Want to stroll on rocks older than the Himalayas, that will take you through heaven and hell and back while barely breaking a sweat…and have you back in Shrewsbury in time for tea?
Well, the Wrekin Hill Walk is waiting for you.
Topping out at just 407m above sea level, Wrekin Hill might not be breaking any height records. But sitting overlooking the Shropshire plain gives this hill a mountainous stature to match its fascinating history and excellent views.
Visible from across Shropshire, Staffordshire, the Black Country, and even as far as the Beetham Tower in Manchester, the Wrekin Walk is a favourite of local people, tourists, geologists and historians alike.
This wonderful walk, through an area of outstanding natural beauty, is worth a few hours of anyone’s time. (Also a good spot for an active date!)
The Wrekin Hill Hike can be tackled in a few different ways: either as a circular jaunt, a straight-up-and-back attack or as part of a longer loop through Ercall Forest.
The first two start and end at the Wrekin Car Park, and the third at Ercall Forest Car Park.
Parts of the climb can be quite steep – so go at your own pace.
You don’t need to bring much of anything with you apart from some light refreshments. My advice? Ham sarnie, a pack of Nik Naks, an apple, and a can of Fanta. A classic Michelin-starred snack combo, I’m sure you will agree.
I did the hike in my jeans and trusty Vans and had no issues – apart from slightly soggy socks. A light hiking boot or a somewhat more weatherproof trainer would be ideal.
Wrekin Car Park entrance where there’s a large carpark to the side
Route 1: Summit and Back.
Park at the Wrekin Car Park near Lawrence Hill and head up and down the same way.
Route 2: The Loop.
Park at the Wrekin Car Park and do the loop around the back of the peak. This is what we did.
Route 3: Long Loop.
Park at the Ercall Forest Car Park on the outskirts of Wellington and add an extra wood walk onto either Route 1 or 2.
Eating and Accommodation
Shrewsbury is jammed with amazing places to stay but if you want somewhere to eat and sleep near the hill, then “The Huntsman of Little Wenlock” doesn’t just have a great name – it has a great reputation. A proper inn with a proper log fire.
This adventure started like so many before: in the medieval town of Shrewsbury, known as “the town of flowers”.
Shrewsbury is my main base when I’m not off hiking around the world. And a lovely place it is, too.
So maybe I’m a little biased – but believe me, Shrewsbury is legit worth a visit. Not only is the town pretty, but it’s also a great base for exploring all the walks the Shropshire hills have to offer.
We loaded up on caffeine and sandwiches at the awesome Brown and Francis (at the corner of Shoplatch and Mardol Head) before jumping in the car and heading off to explore the hills.
The drive from Shrewsbury to the Wrekin, which sits just west of Telford on the outskirts of Wellington, took about 25 mins on the A5. The Wrekin can be seen from almost everywhere in Shropshire so it’s hard to get too lost. Just head toward the hilly thing.
To be honest, we dallied a little longer than we should’ve over our baked treats. By the time we reached the hills, it was already getting late in the day. But I was with my girl and I didn’t have a care in the world.
Who needs daylight?! I’ve eaten enough carrots in my day, it’s time I cashed them in.
Plus neither of us was Wrekin Walk newbs. This was our second time to the Wrekin within six months. The first was one of my very first dates with a lovely girl I’d met and it went so well that this time we were back fully coupled up.
My missus has been coming to the Wrekin with her family for years. So the fast-approaching darkness didn’t bother us. Although that said, it did make the last 30 minutes a bit more eerie than a walk should be.
More on that later. But first: a bit of folklore.
Everyone loves a good origin story, don’t they? And the Wrekin has a big one. Giant, in fact.
Sure, geologists will tell you the Wrekin’s oldest rocks were originally formed by boring volcanic activity – but local folklore says it was a giant called Cawr who built this here hill.
I know who I choose to believe. And it ain’t those specky rock fondlers!
Cawr spent his days munching on eels from the River Severn until one day, he found his traps had been looted by a bunch of scallies from Shrewsbury (I probably know some of them).
Picking up a spadeful of earth, he set off to bury the entire town of Shrewsbury in revenge. However, along the way he met a canny cobbler who tricked the giant into thinking Shrewsbury was ages away and not just over the horizon.
His laziness greater than his rage, Cawr dropped his spade of earth and the mound formed the Wrekin.
Maybe a load of old cobblers but it makes for a good tale.
I’m a big fan of ample parking. And the Wrekin Car Park near Lawrence Hill didn’t let me down. Very spacious altogether.
After parking up, time to get walking. Just stride forth and join the main path and head upward from the car park. Follow the signs, and you really can’t go too wrong. The route is on well-trodden paths and the signs are on point. Thanks, Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
The signs that easily mark the way on your hike
You’ll know you’re on the right track when you come across Wrekin Cottage, also known as the Halfway House.
This little dwelling has been a favourite of Wrekin Hikers for 150 years; offering light refreshments to all those who passed for generations. But alas, it seems to have closed its doors for the time being.
