-Things to Do in Ironbridge Gorge-
The first time I (Joel) visited Ironbridge Gorge was in 2010. I was 25 years old and had already done a bit of travelling but it hadn’t occurred to me until now that before I visited Ironbridge Gorge, I hadn’t even heard of Ironbridge or the Iron Bridge.
How can that possibly be?! Ironbridge Gorge is one of only 30 or so UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK and self-proclaimed ‘birthplace of industry’ and ‘birthplace of the industrial revolution’. They are bold statements to make but I expect there is a little bit of truth in them given the long and rich history of Ironbridge and the Ironbridge Gorge. The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986 and covers a staggering 550 hectares of beautiful countryside on either side of the River Severn.
Undoubtedly, Ironbridge Gorge is my favourite place in the whole of Shropshire and Ironbridge is one of my favourite villages in the entire country. Much like Hay-on-Wye, it oozes character and individuality.
Ironbridge resonates with me and fulfils lots of my wants from a location. It’s visually stimulating, interesting to photograph, there are plenty of things to do, there’s independent retail and the very best bit about Ironbridge and the Ironbridge Gorge… there’s an industrial past that’s still alive, albeit not as it once was.
My dad is an engineer and I joined the Royal Navy as a Marine Engineering (Submarines), so I grew up and grew into engineering. Engineering and how stuff works have always been something that fascinates me. And Ironbridge itself contributed to the world we live in today. I find it remarkable how under the tourist radar Ironbridge and the Ironbridge Gorge is. Similarly, Shropshire as a county sits a bit under the radar, despite its interest and beauty.
From east to west, Ironbridge Gorge encompasses Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge, Jackfield and Coalport. A little further south, sitting atop the gorge is Broseley, which we’ll talk a little bit about under the Ironbridge Gorge Museums.
If you are visiting Ironbridge or the Ironbridge Gorge, this post will help you plan your visit and if you’re looking for free things to do in Ironbridge Gorge, scroll to the bottom for a list of free things to do.
Where is Ironbridge?
Ironbridge sits in the Ironbridge Gorge which is located south of Telford, Shropshire. If you aren’t great with geography and don’t know where Shropshire is, it’s in the Midlands, about 35 miles northwest of Birmingham and it borders Wales.
11 Things to Do in Ironbridge Gorge
1 | Walk over the World’s First Iron Bridge
Undoubtedly, this had to be first up on our list of things to do in Ironbridge Gorge. Can you believe the world’s first iron bridge was built and installed right here in the Ironbridge Gorge? Remarkable!
The Iron Bridge was built across the River Severn in 1779 and was the work of ironmaster Abraham Darby III. 384 tonnes of iron were used to build this truly pioneering structure and the Iron Bridge marked a turning point in design and engineering that led to cast iron being widely used in the construction of bridges, aqueducts and buildings. And that’s one of the reasons Ironbridge Gorge regards itself as the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Another is that Ironbridge Gorge is rich in minerals that were easily mined and were able to be transported due to the river running straight through the gorge.
The Iron Bridge & Tollhouse forms part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums but you can get in the Tollhouse for free without a museum pass.
Once upon a time, the bridge would charge for everything and everyone that crossed it but these days you don’t have to pay a…penny, which is lucky because you won’t figure out how much you actually owe, according to the toll information from 1776 which is in pounds, shillings and pence! Until 1950 everyone, including the Queen, had to pay a toll to cross Iron Bridge.
Iron Bridge is owned and maintained by English Heritage these days, which is a good job because Iron Bridge was under threat back in the 1960s when there was talk of selling it for scrap!
Address: Ironbridge, Telford, Shropshire, TF8 7JP
2 | Visit a Victorian Village
Although Blists Hill Victorian Town forms part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums, it has its own place on this list of things to do in Ironbridge Gorge because it’s the headline act of the museums. Blists Hill is very much like the Black Country Living Museum and Beamish if you’ve ever visited them but Blists Hill has its very own charm.
