High above the town of Church Stretton sits a craggy hill with views to die for and a prominent place in British history (maybe). Caer Caradoc may not have the height of a mountain but it has the grandeur.
Local lore claims two millennia ago the slopes here saw the last stand of brave Caractacus’s (Caradoc in Welsh) resistance to those pesky Roman invaders.
An ancient hill fort stands at the summit (kinda) giving the hill its name Caer Caradoc, Caradog’s Fort in Welsh.
Today, there’s less fighting up there. But it is a great spot for a steep hike with killer views of the Shropshire Hills. From the hill summit, you can gaze upon the surrounding hills of Long Mynd, Carding Mill Valley, Wenlock Edge and The Wrekin.
On a clear day, if you get a good squint on you can even make out Pen-Y-Fan and fellow Brecon Beacons.
The walking route we opted for took us from Church Stretton up the steep south side of Caradoc Hill, past the Three Fingers Rock, then northeast along the ridge to the hill fort at the peak.
The return leg was down the north side then back around the east face through the Caradoc Coppice.
It’s this exact route on AllTrails, although we started from town rather than at the Archery Club on the A49.
I would guess most people will start this hike from Church Stretton itself, which makes sense as I didn’t see much parking near the hill. So if you’re driving just find a car park up in town.
If you’re coming by train, the walk from Church Stretton train station to the foot of the ascent is a little over a mile along Sandford Avenue, Cwms Lane and Cardington Walk. A very pleasant stroll indeed.
Alternatively, you could tackle the route from the east side by parking up at the village of Willstone and walking in the valley between Caer Caradoc Hill and Hope Bowdler Hill, past the ruins of Cwms Cottage. But you would need a car for that.
We walked the hill on a very spitty day in early May after a night of rain. I was very happy I had on my hiking boots as the terrain was steep, rocky and very slippy in places.
We had light coats, and they made appearances multiple times. It was one of those changeable weather days where you keep your coat at the top of your bag and have to pop it on and off every five minutes as the rain starts and then stops.
But then after a while you give up and just get spat on by the petty weather Gods.
I woke at 4 am to the sound of dogs barking. Who let the dogs in? Oh, they live here. It took a moment to remember we were dog-sitting.
I like dogs but the main reason we were here was to enjoy a week’s free accommodation in Church Stretton, a pretty little market town nestled in the Shropshire Hills.
A dream spot for hill walkers as multiple trailheads are walkable from the town centre.
I’d lined up four or five hikes over the next week, starting with today’s offering Cara Caradoc Hill, which made sense as we could see the hill from the house window. Or we would be able to when the sun came up.
Once again my photos don’t do it justice, I really should take some lessons.
A few hours later after feeding and watering the furries and feeding and watering ourselves, we set off northeast out of town following a lane called Cardington Walk on the map.
It took us past a pair of pretty ponds and into the valley between Helmeth Hill and Caer Caradoc where the ascent starts.
And today’s prize, a pile of bluebells.
The valley here was covered in a blanket of Bluebells, it was quite the scene. We stopped to soak up the prettiness for a moment and give nature a little round of applause. Well done!
After bluebell wood, we crossed the babbling little stream that marks the valley between Helmeth Hill and Caer Caradoc Hill. Take a deep breath as it’s here the climb reality gets going.
It’s leg day today my friends.
Make no mistake, this is a steep hill. You are gonna feel the burn.
Always read the plaque. Information galore.
Near the top, shortly before you reach the Three Fingers Rock, you will pass through a gate which gives you a little more background information about the rocks you will be stomping on.
Caer Caradoc like the Long Mynd is part of a geographic feature known as the Church Stretton Fault. Or the Church Stretton Shear Zone. Formed 400 million years ago during a period of mountain building called the Caledonian Orogeny. Sounds dramatic.
I’ve spoken before about my love of a good info board. And this was a great little info-packed sign which linked to a website called fixthefort.co.uk which is a cool name, but when you follow the link it’s dead. Very mysterious indeed. Did they fix it? Who will ever know?!
I’m not sure if the picture does it justice. It’s even steeper than it looks
Yep, you’re definitely gonna feel the burn.
Up to the fingers.
After a quick but steep climb, you will come to the Three Fingers.
I love a good rock formation. And the Three Fingers is a classic rock formation. It’s a rocky tor that kinda looks like three fingers. Hence the name.
Well actually it kinda looks like more fingers once you get closer but I’m not one to quibble.