Keep on keeping on – as Curtis Mayfield would say – and the path will pass between two earth embankments. This is the ominous-sounding Hell’s Gate. Which isn’t a doorway to the fiery netherworld but the remains of the outer entrance to a seriously ancient hill fort.
Beyond that is Heaven’s Gate, the inner entrance to the hill fort marked by an even more impressive pair of grassy lumps.
Walk through Heaven’s Gate and you are walking into history. The top of the Wrekin is, in fact, the remains of a hill fort thought to date from around 500 BC. Yeah, BC I said, that makes it two and a half millennia old.
The fort was the last stronghold of the Cornovii tribe of Celts until they were eventually toppled by those dastardly Romans in AD 47, who relocated them to the nearby Roman city of Viroconium Cornoviorum, which is present-day Wroxeter.
Until the Romans spoiled the party, the hill fort here would’ve been a hustling bustling centre of trade and activity. And a damn good place to defend against attackers.
(Now, don’t get too excited. You’re going to have to use your imagination for all of this. You’re not going to stumble across swords and the like. It’s just mud and grass now. But still, it’s nice to stand in the middle, close your eyes and imagine for a moment.)
Personally, I imagined myself topless on a horse eating a giant wild boar leg with maidens dancing around me. It was great. You can imagine that too, if you want.
Wrekin Hill was created by the volcanic activities of the nearby Church Stretton fault an estimated 600 million years ago.
Which makes it old. Really old. It also makes it a site of special scientific interest.
These volcanic rocks have seen it all. They’ve not just seen Roman Britain come and go, they’ve seen tropical forests and entire ice ages come and go.
For context, the Wrekin makes the mighty Himalayas seem like oversized infants in comparison. Those guys clock in at just 40-50 million years old.
If you like your similes in the shape of pop stars, the Himalayas are like Harry Styles standing next to Mick Jagger. Sure, one is better known amongst the young folk, but which is better?!
As a result of its advanced years, the Wrekin is rocking some pretty interesting rock formations. Keep an eye out as you clamber up and you will see all sorts.
Now, I’m not going to pretend to be a rock expert. Unless you count jumping from one to another as a qualification. But even to our untrained eyes, we could tell there was some funky stuff going on.
As you walk between the little hill of Heaven’s Gate, look closely and you might spot some purple volcanic rock. These are some of the Wrekin’s oldest rocks.
The top is easy to spot, thanks to the flashing transmitter beaming something or other to the folk below.
A short distance from this beacon you’ll find the Trig Point, a nice topography-mappy thing the kind guys and gals at the Ordnance Survey have installed to help you enjoy the 360°C spectacular views of the countryside below.
The beacon and trig point at the summit of the hike
It was getting on a bit when we hit the summit so we didn’t dilly dally but on our previous trip up, we spent a good 15-20 mins eating Nik Naks and pointing at things in the distance.
On a clear day, you can see across the gentle farmland of north Shropshire and as far as Snowdonia in Wales, with the Brecon Beacons to the southwest. Whilst down in the valley you’ll be able to see the Long Mynd, a 7-mile-long plateau.
If you get a squint on, you can also spot Iron Bridge: famous for its erm, iron bridge over the River Severn. Oh, and for also being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and the modern world. Home now to the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
Quite a view, I’m sure you will agree.
On the downslope, after the summit, you’ll be able to spot an interesting rocky outcrop off to the left, a cleft in the rockface known as the Needle’s Eye. Created, or so the tale goes, when two giants were having a scrap with some spades. What is it with giants and spades in this part of the world?!
A tradition from days past saw local lovers scrambling up the rocks and “threading the needle” – couples that succeeded would be blessed with a trouble-free marriage.
In 1990, there was an earthquake which did no damage but did cause a rock to fall and land in the cleft of the Needle’s Eye. Which for sleepy Shropshire, counts as earth-shaking news.
The backside of the summit and down to the treeline are great for a bit of controlled downhill running. Now, take it steady here; it is steep and if you’re not sure of foot, you could do yourself a mischief.
Even though you’ve peaked, the Wrekin Walk still has some treats in for you. As you wind your way back down through the woods of Wrekin Forest you will encounter some pretty weird-looking trees.
Some have multiple gnarly trunks. It’s all a bit haunted forest. Or at least it is, if the sun has set and you are rushing back to the car before dark like we were.
Formed thanks to an olden-day process known as coppicing, where trees were felled for charcoal, these funky-ass trees put a spring in our step as we hot-footed it back to the car.
We didn’t leave the public footpath. Who knows what giant was hanging around out there in the gloom, waiting to grind up our bones in revenge for stealing his eels!
Easy one of the best hill walks in Shropshire…if not the entire world!
Ok, maybe not the world. But definitely Shropshire. A great afternoon mini-adventure and a great little date.
A site of specific scientific interest, an area of outstanding natural beauty, a Celtic Hill fort, remnants of Roman Britain, fresh air, steep drops, volcanic rocks galore, creepy trees and even a decent car park. What more could you ask for?
Happy giant hunting, you brave and beautiful hiker heroes! Toodlepip!
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
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