The poet laureate John Betjeman once described Ludlow as "probably the loveliest town in England". I'm not sure if he got to any of its pubs though, some of which are also right up there in the picturesqueness stakes.
I've been to Shropshire a few times before, but until yesterday hadn't been south of Shrewsbury, a similary timber-buildinged and narrow-streeted market town and the principal one in what must be amongst the emptiest counties in England.
The purpose of the trip was for my local CAMRA branch to present the silver award from Stockport Beer Festival to Ludlow Brewery for their Black Knight stout. En route there on the train, we passed both the trackside Salopian Brewery, probably the county's best-known brewer, and New Meadow, the rather identikit new home of Shrewsbury Town Football Club.
Ludlow Brewery operates out of a modernised ex-goods shed right next to the railway station, a handy location which meant that when we arrived at not long after noon the split-level structure was already filling up with several large parties. Certificate presented and a few pints of their beers and very toothsome pork pies and Scotch eggs dispensed with, we set out to explore some more of the town's other pubs .
I was quite surprised at how steep the hill we climbed up to the town centre was, although it was worth the effort as we passed numeous mediaeval buildings, and in terms of size Ludlow is very walkable. The pubs there were also hearteningly full for a Saturday afternoon, partly because of the coach parties which had travelled to the town for a Christmas market at the castle.
Apart from the Ludlow brewery tap, the town has just one other Good Beer Guide entry, The Queens, which we visited as well as the courtyarded Feathers and Rose and Crown, the bottle shop-cum-bar Artisan Ales, the more modern but still atmospheric Church Inn, and finally the front parlour-style and single beer-dispensing Dog Hangs Well for a last pint before boarding the train for the return journey north, one enlivened at Shrewsbury by some raucous but chatty Bradford City fans celebrating their 1-0 win over the town's table-topping League One side.