This charm makes it one of the most attractive museums I have ever visited. You can learn all about life in the Victorian times, from how land was occupied by squatters, how bone china was made, how people treated their minor ailments in the chemist and how they even had their teeth extracted. You can get your hands on some traditional Victorian sweets or fish and chips and even watch a blacksmith hammer away on his anvil. There are so many things to do in Blists Hill that you’ll be occupied for a few hours.
Undoubtedly, Blists Hill is a great place to take the kids but I have no doubt you will get lost in the wonderful world of the Victorian era no matter what age you are.
The most remarkable thing about Blists Hill Victorian Village is that it’s largely original. With great care, the buildings around Blists Hill were moved, brick by brick, to the location they are in today and you can find out about their previous lives by speaking to the inhabitants of them. The buildings that aren’t original, such as the bank, are replicas of buildings from the local area.
But to really bring Blists Hill properly to life, I recommend you engage with the people who work there. You will learn all sorts about Victorian life and enjoy your visit even more.
To buy your tickets to Blists Hill and the other Ironbridge Gorge Museums, click HERE.
Address: Blists Hill Victorian Village, Legges Way, Telford TF7 5UD
Did you know?
- It’s regarded that traditional British fish and chips are to be cooked in beef dripping.
- Blists Hill is dog friendly, so you can bring your pooch along! Add it to your list of things to do in Ironbridge with dogs. For more information on visiting the Ironbridge Gorge museums with dogs, click HERE.
3 | Visit the Ironbridge Gorge Museums
For things to do in Ironbridge, look no further than the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. We’ve already mentioned Blists Hill Victorian Town, but the Ironbridge Gorge Museums consists of 10 museums and attractions, which are listed below. Scroll down for the opening times of each museum.
Address: Blists Hill Victorian Village, Legges Way, Telford TF7 5UD
Enginuity is a child-centric museum with plenty of science, design and technology exhibits for kids (and adults) to get interactive with.
Address: Enginuity, 10 Wellington Rd, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7DX
Jackfield Tile Museum
Surprisingly, the Jackfield Tile Museum is pretty good. I didn’t expect much, but it’s an interesting place. It was once at the very heart of British tile production and the museum celebrates exactly that. Interestingly, they have recreated some scenes like a pub tube station and a church. I have no doubt it will be a nostalgic visit for some of you!
Address: Jackfield Tile Museum, Salthouse Rd, Telford TF8 7LJ
Coalport China Museum
Coalport China Museum has nothing to do with China and everything to do with china ceramics, crockery and tableware. Coalport China Museum is a small but interesting museum with a curiously-shaped bottle kiln that you can walk inside to see how they fired the china. You can also get your eyes on some china made for Queen Victoria and see the Northumberland Vase which was the biggest item ever made at Coalport.
Address: Coalport China Museum, High St, Telford TF8 7HT
Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron
Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron sits right next to Enginuity and The Furnace Kitchen, so you can kill a few birds with one stone in your visit here. The Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron presents the inspiring relationship between Britain and iron and how it has led to the world we live in today.
Address: Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, Coach Rd, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7DQ
Museum of the Gorge
Address: Museum of the Gorge, The Wharfage, Telford TF8 7NH
The Darby Houses are the former homes of the Darby family, of which Abraham Darby III was the ironmaster behind the Iron Bridge. You can step back in time to the 1700s to get an insight into the industrialist’s life
Address: Darby Houses, 30 Darby Rd, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7EW
The Tar Tunnel was once a natural spring for bitumen that was discovered by miners as they dug a canal tunnel to connect the canal by the River Severn to the mines below the Blists Hill Area. The Tar Tunnel is now only accessible in summer via guided tour as part of the Coalport China Museum site tour.
Address: Tar Tunnel, High St, Telford TF8 7HT
The Iron Bridge & Tollhouse
Address: The Iron Bridge, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7JP
Broseley was at the heart of clay tobacco pipe manufacturing and the museum now preserves the history of an industry that has long since passed. Broseley Pipeworks was abandoned in 1957 and the only way to get back in is via guided tour only on Saturdays during the summer. While you’re in Broseley, look out for the building that looks like the bank from Blists Hill – it’s a replica of the old bank from Broseley!
