So the guy from JT Hughes Honda says: “Hello. Roy, we want you to check out the top 10 driving roads in Shropshire and write a piece for us.” I say: “OK,” because I’m relatively cool and it’s only polite, after all. “And we’ll give you the new Honda Civic diesel 1.6 i-DTEC to do it in.
…” By now that bit of a tic I get when I’m excited has started up again. “For the whole weekend,” he says. Luckily he’s on the phone, so he can’t see me jigging around the office. Ostensibly, however, I’m still the epitome of control. “What colour is it?” I ask, disguising the slightly high-pitched voice… “Sporty Blue,” he says. “You had me at ‘hello’,” I say, wincing, because coming from someone other than Renee Zellweger that sounds just a tiny bit weird… It’s OK. We did this man-hug/arm-punch thing when I picked up the car and nothing more was said. So here it is… The definitive list of the 10 best driving roads in Shropshire, as chosen by me, over a particular weekend with reasonable weather, when I was king of the open road for a few hours at least. Your top 10 may well be different. Not as much fun, obviously, because you’re probably not driving a nippy Civic in Sporty Blue, but hey…
1. A488 Bishops Castle to Shrewsbury.
This road is like twins. The one that goes from Shrewsbury to Bishops Castle is boring. The one that goes the other way is cheeky, daring and a little bit naughty. How the same piece of Tarmac can have such a completely different character is remarkable. So if you’re travelling from Shrewsbury, admire the villages along the way (who knew that Minsterley was home of British corned beef, by the way), and put up with the obstacles and interruptions because when you turn round you’re going to have so much more fun. Squeal with delight as you bob and slalom downhill through the wooded tunnel of the Hope Valley, and if you have nothing better to do, go back and do it again.
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2. A528 Ellesmere to Harmer Hill.
This is the naughty side of the A488’s much naughtier cousin. You can tell how much fun the authorities are trying to stifle by the number of ‘SLOW’ signs there are on the unkempt carriageway. This road has hundreds, each more pleading than the last. This is a too-narrow-for-an-A-road, toe-in, toe-out, pedal-hopping barn dance of a highway, built for something agile and playful and which is likely to keep your attention by throwing an oncoming vehicle into your personal space just for the fun of it. Bad road. Naughty road.
3. A4169 Jiggers Roundabout to Buildwas.
Smooth and racy, this James Bond of highways glides uphill from the Jiggers Roundabout, gives you a Roger Moore wink, then slips you over the crown of the hill and slides down and right to the bottom of a bank where, depending on how much control you have over your impetuous right foot, you either squeal into a turn to Much Wenlock or escape to the foot-bumps of the Wrekin. Going up the other way quickly is fun too.
4. B4378 Much Wenlock to the junction with the B4368 from Bridgnorth.
The B4378 is probably too narrow for comfort but full of tantalising dips and rises and stop-and-go through hamlets and villages. It has the added bonus of the Dirty Harry ‘are you feeling lucky punk?’ junction at the end, which has you scampering across as fast as you can, wriggling like a piglet in case anything’s coming either way.
5. M54 Junction 6 to Preston Brook Island.
Two rises - one from Junction 6 to the bottom of the Ercall then another from the start of the A5 to Charlton before a sweep round the hill and a long descent towards Preston Brook Island, with the hills of Mid-Wales straight ahead and Haughmond Hill on the right. It works to an extent the other way round with the Wrekin on the right. When the top’s covered by cloud it resembles the foothills of the Rockies near Revelstoke in British Columbia. No really, it does…
6. A458 Cross Houses to Much Wenlock.
Includes the thrilling dive down Harley Bank and the struggle up Harley Hill, but that’s not as much fun as doing it the other way around and there’s less chance of being stuck behind a tractor and trailer wheezing its way to the top of the hill. I’ve found.
7. B4380 Wroxeter to Buildwas.
Ancient Rome at one end and the gateway to the Industrial Revolution at the other and worth it on its own for views of the twists and turns of the oxbowing River Severn below on the way.
8. A41 Tern Hill to Sandford.
The sweeps and curves of the dual carriageway past the Castle at Bletchley scream ‘take me, take me I’m yours’ even if there’s a flashing ‘mind your speed’ sign half way. At either end of the dual carriageway, the road returns swiftly to single lanes, on right hand bends, with the added thrill heading south, of a sphincter-tightening blind rise.
9. B5062 Newport to Crudgington.
This tinker of a road begins with an invitation to hill-climb Cheyney Bank, forces you to respectfully tiptoe through Edgmond, then opens up through a series of rise and fall lefts and rights all the way to Crudgington, including the wrong-way camber of a combination of bends near the auto-grass track between the Waters Upton turn-off at Catsbritch Lane and Crudgington Village itself.
10. A4117 Clee Hill to Ludlow.
Even in mid-summer, Clee Hill has a kind of bleak, muggy glory and coming down the hill into the lush greenery of Ludlow and surrounds is one of those special descents - and like the A488, much more fun one way than the other.
Un-named road, off the Haughton to Upton Magna road, heading towards Rodington Heath - It was either built by the Romans, the military or aliens because, apart from a daft kink, it’s perfectly straight, for nearly a mile. Woo-hoo… I know Bernie says ‘Think before you drive’, but I say again, ‘woo-hoo’… So what do you think? Can you better that Top 10? I know there’s one or two I’ve missed and a couple that came pretty close. Shropshire’s got some great driving roads and your favourites will always bring you a buzz that’s special to you. Let’s hear about them. Leave your comments below…