For centuries, the Marches were the fortified lands between insurgent Wales and conquered England. The hilly terrain encouraged rebellions and a certain disrespect for the rule of law.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and the border might be quiet – but the Marcher castles remain as a testament to the years of conflict and settlement. Oh, and did we mention hills? They’re still here… as you’ll find on this challenging ride through wonderful Shropshire scenery.
This is a ride of narrow lanes, characterful market towns, steep climbs and commanding views. If you enjoy hilly cycling heartlands like the Yorkshire Dales and the Cotswolds, you’ll love Shropshire.
Sixty-seven miles are a day’s ride for the fit cyclist… but don’t underestimate those hills. We think most people will find this more enjoyable as a two-day ride.
Shropshire is Not Flat. You probably know this, but let’s just restate it: Not. Flat. You’ll find this route easy as far as Minsterley, and manageable from there to Churchstoke, but after that… let’s just say that the climb up from Churchstoke is one of the ten toughest we’ve encountered anywhere on the NCN. It’s a good challenge if you enjoy that sort of thing, but if you’d rather conserve your energy, our route guide points out a few shortcuts (or “flatcuts”) you can take.
It’s all on-road (bar a short gravelly section just north of Ludlow), so any bike will be fine. The hills are such that we wouldn’t recommend a heavy MTB.
North of Ludlow, the route is signposted as National Cycle Network route 44 with the trademark blue signs. You’ll see National Byway logos on the signs, too. From Ludlow to Leominster, the signs are brown National Byway signs. These are sometimes turned round (or missing entirely) so we’d suggest you take a map.
Sustrans and Shropshire Council originally sketched out an alternative (flatter!) route from Shrewsbury to Craven Arms via Church Stretton. It’s never been signposted, thanks mostly to the challenge of crossing the busy A49. But you can plan yourself a very enjoyable circular route by taking NCN 44 from Shrewsbury to Craven Arms, then making your own way back via Wistanstow, Marshbrook, Church Stretton, All Stretton, Longnor, and Condover.
In National Cycle Network terms, this route is a bit of a dead-end. At Shrewsbury you can ride on to Lon Cambria (NCN 81) to Aberystwyth, or the Mercian Way (NCN 45) to Chester and Worcester. But at the southern end, Leominster, the route just stops.
But if you want some more enjoyable (and hilly) rural riding, why not follow the National Byway on into Herefordshire? The brown signs will take you to the lovely market town of Ledbury, where a confusing tangle of local loop routes offers pleasant explorations in cider country. From here you can cut across to rejoin the National Cycle Network near Gloucester.
There are regular trains between Shrewsbury, Craven Arms, Leominster and Ludlow. You’ll need to book a bike space. Shrewsbury has very frequent rail connections to Birmingham.