Address: Broseley Pipeworks, Duke St, Broseley TF12 5LX
Ironbridge Gorge Museums Opening Times
Early Spring Opening Times: 22nd Jan – 4th Apr 2022
|Blists Hill Victorian Town||Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm|
|Enginuity||Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm|
|Jackfield Tile Museum||Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm|
|Coalport China Museum||Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm|
|Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron||Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm|
|Museum of the Gorge||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm|
|The Iron Bridge & Tollhouse||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm|
Summer Opening Times: 4th Apr – 9th Oct 2022
|Blists Hill Victorian Town||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm|
|Enginuity||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm|
|Jackfield Tile Museum||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm|
|Coalport China Museum||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm|
|Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm|
|Museum of the Gorge||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm|
|The Iron Bridge & Tollhouse||Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm|
Did you know?
For the best value for money, buy a season ticket to access the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. It will give you access to all the attractions for a whole year. Even if you visit each museum only once, it’s cheaper than buying individual tickets.
Events, Workshops & Activities
There are loads of events, workshops and activities going on throughout the year at the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. To find out what’s going on and to see if anything interests you, click HERE.
4 | Get on the River Severn
Ironbridge Gorge isn’t renowned for the river that passes through it, but for the bridge that crosses over it. However, if you would like an alternative view of Ironbridge and the Ironbridge Gorge, I recommend you get on the water. If you don’t have your own canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard, you can hire one from Shropshire Raft Tours to get on the water and see this iconic location from a different perspective.
I have kayaked from Ironbridge to Bridgnorth, passing under the iconic Iron Bridge. Despite the flow of the river, it’s a fairly gruelling 9.5-mile paddle where you’ll pass through some rapids a mile or two south of Ironbridge, so be prepared to get a bit wet! If you’re not confident in a kayak, that part of the river is probably best avoided.
You can get on the river just north of Ironbridge and get out at the slip in Severn Park, Bridgnorth. There’s a car park where you can get picked up, but be aware that there is a height restriction. You don’t want to hit the kayaks on top of your roof…might be a bit awkward (yes, I should know!).
Address: Ironbridge, Shropshire, TF8 7NH
Did you know?
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain at 220-miles long (354 kilometres for you metric lot!)? It runs from the dramatic mountains of north Wales, through the beautiful countryside of Shropshire and Worcestershire, before finally spilling out into the Bristol channel via the Severn estuary.
5 | Enjoy a Good Old Pint
Ironbridge Gorge has its fair share of pubs! If you’ve got kids, take them to The Half Moon Inn. There’s a little beach where you can play in the water and if you’re eating outside you may even get a visit from the ducks. Be careful though, they will want your food!
We have visited a lot of the pubs in and around the Ironbridge Gorge area and you are undoubtedly spoilt for choice. You can visit Ironbridge’s first micropub, The Coracle, or head for some food at a gastropub, or any kind of pub in between! We recommend The Coracle, The Swan, The Half Moon Inn, The Boat Inn and the Black Swan (which has a lovely beer garden overlooking the River Severn). You’ll also be able to get a pint of Shropshire brewed Hobsons ale at the Black Swan. If you have dogs, The Coracle is also a dog-friendly establishment and therefore one of the things to do in Ironbridge with dogs!
- The Swan Taphouse, 21 Wharfage, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7NH
- The Coracle, 27 High St, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7AD
- The Half Moon Inn, 174 Salthouse Rd, Telford TF8 7LP
- The Boat Inn, Ferry Rd, Jackfield, Telford TF8 7LS
- Black Swan, Lloyds Head, Jackfield, Telford TF8 7LZ
6 | Dine Vegan Style, Ecologically
The Green Wood Café is a hidden gem in Ironbridge Gorge and somewhere you might never find unless you know it’s there! It’s located right next to the New Coracle Shed, too! Scroll down for more information on the Old & New Coracle Sheds.
