Staycation: Peplow Hall Estate, Shropshire
by Nicky Rampley-Clarke
Peplow Hall Estate in Market Drayton, Shropshire is an undiscovered gem with five beautiful cottages, set in the heart of a seriously foodie county, says Nicky Rampley-Clarke
My husband John and I picked quite the weekend for a foodie tour of Shropshire: sun-soaked and spring-like during our foray in late March, the often-overlooked county in the West Midlands was a feast for the senses, from the sweeping countryside stretching out before us, to the local delicacies found in its lauded restaurants. Add to that some truly warm and stylish hospitality at Peplow Hall Estate, where the entrepreneurial owners have transformed the cottages at a Grade II-listed manor house into luxury accommodation, and you’ve got all the makings of a seriously top-notch staycation.
Where is it?
Peplow Hall Estate is in Market Drayton, just a short drive from the bustling market town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire. You’ll need your sat-nav – it’s not clearly signposted – which is all part of its hidden-gem charm.
What's the accommodation like?
Lovely owners Helen and Ross have spent the best part of lockdown converting the Grade II-listed manor house for themselves and their kids, while they’ve been transforming the five red-brick outhouses into luxury cottages for holidaymakers. Ours, Hare Cottage, comfortably fits a family of five, and is dog-friendly, too. The design of the accommodation really is spot-on, all designer Oka furniture and country chic furnishings, courtesy of the couple’s interior designer daughter. All are unique and characterful. The highlight of Hare is the private walled garden complete with hot tub. Expect all the essentials of home – from ironing boards to decent hairdryers and dog crates – as well as a generous welcome basket packed with interesting local products. The views of sweeping countryside, enjoyed from all windows, are sublime.
What did you eat and drink?
What didn’t we eat and drink?!
Dinner at Wild, the much-lauded Michelin-starred restaurant in Whitchurch, comprises a terroir-based, micro-seasonal tasting menu (not revealed until after you’ve eaten) and structured order of service (everything served to everyone at the same time). Chef James Sherwin is undeniably talented, crafting experiential dining and delectable food to great acclaim, the best of which is ‘five-year-old sheep’ with fermented tomato – a fresh twist on a classic tartare.
Lunch at Dockett No.33, also in Whitchurch, has a similar tasting-menu concept but a completely different vibe. Bursting with fresh, vibrant flavours, and a warm, personable service, the whole restaurant feels like fun – chef Stuart Collins and restaurant manager wife Frances bring culinary prowess and charisma in spades, and a suitcase of inspiration from travels in the Middle East and Australia. The dessert is the work of an artist: delicately assembled rhubarb, vanilla, rose and lemon balm almost too delightful to eat… Almost.
A gin-making masterclass at The Shropshire Distillery is a must. Husband-and-wife team Gareth and Emma Glynn moved from Lancashire to Ellesmere in 2012 and set up their own award-winning, small-batch label in 2018 out of a love of local (and an absence of anything that already fit the bill). Holding court in the centre of her custom-built distillery, it’s not hard to see the expertise and passion spilling out of Emma as she talked us through the task at hand, selecting our botanicals from a wall stacked with choice, weighing out the ingredients to strike the perfect balance, and boiling them up in a hand-made, copper-based still to create our bespoke gin. Bursting with rose petals and sour cherries, ours was Middle Eastern inspired, and bloody delicious – plus, with every concoction recorded, you can even order more down the line, for gifts and whatnot.
Another dinner was enjoyed at The Bear Inn at Hodnet, just a short drive from Peplow Hall Estate. This cherished pub has just been refurbished and reopened – think Americana-style panelling and contemporary artworks – and has quite the convivial buzz about it. While the striking interiors have sacrificed comfort over style in certain places – our booth seating was not somewhere you’d want to booze for any length of time – the bustling atmosphere and modern British menu more than make up for it: perfectly-pink venison wellington with celeriac and blackberry packed a flavour punch, while the generous cheeseboard is enough to feed an entire family.
Don’t leave without ducking into Shrewsbury Market Hall. It’s housed in an architect-designed 1960s building and is packed with more than 50 traders. Lunch was of two halves: a ‘starter’ of handmade Chinese dumplings with a sharp dipping sauce at Moli Tea House, and a ‘main’ at Tutto Benne of homemade rigatoni spiked with spicy nduja and cooked with San Marzano tomatoes, smoked pancetta and creamy burratini.
What is there to do?
From browsing and dining at independent shops and restaurants in Shrewsbury – or any of its bustling and historic market towns – to walks along the canal towpath by Blakemere, there’s plenty to do and see in the county of Shropshire. On the edge of the Shropshire Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Ludlow has a famous castle to visit and Georgian houses to admire. Slightly off the beaten track when compared to other sightseeing hotspots around the UK, it’s relatively free of camera-wielding tourists, so the time to go really is now before it’s unearthed by the masses.
The colourful and playful blood orange margarita at Docket No.33 is a party in a glass with its vibrant namesake ingredient creating a zesty and refreshing precursor to the sublime plates that follow. The best of these were the two fresh and flavoursome twists on tacos – duck, spring onion, tomatillo; and cod, yogurt, parsley – and the light and fragrant chickpea chips flavoured with saffron and chicken salt.
Sainsbury’s magazine insider tip
Enjoy a global tour of international flavours and local delights under one roof at Shrewsbury Market Hall. Do we as did, and enjoy a series of different plates at various restaurants, wandering from one to the next. Then, stock up on lovely eggs, bacon and bread for cooking up breakfasts back at your cottage, preferably enjoyed outside in the walled garden.
How to book
A three-night weekend stay this autumn starts from £971.72 based on five sharing Hare Cottage at Peplow Hall Estate Cottages, or £1,599.88 for a week’s stay. For more information and to book, visit luxurycottages.com/shropshire; for more information about what to see and do in Shropshire, go to visitshropshire.co.uk.