“Fancy spending a few days in The Bog?” I asked Mr Fletche, once the news about overnight stay restrictions were restricted.
“Are you cooking again?” Mr Fletche asked wittily.
Once I’d finished hitting him over the head with a frying pan, I explained that The Bog was not somewhere you go when you have a dodgy tummy. The Bog is a former mining community in the northern reaches of the Shropshire Hills. And I’d found the perfect AirBnB for a lockdown escape.
The Skyloft was the perfect place to swap the four walls of home for well, the four walls of somewhere else. Especially when one of those walls is glass-fronted and overlooks the Welsh hills. Never one to select a run-of-the-mill property (remember the Rotterdam barge? And the Northumberland shepherds hut?) it was the mezzanine level bedroom that attracted me. Dreams of lying in bed, watching the llamas and alpacas frolicking in the neighbouring field.
Except to get to that mezzanine level bedroom, you do need to climb the death-defying paddle ladder. Lose your concentration for one moment and you’re in a crumpled heap at the bottom. And don’t attempt with anything in your hands. You’ll probably need to hang on for dear life. The morning cuppa in bed required a deft sequence of complex moves. But don’t let that put you off; we soon had it down to a fine art.
Like any respectable AirBnB host, Trish was more than happy to confirm beforehand what steps were being taken to make The Skyloft covid-safe. So we felt safe in the knowledge that precautions were in place, and could be confident that a thorough clean takes place between guests. Travelling with anti-bac wipes as part of our arsenal will probably become the norm anyway.
Check in and out was contactless, although Trish was around to welcome us to The Skyloft. As a relatively new AirBnB host, it was nice to see her seeking feedback during our stay, and we’re always happy to make suggestions! But we definitely appreciated the little touches; the coffee machine, the abundance of house plants (which of course I didn’t touch for fear of their certain death), the red velvet cake just begging to be eaten on arrival. And there was a heaving continental breakfast basket delivered, with a refill of any produce we wanted on the second morning.
More details of The Skyloft can be found at https://www.airbnb.com/h/skyloftshropshirehills
New to AirBnB? You can get £35 off your first trip if you book via this link!
The Skyloft benefits from a wonderful rural location. From the front, views of Corndon Hill over the border in Powys. At the rear, the distinctive hills and rocky tors of the Stiperstones. We braved the drizzly weather (yes, in July) to head up to the summit, starting at The Bog Visitor Centre, just a five minute walk from The Skyloft. We followed this easy route as described by mudandroutes.com. There are a few short inclines, but mostly it’s a meandering path through a heather-strewn landscape before picking your way across the stony ridge.
Of course, I can’t resist clambering up the first rocky outcrop we come across, the aptly named Devil’s Chair. Legend has it that the devil visits on Midsummers Eve and summons his evil followers to come and choose their king. I saw no sign of a recent visit. The trig point of Manstone Rock was my next goal after Devil’s Chair. After barely seeing another soul on our walk so far, there was a family gathered having a picnic around the summit. Clearly there was no capacity for social distancing up there so I instead commandeered the next rock for a fruit-based picnic.
Descending from the ridge means a careful stumble through the heather. The path is easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Which we didn’t. Eventually though we find ourselves back at the road, with a quick encounter with a friendly goat. At least, he was friendly when Mr Fletche was bending the tree branches so he could snaffle the leaves. The goat. Not Mr Fletche. We traverse across farmland, and through a wood which looks like it may have been resplendent with bluebells earlier in the year before emerging at Nipstone Rock Nature Reserve. It’s a short walk back the The Skyloft from here, with a quick stop to wave at the alpacas.
Tired of walking, we decide to head to Ludlow, a 45 minute drive away. I know that Ludlow has a reputation as a foodie town, and we haven’t had lunch yet so the plan is to grab some food whilst we’re there. But a combination of COVID-19 restrictions and low tourism numbers means that we are hard-pressed to find a shop or cafe that is open. We arrive late afternoon, and most stores have signs in their doors with reduced opening hours. The only cafe which looks like a possibility has a queue out of the door. We head back to the car, disappointed with Ludlow.
Mr Fletche suggests heading to Welshpool. So we excitedly take the drive over the border. Yes, we’ve left England for the first time in seven months! The sun even comes out, which as we know, never happens in Wales. Then, as we reach the outskirts of Welshpool, it occurs to me. Wales’ hospitality has not yet fully reopened. It’s outdoor seating only. And as we pass business after business with closed doors, we realise that Welshpool is also shut.
We head back homewards towards The Skyloft. We’d eaten at The Stiperstones Inn on our first night, so decided to make a return visit. We should have just planned to do that in the first place.
Just under 90 minutes from home, this was the perfect area to finally escape lockdown. We haven’t explored Shropshire much, other than a couple of trips to Bridgnorth and to Carding Mill Valley a couple of years back. As well as Stiperstones, there are plenty of other hiking routes to discover, from the 202 mile long Shropshire Way to Long Mynd. The area is also flanked by towns such as Shrewsbury and Ludlow. When they’re open.
There are plenty more ideas of what to do and see in Shropshire here: Visit Shropshire.
How are your post-lockdown travel plans shaping up? Are you planning a local getaway, or travelling further afield?