With the environment and inclusivity in mind, the Green Wood Café offer vegetarian and vegan food and drink as well as a load of low-gluten options. But even if you’re not a veggie or vegan, don’t let that put you off a visit. The café is beautifully designed – cosy yet cool and they also offer merchandise and coffee for you to buy, including Coffee With Soul coffee beans which are their very own house beans.
Address: Green Wood Centre, Station Rd, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7DR
7 | Feed the Ducks (and Swans!)
Ironbridge Gorge is a family-friendly location to visit with plenty of things to do to keep the kids entertained but if you’re looking for something outdoor and free, this is for you. Head on down to the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre (address below!) and walk around the back to the river edge and you will often find the ducks.
If you’re going to feed the ducks, below is a list of recommended things to feed them, as directed by the Canal and River Trust. The Canal and River Trust also recommend you avoid feeding ducks bread. It lacks nutrition, apparently! For more information on feeding the ducks, click HERE.
Address: 32 Wharfage, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7NH
8 | Drink Ironbridge’s Best Coffee in a Design Hub
Ironbridge’s best coffee happens to be sold in my favourite shop in Ironbridge, The Bolthole. The Bolthole is a design hub created by an interior designer and textile designer who created a brilliant space to sell a beautiful array of fabrics, furniture and handmade homewares created by 60 local makers.
Inside The Bolthole is their cafe, selling a range of delicious cakes and locally roasted coffee. The coffee itself is produced by Iron & Fire which is a speciality artisanal coffee roastery based in Shrewsbury. The coffee used in the cafe is Columbian Jazz, with hints of chocolate, caramel and cherry. You’ll also be glad to know it’s ethically sourced from the Huila region of Colombia.
During one of my many visits to The Bolthole, I had the pleasure of photographing Cal, one of the makers who contribute to The Bolthole’s wonderful array of products with her fascinating illustrations. You can see more of her work HERE and you may be fortunate enough to see her work around Ironbridge on a shop front or two!
Address: The Bolthole, 4 The, Wharfage, Ironbridge TF8 7AW
Other notable cafes include The Furnace Kitchen at the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron. The design is industrial, as you’d expect and worth a visit while you’re at the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron.
9 | Scoff Some Traditional Fish and Chips
Fish and chips are one of my favourite foods and there are two places in Ironbridge Gorge that I recommend you get fish and chips. One of those places is Blists Hill. You will not be disappointed (unless you don’t like traditionally cooked fish and chips, of course!). And the other is The Ironbridge Fish & Chips. Not only are the fish and chips delicious, but the shop is also located just a few metres from the Iron Bridge. So, you can get your fish and chips, head to the benches perched just down the hill, and sit and admire the Iron Bridge while you get your fill of one of Britain’s favourite dishes.
Address: The Ironbridge Fish & Chips, 32 High St, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7AD
10 | Eat a Pork Pie
If you are a pork pie lover, this is one not to be missed! Eley’s have been making pork pies to the same secret family recipe for over 50 years and each one is traditionally handmade using the age-old method of hand raising, where each pork pie case is hand raised around a traditional wooden dolly before it is filled with meat. Their cheese and onion pasties are also worth a try…yum!
Fun fact: look for the wall art in Jesse’s Fold, Blists Hill (where the stables are set back from the road). The wall art was advertising for Eley’s Pork Pies that were once sold in the butcher’s shop. The artwork now says ‘Charles Jesse…’ but I suspect that is to avoid copyright infringement!
Address: Eley’s Pork Pies, 13 Tontine Hill, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7AL
11 | Run the Ironbridge Half Marathon
Last up on our list of things to do in Ironbridge Gorge is to run the Ironbridge Half Marathon. An unusual entry on a list of things to do but one that might appeal to the fitties among you. The Ironbridge Half Marathon is organised by the Telford Harriers. The 13.1-mile route takes in the historic sights in and around Ironbridge Gorge, Ironbridge, Coalport and Telford Town Park. During the run, you’ll see iconic landmarks of Ironbridge Gorge including the Coalport Bridge, the Iron Bridge and Coalbrookdale viaduct, with a start and finish in the award-winning Telford Town Park.
