If you’re visiting Ironbridge, here’s a suggested itinerary to help you make the most of your visit to this historic Shropshire town.
I was invited to stay in Ironbridge as a guest of Puddle Duck Cottages.
Ironbridge and the surrounding area is the perfect location for a long weekend away.
Although it’s only an hour or so from Birmingham, and close to the busy town of Telford, the Ironbridge Gorge is a wonderfully tranquil spot in the Shropshire countryside.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do!
In fact, your hardest decision could be what to leave out of a weekend in Ironbridge. Whether you are a history buff, an antiques enthusiast, a nature lover or an outdoors type, you’ll find something to suit your taste.
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And if your perfect weekend involves browsing through quirky little shops and eating good food? Well, Ironbridge has got you covered!
Here’s my suggestion for a long weekend in this historic town and the surrounding environs. And this itinerary can easily be adapted if you are only spending 48 hours in Ironbridge.
This itinerary is set out for visitors staying at the Puddle Duck Cottages or Jackfield.
If you’re staying in Ironbridge itself, you may wish to swap the itineraries for Saturday and Sunday.
Getting to Ironbridge
If you’re visiting Ironbridge from outside the UK, the closest airport is Birmingham International (45 miles/72km). From there you can either use public transport or hire a car and drive to Ironbridge.
Ironbridge lies in the heart of Shropshire, but it’s fairly easy to get to. The nearest motorway to Ironbridge is the M54, and you should leave at Junction 4 for Shifnal. From there, it’s about a 12 minute drive into Ironbridge, mainly on A roads.
If you are travelling by public transport, unfortunately Ironbridge doesn’t have a train station. The closest station is Telford Central, and you can easily take a taxi or use Arriva bus service 18 from Telford to Much Wenlock.
Where to stay in Ironbridge
To enjoy the Ironbridge area at its very best, I can highly recommend staying at Puddle Duck Cottages. These two luxury self-catering cottages date back to the days of the Industrial Revolution.
There are plenty of other options for hotels and guest-houses in Ironbridge. These include the Malthouse with its kitschy rooms, and Bridgeview Guest House with its unrivalled view of the Iron Bridge itself.
Coming Soon: Where to Stay in Ironbridge
Arrive in Ironbridge
When you arrive in Ironbridge, the first thing you will want to do is probably to unpack and put the kettle on.
If you’re staying in the Puddle Duck cottages, take a while to explore your historic accommodation. They’re full of character, and you’ll enjoy discovering all the quirky features of the cottage.
And your welcome to the cottage will include tea, coffee, a bottle of wine and a cake – perfect to help you settle in!
Explore the area
Once you have unpacked and explored the cottage, you may have time to go out and explore the area a little.
Puddle Duck Cottage lies in the village of Jackfield, which is about a mile downstream from the town of Ironbridge itself. The area is rich in industrial history, and there are signs dotted around which will help you to imagine how it may have looked in the past.
There are several restaurants and pubs serving food within walking distance of Puddle Duck Cottage. So why not call into one of these for dinner on your first evening in the area?
And if your pooch has come on holiday with you, you’ll find that several of them are dog-friendly.
After a good night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast, you’ll be feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
Coalport and the River Severn
In your welcome pack from Puddle Duck Cottages, you will find details of a circular walk which takes you through Coalport and the surrounding area.
You’ll cross over the Jackfield Memorial Bridge, and also over Coalport Bridge. This was built in 1818 from cast iron, but is not quite as famous as the bridge a little further upstream!
The walk also takes in the Hay Inclined Plane, which is a railway which runs directly into the Coalport. This was an ingenious way of transporting goods down from the top of the Ironbridge Gorge without needing to use a series of canal locks.
And if you have time, why not call into the Coalport China Museum on your walk. The museum is based in former factory buildings which now house examples of Coalport and Caughey china. It’s one of the 10 museums which make up the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. A Passport ticket is available which will allow you entry to all 10 museums for a year.
There are plenty of options for lunch in the Jackfield area. The Half Moon Inn overlooks the River Severn, and is a lovely place for a sandwich and a cold drink at lunchtime. In the summer months, they have an outdoors bar and BBQ.
You could also stop off at the Woodbridge Inn on your walk, which is a lovely dog-friendly pub by the river. They even have dog biccies on the bar!
Jackfield Tile Museum
After a refreshing lunch, you’ll be ready for the next part of your weekend.
Jackfield Tile Museum is about a 10 minute walk from Puddle Duck Cottage and is a great way to spend a few hours, especially if the weather isn’t wonderful. If you bought an Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust passport ticket earlier in the day, entry to this museum is covered by that. You can buy a passport at any of the Trust’s 10 museums.
Tiles were definitely on-trend during the Victorian era, and Jackfield was at the heart of the tile industry.
The museum is housed in the former works of the Craven Dunnill tile company. Within its walls, you’ll see the history of the British decorative tile industry between 1840 and 1960. This was the period during which this factory and nearby Maw & Co were key players in the industry.
The museum offers a peek into the past, as you can see some of the offices as they would have been at the height of Craven Dunnill’s tile production days.
There are galleries of the company’s many tile designs, including some by William Morris. And you can also see examples of tiles in use. These include recreations of an Edwardian Tube station, a pub and a church.
And for a more up-to-date experience, don’t forget to head into Fusion, which is housed on the same site. This building offers several artisans a space to design, create and inspire.
