Ironbridge

22nd February 2008 at 00:00
Ironbridge in Shropshire could claim to be a clutch of museums with a historic town attached. There are 10 in all at Ironbridge Gorge in Coalbrookdale, near Telford, and most in some way celebrate the area's rich industrial history. By the end of the 18th century it was acclaimed as the world's most technologically advanced area.

The world's first iron bridge, built in 1779, still spans the Severn here and tourists have been coming to the former coalmining area ever since.

Now, nearly all the museums run workshops for visitors. Blists Hill Victorian Town throngs with costumed staff living the Victorian life. At Easter they'll be reviving the old pastime of egg dancing in the street (trying not to tread on the eggs while blindfolded), while the Coalport China Works demonstrate traditional techniques.

Tiles for London Underground stations, pubs and homes were made at Jackfield; Broseley Pipe Works was making clay pipes until the 1950s; and at Coalbrookdale, Abraham Darby discovered the secret of smelting modern iron.

Enginuity, reopening this month, is a modern interactive celebration of design and technology. The museums are open seven days a week, 10am until 5pm. Entry prices vary, but annual tickets giving a year's unlimited access to all 10 are priced at pound;46 for families (two adults and up to three children), pound;14 for adults and pound;9.50 for children

Where to stay

There are youth hostels at Coalbrookdale (in the former Literary and Scientific Institute) and Coalport (an old pottery building). Call 0870 770 8868 or visit www.yha.org.uk.

The Valley Hotel (call 01952 432 247 or visit www.thevalleyhotel.co.uk) has BB from pound;155 a night for a family of four sharing. To get there take the Telford exit from the M6 or M54, or the bus from Telford. For more information call 01952 884 391 or visit www.ironbridge.org.uk.

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