Ludlow is often hailed as one of the most perfect small towns in Britain. Not only is it beautifully situated, but it has a total of 469 listed buildings, an astonishing number for such a small place. One of the oldest is the 11th-century castle, built on a superb defensive site high above the confluence of the rivers Corve and Teme. As you start the walk, descending to the river, look out for Dinham House, an imposing brick mansion with a long list of illustrious past residents, including Lucien Bonaparte, banished to England by his brother Napoleon for making an ‘unsuitable’ marriage. Further down Dinham is the 12th-century Chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury, one of Ludlow’s two oldest buildings (the other is the castle).
In recent years, Ludlow has also gained a reputation as a ‘foodie’ hotspot. Factors which have drawn restaurateurs here include the quality of life and beauty of the surroundings, as well as the exceptional quality and variety of produce available. The Ludlow Marches Food and Drink Festival was the first of its kind in the country and has inspired many similar events elsewhere. Castle Square is home to a thriving market every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Whitcliffe is an ancient common over which Ludlovians have held common rights since at least 1240. They no longer exercise their grazing rights, nor do they quarry stone, and probably very few even bother to gather firewood. But they do come here to walk their dogs and admire the view from the top of the cliff of their incomparable town, set against its backdrop of the Clee Hills. Below the cliff, our walk follows the path known as the Breadwalk, which was laid out in 1850, the previously unemployed workmen being paid in bread.
Ludlow Bone Bed
At Ludford Corner, a small plaque adorns a low, rather overgrown bit of cliff on your right, behind a bench. Apart from the plaque, there’s nothing to distinguish it to the untrained eye, but this small chunk of Ludlow rock is an internationally significant Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which geologists refer to as Ludlow Bone Bed. It’s packed not only with bones, but also fish scales, spores, plant debris and tiny mites – fossil evidence of the first plants and animals to colonise the land. These rocks were laid down as sediments in a shallow tropical sea about 400 million years ago and Whitcliffian is now a term used worldwide for rocks of this age.
Turn right through Castle Square, then follow Dinham down to the River Teme. Cross Dinham Bridge to Whitcliffe. Follow the lane round to the right. At a junction go straight on along a no through road signposted to Priors Halton, soon passing the Cliffe Hotel.
Here you can take a footpath left of the road, first running past allotments then along field-edges, rejoining the lane further on. If you prefer to avoid stiles, you can stay on the lane instead. When you reach Priors Halton farm, take the track on the left, which soon swings left towards Mortimer Forest. Ignore a path on the right and continue ahead to meet a road. Turn right. After passing a prominent stony track on the right, start looking for a less conspicuous track on the left, with a bridleway gate alongside a field gate.
Go straight up sheep pasture, following power lines, then through a gate into Lower Whitcliffe (Mortimer Forest). Cross a track and keep climbing, soon crossing a second track, after which the gradient eases as you continue up to a road. Turn right for 100yds (91m), then cross to a bridleway.
Take the right-hand of two tracks by a barn, then switch to the left track. Continue straight ahead until waymarks direct you onto a narrower path, still almost directly ahead, to the left of a field-gate. Continue, now descending steadily on a sunken track. Keep straight on, ignoring branching paths, including colour-coded forest trails. The path is high-banked and worn to bedrock in places, and obviously an ancient highway, so unlike the bland, modern forest paths.
When you reach a junction with a forest road, take the middle path of three directly ahead. It's hard to spot at first but it's the continuation of the one you've been on. Mossy, ferny and often wet, it descends steadily, eventually swinging left near a communications mast, through a gate in a deer fence and down a narrow funnel to meet a short track. Turn right to a road and follow this down right, past a junction, to a viewpoint with a good view of the castle.
Descend towards Dinham Bridge, but only cross the Teme here if you want a short cut. Otherwise, turn right beside the Teme, along the Breadwalk. Eventually you’ll climb again on steps carved from the bedrock. Join a lane and continue in the same direction to Ludford Corner. Turn left to descend past the Charlton Arms Hotel to cross Ludford Bridge. Go up Lower Broad Street, through the Broadgate, and on up Broad Street, then turn left to High Street and Castle Square.
Good but one sometimes turns to shallow stream
Historic town, quiet lanes, pasture and forest
Ideal for dogs, but must be on lead between Priors Halton and Mortimer Forest
OS Explorer 203 Ludlow
Car park off Castle Street, Ludlow
At car park
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Perhaps nowhere else in England will you find a county so deeply rural and with so much variety as Shropshire. Choose a clear day, climb to the top of The Wrekin, and look down on that ‘land of lost content’ so wistfully evoked by A E Housman. Peer through your binoculars and trace the course of Britain’s longest river as the Severn sweeps through the county, from the Breidden Hills to Wyre Forest, slicing Shropshire in two. To the north is a patchwork of dairy fields, hedgerows, copses and crops, broken at intervals by rugged sandstone ridges such as Grinshill or Nesscliffe, and dissected by a complex network of canals.
Spilling over the border into neighbouring Cheshire and North Wales is the unique meres and mosses country, with serenely smooth lakes glinting silver, interspersed with russet-tinged expanses of alder-fringed peat bog, where only the cry of the curlew disturbs the silence. South of the Severn lies the Shropshire Hills AONB. It’s only when you walk Wenlock Edge that you fully discover what a magical place it is – glorious woods and unexpectedly steep slopes plunge to innumerable secret valleys, meadows, streams and farmhouses, all tucked away, invisible from the outside world.