as Shrewsbury's Borough Council chambers for over 50 years. A restructure saw it become the home of the Shropshire Regimental Museum, which it remains to this day - it would see some damage in recent years as the result of an IRA attack, damaging both the collection and the structure in 1992.
That just about encapsulates our stop off at Shrewsbury Castle, depending on what you want out of your visit you could easily just take a few minutes to walk the grounds, or spend a good hour exploring the displays of the museum within - making this a perfect quick stop as part of a bigger day out, and given you're already in a great little town then why not have a day out in Shrewsbury anyway? If you want something a little different then there are some great options just a short journey away from the town, including Attingham Park as well as all the wonders of the Shropshire Hills to the south. Whether you choose to stay local, or venture outwards into the hills and beyond, the castle itself is well worthy of your time and the displays it contains are sure to fascinate all ages.