One of Shropshire’s most fascinating destinations is Hawkstone Park which was the original site of a defensive castle built for Henry de Audley in 1227. Over time the land surrounding the Red Castle changed hands but during the 18th century it was acquired by Sir Rowland Hill who began developing the landscape with trails and follies. The work was continued by his son Sir Richard Hill. Even 200 years ago many tourists visited this unusual and romantic park. The estate ran into financial difficulties and in 1875 it was sold off. The trails and follies were largely forgotten. Fortunately, in 1990 a large part of the park was restored and reopened to the public. A selection of the follies are featured here but there are many more. A detailed map of the follies and their locations can be found at the bottom of this page.
HAWKSTONE FOLLIES & FEATURES
The Standing Stone (Car Park Entrance) The Gothic Greenhouse (Park Entrance) The Grand Valley The Stocks The Urn The White Tower The Monument St. Francis Viewpoint & Cave The Hermitage Swiss Bridge (Recently Replaced) Gingerbread Hall The Cleft & Serpentine Tunnel Grotto Hill Ravens Ledge The Awful Precipice The Gothic Arch The Grotto & Labyrinth The Retreat Indian Rock Fox’s Knob and Tunnel Reynard’s Walk Reynard’s Banqueting House (Cave) Hawk Lake (Hawkstone Golf Course) The Red Castle (Hawkstone Golf Course) Neptune’s Whim ? (Hawkstone Golf Course) The Citadel (No longer part of the Park)
THE WHITE TOWER
The name can be a little confusing to first time visitors as the tower is clearly made from red brick and local sandstone. However, it was originally coated with a brilliant white lime wash. It is 30ft tall and octagonal in design. The three sides (broadly) facing east have Gothic-style arched windows with the south-facing side used for the doorway. The interior is currently used for an information display featuring Arthur Wellesley the First Duke of Wellington and General Lord Hill. Two small cannons inside the building point towards the entrance.
hawkstone-park-swiss-bridgeThe original Swiss Bridge was added by Sir Richard Hill sometime between 1783 and 1809. It crosses a deep 80ft ravine and provides excellent views of Grotto Hill and the Gothic Arch.
The name derives from a type of bridge common in Switzerland during the 18th century and is styled on a narrow wooden base supported by suspension cables latticed on the sides. It was replaced in 2011 by the current structure which is slightly narrower but also with cable reinforced sides. The side lattice and handrails are still made of oak that was originally donated by the Woodland Trust. It is also about 2ft higher than its predecessor.
After crossing the Ravine, the path winds around the top of a particularly steep outcrop of rock before descending through the gap in the rocks and under the Swiss Bridge. This ravine is often confused with the Cleft which is actually on the opposite hill and connects to the Grotto.
reynards-walk-hawkstoneRunning along the top of Grotto Hill and facing towards the west is Ravens Ledge. The name dates back to 1840 when the features of the Hawkstone Estate were recorded by Rodenhurst and Bowley. They noted that these lofty rocks and crags were the favourite nesting site of Ravens and that their croaking calls could often be heard. It links the one entrance of the grotto and Labyrinth with a path that snakes it’s way along the top of the Awful Precipice. It offers some of the best views of the landscape and the golf course in the valley below.
THE GROTTO & LABYRINTH
Locally, many people believe that the Grotto and its associated passages were originally a Roman copper mine. Signs of Roman habitation have been located at nearby Weston-under-Redcastle along with a hammer-pick found at Hawkstone dating from this period. Still, scholars agree that this is not conclusive proof. However, it’s worth noting that if this was once a mine then the Romans may have been enlarging earlier bronze age workings. Originally the Grotto was decorated with thousands of sea shells and fossils.
With painted glass in the windows it had the appearance of an undersea fantasy world. The sea shells have long gone and the walls are bare of decoration except for traces of copper minerals. For some time the area was used as a display pertaining to King Arthur, the legendary ruler of the post Roman Britons. It is now largely displayed in its natural state. There are several features worth a closer look including the carvings of what appears to be a gryphon and unusual hollows in the natural stone walls.
Gothic Arch and the Balcony (Located above the Awful Precipice)
There are over two dozen features and follies scattered throughout the park although some, like Neptune’s Whim and the Red Castle, are not part of the walking tour.
Given the nature of the landscape wheelchair access is limited.
It is best to give yourself the better part of a day to get around the park although it can be done in as little as two and a half hours.
Please note that many of the trails are steep and will require a fair amount of physical effort. Sensible walking shoes are essential … as is a torch for some tunnels which are unlit.
The Gingerbread Hall
Statue of Sir Rowland Hill – Top of the Monument
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Ring Bank, Haughton, Shrewsbury
Shropshire, England, SY4 4GB
+44 (0)1743 709 334
- Address: Hawkstone Park Weston-under-Redcastle (Nr Shrewsbury) Shropshire, England, UK, SY4 5JY
- GPS: 52.85417222,-2.631769444
- Phone: 0044 (0)1948 841 700
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: SY4 5JY
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Very limited
- Visibility from Road: Not Relevant
- Image Credits: Header Image: Paul Vincent