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Original things to do in Shrewsbury this Summer

Shrewsbury River Festival

The River Festival will be taking place on 3rd June 2018.

Pirates ahoy at the annual River Festival, June 3rd

One of the biggest crowd-pulling free events in The Quarry Park is the annual Shrewsbury River Festival, back again this year on June 3rd. It includes the traditional Shrewsbury raft race, live entertainment, a flotilla of Canadian canoes, river demonstrations, trade stalls, a quacky duck race, a children’s fancy dress competition and more.

The festival will raise funds for West Mercia Search & Rescue (WMSAR) and other charities including Macmillan Cancer Research.

Come dressed as a pirate and prepare for a barrel of fun. The star event is the raft race in which teams compete to build a makeshift raft, launch it into the river without sinking and race for the finish. An additional new competition this year is the River Safety Relay Race, introduced by WMSAR.

Event opens at 10am, closes at 5pm.

Find out more.

Take a Jail House Tour

It’s famed as one of the most haunted buildings in Britain and has starred as a film and TV location, take a tour of the old Shrewsbury Prison - steeped in 200 years of fascinating history.

Find out what it was like to be jailed behind its humongous walls, visit one of the last execution rooms in the UK, learn the tales of its most memorable inmates. And, new this year, see a recreated Victorian prison cell or visit the subterranean world of the prison’s old Georgian tunnels.

Ex-prison officers, who managed the wings of HMP Shrewsbury (known as The Dana) until it closed in 2013, lead the two-hour guided tours and have many stories to tell!

The prison is open for self-guided tours seven days a week and guided tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends. Georgian tunnel tours are held on Saturdays. Find further timings and Escape Room experiences and Porridge-style prison ‘sleep-overs’ here.

Shrewsbury Market Hall late night opening

The Bird Nest Cafe during Late Night at Shrewsbury Market Hall

Late Night at ‘Britain’s Favourite Market’, June 7th  

Enjoy an evening cocktail and a street food experience at Shrewsbury Market Hall – voted Britain’s Favourite Market 2018 – on Saturday June 7 and September 1.

Four times a year the popular indoor market transforms into a Saturday night venue with bars, eateries and a selection of quirky retail and art/craft stalls open until 10pm.

Food ranges from Spanish tapas and Thai to Indian, Tex-Mex and Chinese dumplings. In fact there is something to eat inspired by nearly every continent of the world.

Buildings lining the Square

Timber frame buildings above the shops on High Street, lining the Square

When in Shrewsbury look up!

Stand almost anywhere in Shrewsbury’s town centre and you’ll see history all around. It’s a town awash with more than 660 listed buildings – most of them Medieval, Tudor, Jacobean and Georgian.

Look up above the shop fronts and discover streets lined by ornate timber-framed mansion houses, elegant Georgian architecture and old stone churches.

Start in The Square, once the Medieval commercial hub of Shrewsbury, rimmed by fine buildings. At its centre is the majestic grade 1-listed Old Market Hall, built in 1596-97, to house wool and cloth trading and a corn exchange.

And on your travels dip into the Medieval shuts and alleys that weave between the main streets.

The most famous is Grope Lane, just of the High Street, where the upper floors of the timber-framed buildings jetty out and almost touch above the narrow passageway. It would get so dark at night – so the story goes – that people would ‘grope’ their way along the walls. Another theory for the name is that the lane was once a red light district.

The Old Market Hall, Shrewsbury

The Old Market Hall was built in 1596 and follow substantial redevelopment, reopened as an independent cinema in 2004.

Catch a hit movie in an Elizabethan hall

Watch a movie or live theatre in the characterful surroundings of a Renaissance-style, Elizabethan hall.

The 16th century Old Market Hall, in The Square, is not only one of the town’s finest buildings but an arts venue showcasing movies, art films, digital media, opera and theatre screenings and other special showings that you simply can’t get in a multiplex cinema.

It also houses a stylish coffee/wine bar, so come film times movie-goers can enjoy refreshments, fine wines and other beverages. It’s simply one of the most relaxing ways to watch a movie!

Find out more.

Visit one of the few surviving Medieval Watch towers in the UK, June 9th & 10th 

At one time the mighty Medieval fortress walls of Shrewsbury would have been dotted with some 20 defensive watch towers to look out for marauding Welshmen moving through fields and woodland across the river.

Today just one of those 14th century towers survives, and it’s a building that countless hundreds of people walk or drive passed every day without realising its significance.

For only eight days a year the Town Walls Tower, now in the care of the National Trust, is open to the public. It opens this summer on the weekend of June 9 & 10 with tours throughout the day from 10.30am to 2.30pm. The following dates are August 18th and 19th and October 6th and 7th.

To book the Town Walls Tower Tour visit the National Trust website.

Sabrina Boat Shrewsbury

The popular 45-minute cruise runs every day from 1st March to 31st October.

Wine and gin classes ‘on the waves’, June 14th & 20th

Try a wine-tasting master class with Shrewsbury’s own wine merchant dynasty, Tanners, whilst enjoying an evening cruise on the River Severn, aboard Sabrina Boat, on June 14th. Discover great wines from around the world from vintners with 175 years of wine-importing experience, knowledge and history.

Or if the fashionable drink of the moment is your tipple, learn all things gin in an evening master class cruise led by Wrekin Whiskies, of Wyle Cop, on June 20th. So much more than the drink of ‘Mother’s Ruin’ reputation, discover the craftsmanship behind boutique and artisan gins that give each their own distinctive flavour.

Find out more about the Sabrina Boat.

Picnic like you’ve never picnicked before!

Got something special to celebrate or want a group outing with a difference? You can picnic like you’ve never picnicked before!

Hire the Picnic Boat, ‘Little Rea’, from Sabrina Boat for your own private picnic party as you cruise the River Severn.

Oars at the ready for Dragon Boat racing, July 7th and 8th

This annual spectacle gives budding oarsmen and women the exhilarating experience of racing 40ft dragon boats along the River Severn whilst raising funds for Severn Hospice.

This used to be a one-day event, but due to its ‘s-oaring’ popularity, it will be a two-day event for the first time in history this year.

Each day will see 30 teams battle it out - many of them donned in outlandish costumes – in races between the Shrewsbury School Boat Cub and Pengwern Boat Club. Cheer on your favourite team! Races start from around 10am.

Town Walls, Shrewsbury

Kingsland is connected to Shrewsbury town centre by the penny bridge.

Visit the old Penny Bridge

One of the last private toll bridges in Britain survives in Shrewsbury. The grade-2-listed Kingsland Bridge connects the town centre and Town Walls with Kingsland and Canonbury across the River Severn.

The charge of 1d was levied for horse and carts to cross when it opened in 1883. Now it costs 20 pence for motor vehicles to use. There’s a one pence non-obligatory charge for pedestrians and bicycles. It’s still known locally as The Penny Bridge.

Take a pleasurable amble across the bridge from Town Walls and up into leafy Kingsland, stopping on the bridge to take in scenic views of the river, The Quarry Park and the boat houses of Shrewsbury School and Pengwern Boat Club.

The bridge shares a heritage with the famous Victoria Falls Bridge across the Zambezi River. Both were constructed by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company.