The Ironbridge Gorge has been on my radar for a couple of years, so when Premier Inn got in touch to let me know about their new hotel at Telford International Centre and ask if I wanted to visit the area, I was obviously going to jump at the chance.
The biggest attraction is a visit to the Ironbridge museums, which celebrate various aspects of the industrial revolution. From the iron bridge itself, which is still going strong, to a reconstructed Victorian town, there's no shortage of things to see. By the time you're visiting more than a couple of museums, it makes sense to get an annual ticket, which also has the advantage of reducing the pressure to cram everything into a couple of days. (In fact, it being November, a couple of the museums were shut for the season, so we'll definitely have to go back!)
Blists Hill Victorian Town is the highlight: a huge outdoor museum featuring everything from an active forge to a working chippy. (And, of course, a proper sweet shop to satisfy your sweet tooth.) Even in the winter, most of the shops and workshops are manned by enthusiastic volunteers dressed in Victorian costume, and a lot of the shops had goods and souvenirs for sale.
Another favourite of ours was the Tile Museum, which has a diverse collection of seemingly thousands of different designs, as well as displays explaining the different kinds of tiles and the methods for their manufacture and decoration.
After wrestling a little with an excessive collection of Telford roadworks, we managed to find our way through to the Southwater car park, thence to walk to the hotel. The hotel itself is in the middle of a new development near the city centre: there was no shortage of restaurants just a couple of steps outside the door, as well as a cinema, ice rink, and ten-pin bowling.
Just a few feet away, Telford Town Park is a huge green space with adventure playgrounds for kids of all ages - from wooden toddler play areas to a high rope course for adults.
Our room was as clean and modern as you'd expect from Premier Inn, and you could tell it was very new. We had a lot of beds, more than we really needed for just the two of us, but at least that gave us space to spread out! We made good use of the tea and coffee facilities (since the Costa across the road sadly shut in the evening) and since Andy and I disagree on the matter of showers vs baths, we were glad the room had both.
Before checking out, we made the most of the buffet breakfast to fuel ourselves up for another day of exploring.
Speaking of food, we found some lovely cafes in the gorge. On Saturday we had lunch at Cherry's, which I picked out in advance as it gets the best reviews for veggie food in the area. It's not the cheapest, but I was really happy with my white lasagne, which came with hefty sides of fresh salad and potato wedges. On Sunday we had soup and scones at Scarlett's, in the Maws Craft Centre, which was also excellent.
At the other end of the gorge, the Iron Museum had a set of fantastic exhibits on the evolution of the industrial forges and smelting processes that lie at the heart of the industrial revolution.
We also popped briefly into Enginuity, which is a kid-focused science museum. There wasn't much to keep us there, but anyone with children would find it a great way to use up some of their excess energy in an educational environment.
Unfortunately a lot of the local stately homes were closed for the winter, but Sunnycroft, one of the National Trust's smaller properties, was still open for business. This is a fairly recent acquisition, and a comparatively modern property, but the family who left it to the Trust had accumulated a huge collection of antiques and ephemera so it's a fascinating place to visit.
I'll be writing more about a few of these places over the coming weeks - so do keep an eye out if you're interested, and feel free to let me know what you'd like to hear more about.
Full disclosure: I stayed for free at the Telford International Premier Inn, and was given a budget for tickets & travel. We set our own itinerary, and all opinions are my own.