It’s fair to say that rural Shropshire has probably never seen anything quite like the Lion & Pheasant. An ancient coaching inn in the history-soaked centre of the county town of Shrewsbury, it had fallen into pretty poor repair until owner Dorothy Chidlow decided to wrestle it back from the tenants she had been renting it out to and give it a right royal revamp. Her daughter Rachael, a Dublin-based interior designer, was brought in to lead the renovations and the result has been a serious shake up for Shropshire’s hotel and restaurant scene.
The 22 rooms (standard, deluxe and superior) are all variations on the Scandi-chic theme, with wood or seagrass flooring and a feminine but unfussy vibe. All are completely individual, some offering a clean, simple look, while others have slightly richer, more theatrical furnishings. More Arles guesthouse than the British gastropub with rooms, that it technically is, Rachael has given the interiors a light touch, with fresh flowers, vintage furniture and a pale and very calming colour scheme. And, cleverly, she’s done it without the slightest hint of twee. For romantics, there’s the Loft Suite, tucked away in what was once the hotel’s laundry, where you can lie back in bed – or in the room’s freestanding slipper bath – and admire the fretwork of lovely old beams overhead. Wrought iron beds are swathed in fine linens, and soft goose feather pillows and en-suites come with spacious power showers and little pots of Gilchrest and Soames toiletries.
Back downstairs, in a space that blends wood, metal and brick to great effect (as in case of the pendant lights made from old jelly moulds) modern European food is served up with flair. You can pair real local ale or fine wine (several on the hotel’s wine list are sourced from Tanners, a specialist wine merchants with 18thcentury cellars, just over the road). You can choose from the ground floor ‘inglenook’ bar, the split-level first floor restaurant or the elegant private dining room, the Georgian ‘Crystal Room’, with specially designed menus for the occasion.
- The free WiFi
- The homemade shortbread set out with Clipper teas and Pantone mugs in each room
- The young, enthusiastic staff
- The weekend buzz, which lasts through from long boozy lunches to sophisticated (and very romantic) dinners in the restaurant
- The bedrooms at the front of the building are best avoided if you’re a light sleeper
- The other downside is the lack of outside space
Need to Know: The Lion & Pheasant
Number of rooms: 21 rooms and 1 suite
Check-in/check-out times: 3pm and 12noon
Dogs welcome: No
Eating & drinking: The bar space works well all day, operating more like a café in the morning and a full-on temple to socialising in the evening. Eat at the back of the bar, beside a lovely open fire, or head upstairs to dine in more formal surroundings in the softly lit restaurant. When the restaurant gets busy, the Georgian, chandelier-hung Crystal Room works as an overspill area for the restaurant but it’s also possible to hire it out for birthdays and intimate wedding receptions.
Near to? The coaching inn was originally a stopping-off point on the London to Ireland route and, despite Shrewsbury’s gorgeous historic architecture and great independent shops and restaurants, it is still more geared towards passing visitors (especially those en route to Wales) than it is a destination in itself. For guests who arrive by car there’s free parking for up to 10 cars behind the hotel, for which it’s first come, first served. Or, leave the car at home and arrive by train; it’s an easy 10-minute stroll from the town’s station to the hotel.
Getting there: The easiest way to get to Shrewsbury is by train. London is a two and a half hour train ride away and Manchester is 70 minutes away. Trains can be booked with nationalrail.co.uk.