Ludlow: Modern and Medieval

PUBLISHED: 20:44 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:09 20 February 2013

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Stand first;Lovely Ludlow is the destination of our town focus this month. Sarah Dutton takes a trip around the medieval streets and finds them in harmony with modern day living.

Perched high on a Shropshire hillside over looking beautiful countryside it is very easy to see why Ludlow has made a name for itself nationally and internationally.
But it is not just its modern day reputation for Michelin starred restaurants, its literary history and its umbrella of cultural events, in the 18th and 19th centuries Ludlow was seen as a highly fashionable social centre. Many of the county's wealthy families installed themselves in and around the town.
And it is that air of well being that pervades the town now.
With more than 500 listed buildings and a medieval street plan that has survived the best and probably worst of modern development this thriving market town is firmly established as a smart "destination". But it has not lost sight of its history.
Developers have not been allowed to bulldoze their way through the town - there is not a modern shopping centre in sight, but where there are new buildings they are developed with care and sit comfortably with their more ancient neighbours. The town's library is a striking example.
That said, just because there is not a modern shopping centre does not mean there is not modern shopping. Some High Street stores are to be found, but the meandering streets lead a lazy shopper with cash to spare into a whole range of shops where anything from speciality cheeses to home goods and exclusive fashions can be found.
Strolling through the town is a treat in its own right. The striking faade of the Feathers Hotel, built in 1619, has to be admired. The building, which was constructed during the rule of James I and helped establish Ludlow as the capital of Wales. Over the next two hundred years it continued to play its part in politics, being used to billet soldiers and more dubiously by politicians who made speeches from its balcony before inviting the audience in for free drinks in a bid to secure votes.
If castles are your thing, then Ludlow boasts one of those too. The imposing site, high above the river Teme, proved essential when early work on building the castle began in 1085. It remained a work in progress for two more centuries, with architecture dating from the Norman,Medieval and Tudor periods. In its history it has provided a safe haven for various Royals.
Now the castle and its grounds hosts the annual Ludlow Food and Drink Festival and is one of the venues for the Literary Festival when it hosts outdoor productions of Shakespeare.
Tourism and retail are vital to the economy of the town and over the years Ludlow has built an enviable reputation for the quality of its food and drink. The town boasts five butchers, four bakers, cheese shops, delis whole food and organic food shops.
And with choices that range from Japanese and Thai to contemporary and traditional menus through to good old fashioned English Afternoon Teas that is certainly an eclectic experience.
But foodies are not the only people beating a path to Ludlow's ancient walls. The town has a long and rich literary history.
The annual Ludlow Festival offers a rich and varied list of events ranging from open air Shakespeare, jazz concerts, meet the author events, walking tours, and a grand fireworks and pop concert.
And that is probably what sums Ludlow up. It has moved with the times. It offers all the services you could possibly require and it has maintained its sense of history and tradition with no discernible compromise on either side.
In the words of John Betjeman Ludlow is simply "the perfect market town".

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