Me giving off Caspar David Friedrich vibes. Check out his Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.
From the Three Fingers, you will be able to look back down along the valley to nearby Church Stretton and Long Mynd behind. Take a moment to soak up the views and get your breath back as you still have a bit of a climb to do.
The view southwest back to town.
After the Three Fingers, you will veer northeast up and along the ridge and head up to the summit of Caer Caradoc home to an ancient hill fort thought to date 600-400 BC.
The final ascent to Caradoc’s Fort
The views from the top are stunning. Whether looking back down Church Stretton Valley or peering away at The Wrekin in the distance. The surrounding hills are truly beautiful.
As we nibbed on our scotch eggs we enjoyed the view and even got to watch a steam train puffing smoke out of its cute little chimney as it chugged along.
Sitting in a hill fort watching a steam train eating a scotch egg. Now you can’t get more quintessentially British countryside than that, can you?
The fort itself is, erm, not the most obvious or impressive. Don’t be expecting turrets and drawbridges. It’s not that kinda place. It’s 2,500 thousand years old after all. It’s an earthwork, so don’t arrive expecting anything other than bumps and lumps.
Maybe the Time Team guys would see something to get excited about but for a layman, the top of the hill is all about the views.
As you can see, no drawbridges. Mainly lumps.
Caractacus/Caradoc was a brave/foolish British chieftain who stood up to the unstoppable invading Romans in AD50.
He and his gang were the last men standing. Until they weren’t standing anymore. It’s thought their final battle was fought here on Caer Caradoc. Although once you start to look into it almost every hill in Shropshire claims the same thing.
After losing and hiding out in a cave which you can find just below the summit, he was bundled up by the Romans and shipped off back to Rome where he was paraded through the streets.
Instead of being thrown to the gladiators however, Emperor Claudius was so impressed by his bravery that Caradoc and his fam were allowed to live out the rest of their days in Rome as an honoured guest.
Not bad eh? From a loser in a cave to a Roman villa. He’s kinda like one of those Wall Street bankers who lose everyone’s money but still get a massive bonus.
Kinda pretty right?
I’m going to make an embarrassing confession to you my friends. I didn’t find the cave as I didn’t even know it existed until after the hike.
This was a classic case of me doing my homework after the test.
If you haven’t got an OS map or can’t read one, or are too young to even know what an OS map is (it’s like a flat offline Google Map made of something called paper) then I’ve found a great video by a friendly Youtuber that will lead you right up there.
So check that out if you’re at all interested.
Watch your head now.
After lolling about on the peak for a while not finding a cave we didn’t know was there. We set off downward. Follow the AllTrails route and you won’t get lost. To be honest you won’t get lost anyway.
As the path starts to descend there will be a sharp left that will take you back along the east face of the hill and through Caradoc Coppice. Eventually, the trail will lead you back to the two small ponds you passed at the start. You then retrace your steps back along Cardington Walk to town.
After a couple of hours on the hill we strolled back into Church Stretton famished. Proper tummy rumble time.
Popping into a pharmacy to pick up some earplugs (no dog will be waking me at 4 am tomorrow). We got chatting with the friendly cashier who recommended Berry’s Coffee House as a spot to grub up.
Never one to reject local advice, we hot-footed it there as quickly as our aching legs could take us. And we weren’t disappointed.
Look at that for a spread. All locally sourced delicious food things. Served with a smile. Thanks, Pharmacy Lady. Thanks, Berry’s Coffee House, Thanks, Church Stretton. And thanks, Caer Caradoc. What a morning.
Obligatory mini-world photo at the Three Fingers
You can probably tell already but I loved our hike up Caer Caradoc Hill. Despite the petty weather, we had a great morning.
I’m not sure if the clouds kept people away or the fact it was a weekday morning but our entire time on the Caer Caradoc walk we only saw one other couple. Not even a dog walker. Very strange but very nice. It was like our own private hill.
What I loved about this hike was the accessibility to town. It makes such a difference being able to stroll out gently to the trailhead. The walk itself isn’t long but it is steep. So you get the joy of feeling like you’ve achieved something with it taking up the entirety of your day.
And the views are simply delicious. Almost as delicious as the nibs we had at Berry’s Coffee House afterwards.
This was my first day of walking in the hills around Church Stretton and what a way to start a week of hikes. On tomorrow’s agenda is Lightspout waterfall hike which I already know is a beaut. What a week this is lining up to be.
Until next time hiking fans, I hope your day is full of smiles and walking miles.
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