The Church of the St Mary the Virgin, Jackfield
If you enjoy looking around Jackfield Tile Museum, then do pop across the road to the Church of St Mary the Virgin to see the tiles in use.
This beautiful building was designed in the French Gothic style by Sir Arthur Blomfield, and uses tiles from Maws on the floor.
Underneath the stunning stained glass windows is a reredos (or altarpiece) showing the Calvary scene. This is made from hand painted tiles and was exhibited at the Great Paris Exhibition in 1870
As this is still an active church, there are limited opening hours – click here for details.
There is no charge for entry, but visitors are invited to make a donation in the collection box on their way out.
Maws Craft Centre
As you head back down towards Puddle Duck Cottages, take a detour into the Maws Craft Centre on your way.
This is the former factory of the famous Maws tile company, and now houses a number of workshops for artisans and crafts.
Within the gates, there’s a charming courtyard, and it’s fascinating to wander around the different workshops.
Each business keeps their own working hours, but you should find a good range open on weekday afternoons and at weekends.
And there will also be somewhere to sit down with a drink and a slice of cake, should you be so inclined!
You could choose from any of the nearby pubs and restaurants for your evening meal. But after all that walking, you may decide that you want to eat ‘at home’ in Puddle Duck Cottage.
Luckily the cottage has a well-equipped kitchen, so you will find every utensil you could need. And there’s also plenty of cutlery and crockery.
But if you don’t want to cook, why not call out for a takeaway? We ordered an Indian takeaway from Zengh in nearby Broseley, and it was excellent – they do also have a restaurant if you’d prefer eating out.
You’re now half way through your weekend. And after another peaceful night in the Shropshire countryside, it’s time to head into Ironbridge.
Walk into Ironbridge
You could take your car, as there are a number of car parks around the town. At the time of writing, they don’t currently take cards, so be sure to have plenty of coins with you. Parking wardens do patrol the town centre regularly.
But why not take a stroll along the footpath into town, underneath this beautiful canopy of trees. It’s very peaceful, and you’re not in a rush!
Soon you’ll see the beautiful and quaint town of Ironbridge itself, sitting on the edge of the River Severn. You’ll need to cross over the river to reach the main town centre, which of course means crossing over the Iron Bridge.
The Iron Bridge
Ironbridge of course take its name from the Iron Bridge which spans the River Severn.
The bridge was erected by Abraham Darby III in 1779 and opened to the public in 1781. It was the first major bridge in the world to be made from cast iron, and the area became known as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
Now the Ironbridge Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the moment, the Bridge is under wraps as it undergoes a £1m renovation. The wraps should come off in late 2018, and you will then be able to see the Bridge as it appears below.
Once you have crossed over the Bridge, you will be on the main street through Ironbridge.
Here you will find plenty of little independent shops and stores, cafes, restaurants and pubs. But happily, what you won’t find is a lot of national chain brands.
Take your time to explore the town, and pick up some souvenirs. Maybe even try a personalised pork pie from the world famous Eley’s of Ironbridge!
If you’re in the mood for more history, then you can call into the Museum of the Gorge, or look in the original Toll House. These only take a short while to visit, and they are both covered by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust passport. It really is fantastic value for money.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to lunchtime today. There are many fantastic pubs and restaurants along Tontine Hill and the Wharfage, and further out into town.
During our weekend visit, we had lunch in The Swan Taphouse, which offers a tantalising mix of British classics and American pit BBQ food. It’s become a family favourite and we’ve made several return visits since then.
Or you could pay a visit to Darby’s 1779, the tea room attached to the Bridgeview guest house. They open from 8am for breakfast, and also offer lunches and clotted cream teas, all with a fantastic view of the Bridge.
Coming Soon: Where to Eat in Ironbridge
How will you choose to spend the final part of your weekend in Ironbridge? There are some great options still open to you, depending on your interests.
Museums in the Ironbridge Gorge
Families may fancy exploring science and engineering at Enginuity, or you can take a trip back in time at Blists Hill Victorian Town. That could easily fill a full day of your visit on its own though!
Coming Soon: The Museums of the Ironbridge Gorge
Ironbridge Antiques, Arts and Crafts Centre
If mooching around an antiques shop is your idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon, you’ll love the Ironbridge Antiques, Arts and Crafts Centre.
They have an amazing selection of antiques, from furniture and kitchenalia to artwork and vinyl LPs. And the craft section showcases a massive selection of local craft workers.
The Vintage Corner features vintage and steampunk clothes and accessories, and there’s even a Harry Potter room!
And if you’re in the mood for another cream tea (and who wouldn’t be?), then you can pay a visit to their Riverside Tea Room.
Rafting on the River Severn
Or why not take a different view of the River Severn with a raft tour from Shropshire Raft Tours.
They will take you on a 60 minute trip down the River Severn on one of their 25ft rafts, which can carry up to 16 passengers. You could spot all sorts of wildlife, and see the Iron Bridge from a different angle as you glide underneath.
And if you’re feeling a bit more active, you can hire canoes, kayaks, mini rafts or a mega SUP. Shropshire Raft Tours even hire out bikes and e-bikes so you can explore the cycle paths in the area.
For your final evening in Ironbridge, you could choose to stay in town for dinner at another one of the excellent establishments along the riverfront.
Or alternatively head back towards Jackfield and take your pick from the pubs in the area.
After all of that, the time has come to say goodbye to Ironbridge. Will you have filled your weekend with masses of activities, walked for miles, drifted downriver in a raft or just enjoyed a stroll by the riverfront in town?