The hermit is, alas, long gone but most of the park's other features have been restored. On a chilly day in May, Baz Fewster,the park's very well informed warden, took me on a tour of the best. Plan on spending about three-hours with lots of uphill walking through dense woodland and planations of giant rhododendrons to take in these and other sights:
- The Monument A 100 ft tower, erected in 1795 in honor of Sir Rowland Hill, the first Lord Mayor of London in 1549, knighted by Henry VIII. A spiral staircase inside the monument leads to a viewing platform just under the statue of Sir Rowland, from which the Shropshire, Cheshire and Welsh landscapes can be seen.
- The Grotto An atmospheric series of underground chambers cut up to the edge of the vertical face of Grotto Hill. There are some posters with a rather dubious tale connecting the caves with the last Roman Emperor who may or may not have been the basis of the Arthurian legends. But it's likely the caves are a fifth or sixth century Anglo Saxon copper mine. You enter in pitch blackness across an uneven stone floor but windows cut through the cliff face eventually cast light. Plan to wear sturdy shoes and bring what the British call a torch and Americans refer to as a flashlight.
- The Gothic Arch It looks like a ruin (see picture previous page) but is yet another of the follies, at the top of Grotto Hill. The views from here are spectacular. A doorway from the Grotto, beneath the arch, leads onto a platform on the face of the cliff, just beneath it. And a walk from there takes visitors past The Awful Precipice and the Raven's Shelf, both dramatic view points.
- The Swiss Bridge This sturdy but incredibly narrow bridge (see picture above)crosses a ravine that falls away vertically, 80 feet. Though the bridge - wide enough for walking one foot in front of the other, is not difficult, the path leading up and away from it is uneven and on the edge of yet another vertical face.
Visiting the Hawkstone Park Follies
The paths to these and many other caves, chasms and viewpoints, are often steep and unsuitable for baby's push chairs or wheelchairs. (Special 4-wheel drive excursions are occasionally offered for visitors with physical handicaps) Although children, and dogs on leashes, are permitted, if you are planning to bring either, expect to be vigilant. All exposed ledges and paths are protected with railings but alternative routes are signposted for visitors who are uncomfortable with heights.
- Where: Weston-under-Redcastle, reached via an unsignposted road between the A49 and the A53, northwest of Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Set your Sat/Nav with the Shropshire SY4 5UY Post Code.
- Open: Every day during July and August from 10am to 5:30pm - last admission 3:30 pm. Opening dates the rest of the year vary so check the attraction website for the most up to date hours.
- Admission: Adult, child, concession and family tickets (for two adults with either two children or three children) are available.
- Special Events: December Santa Safaris in Land Rovers and Halloween Fright Nights are among a series of special events held at the Follies, and children's parties can be organized.
- Contact: +44 (0)1948 841700
- Cautions: Visitors should be reasonably fit, wear sturdy shoes and bring flashlights
- Other facilities: Visitors' center with a gift shop, tea room and restrooms.
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