Travel: Peace and quiet reigns in border country where battles once raged

Chirk Aqueduct and railway viaduct.
Chirk Aqueduct and railway viaduct.
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The first clue that we were going to enjoy our stay in the borderlands of rural Shropshire was the discovery of a farm’s cheese vending machine en-route to our self-catering cottage near Ellesmere.

For a self-confessed foodaholic who has made it a life’s mission to find the most gum-tingling cheese known to man (when it comes to cheddar, it’s a case of the stronger the better), this holiday was already looking promising.

Stable Cottage.

Stable Cottage.

Our family – including a full-of-beans two-year-old and a near- teenager with only a limited amount of patience – is a tough ask. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time.

Fortunately, our comfortable self-catering cottage in the pretty grounds of Sodylt Hall was equipped with everything we needed to co-exist happily for a week: three bedrooms, a lovely sitting room with an open fire (wood and smokless fuel were provided), a high chair and cot (on request) and wi-fi.

Guests at the two cottages at Sodylt Hall also have access to the grounds and tennis courts by arrangement.

Slipping in and out of England, we found ourselves so close to the Welsh border that the only way of telling which country we happened to be in at any one time was to check the language on the road signs.

The River Dee is nearby – a great spot for fly-fishers – as are some wonderful walks in the stunning Welsh hills and rolling north Shropshire countryside.
Llangollen, home of the International Eisteddfod, is just a short 20-minute drive away.

It’s only for the brave, but while you’re there, a dare-you-to-look-down walk across the 126ft Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a must.

Its near neighbour at Chirk is also worth a visit, not least for the sight of trains hurtling by on the railway viaduct 30ft above the canal aqueduct.

Equally exciting but possibly less stomach churning is a boat trip, with the option to take an organised canal tour or hire your own day boat.

Boat trips are also available in Shropshire’s own lake district.

There are nine meres in total, formed by retreating Ice Age glaciers.

Their scenic beauty can be appreciated equally on a walk around the wooded banks or nearby canal or from a rowing boat or steamboat.

Little and not-so-little ones will find plenty to do at Chirk Castle, a magnificent fortress built by the English between 1295 and 1310 to assert their presence over the Dee and Ceiriog valleys.

Beautifully preserved, it’s now owned by the National Trust and a reminder that, as peaceful as the picturesque borderlands may be today, the castle’s gloomy dungeons point to a much darker time in our nation’s history.

Meanwhile, for those who want to venture slightly further afield, Sodylt Hall offers a good base from which to explore several popular hotspots – from the pretty market town of Shrewsbury to Chester, Ironbridge and even Snowdonia.

The free-to-enter RAF Museum at Cosford is also well worth a visit, with nearly 80 aircraft on display.

Be warned, though: our location was extremely rural. Which is just perfect if, like us, you love a night of peace and quiet with a glass of wine and a slice of five-year-old cheddar after a busy day sightseeing.

Travel facts:

- A seven-day stay at Stable Cottage, Sodylt Hall, Shropshire, costs from £405 for seven nights’ self-catered accommodation, based on arrival on March 2, 2018.
Sleeps five in three bedrooms with one pet welcome (£11.59 per person per night).

- Contact: https://www.cottages.com 0345 498 6900.

- Cottages.com has developed an interactive nature guide for holidaymakers at https://www.cottages.com/inspire-and-explore/iloveyouk/nature-in-the-uk. Simply click on the animal symbols around the country to discover what wildlife lives where.