For more information on the Ironbridge Half Marathon, click HERE.
That concludes our list of things to do in Ironbridge Gorge but if you’re looking for some free things, keep scrolling!
-Things to Do in Ironbridge Gorge-
Are There Any Free Things to Do in Ironbridge?
There isn’t a huge amount to do in Ironbridge and the Ironbridge Gorge that will cost you absolutely nothing, but here are a few ideas to get you going…
Iron Bridge & Tollhouse
You can visit the Iron Bridge and Tollhouse for free! Operated by English Heritage, you will often find a member of staff on the Iron Bridge, ready and willing to tell you all about the rich history of the world’s first iron bridge.
Walking is free and something we encourage in all the locations we recommend. Ironbridge Gorge is a fairly big location that might be fairly difficult to walk to and from all the locations we have mentioned but we recommend walking from Bedlam Furnaces to the Iron Bridge, down to Dale End Car Park, to The Furnace Kitchen and back. You’ll see a good spread of Ironbridge Gorge on this route. And if you have a dog, add this to your list of things to do in Ironbridge with dogs.
For more information on walks and to see some of the walking leaflets click HERE.
Visit an Antiques Centre
Antique centres don’t really qualify as a tourist attraction, nor would they be free if you bought anything but it’s on this list because there is something satisfying about a stroll around them without spending a penny, don’t you think? Maybe it’s the nostalgia and connection to the past, the monetary value or to simply admire the beauty of old and ornate stuff. But whatever attracts us to these treasure troves, we’re sure you’ll enjoy Ironbridge Antiques, Arts & Crafts Centre. If you follow our walking route above, you’ll also walk past Bygone Antiques on Tontine Hill, right next to the Iron Bridge.
Address: Ironbridge Antiques, Arts & Crafts, Merrythought Village, Dale End, Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7NJ
Go For a Bike Ride
I have cycled to Ironbridge many times. It’s a lovely ride in from where we lived but it’s certainly not relaxing! As you can imagine, you have to cycle down into a deep gorge…and back out again! For a more enjoyable ride, follow The Mercian Way. The Mercian Way will take you from Ironbridge to Bridgnorth and back, along an old railway line. Pick up the route at Ironbridge Central car park and head downriver. If you haven’t visited Bridgnorth before, it’s another beautiful Shropshire town worth a visit.
If you’re familiar with the National Cycle Network, The Mercian Way operates on Route 45 and the route from Ironbridge to Bridgnorth is approximately 10 miles one-way. For more information, click HERE. Note: the route is not suitable for road bikes! For a lot of the route, you’ll be on an old train line that still has a lot of the old ballast so it’s a little rough.
You can park at the Bedlam Furnaces for free and while you’re there, you can have a little look at them. There isn’t much to see but they are one of 36 historic assets under the care of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and regarded as one of the most important industrial monuments in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.
Built between 1756 and 1757, the Bedlam Furnaces are the remains of a coke-fired blast furnace and were one of the first furnaces in the country to be built specifically for coke smelting.
The New (and Old) Coracle Shed
The New Coracle Shed is located right next to The Green Wood Cafe we mentioned above and is a free museum about the coracle men and Ironbridge Coracle tradition. If you didn’t know, a coracle is a small one-person boat that was made of wood with a waterproof coating, originally made of animal skin. They were used over 2000 years ago in the UK but you might still find them floating around today. There’s even the annual Ironbridge Regatta organised by Ironbridge Coracle Trust where you can see plenty of coracles on the water.
The Old Coracle Shed is located right next to the River Severn and you could walk straight past it without even noticing it. To find it, walk under the Iron Bridge, heading downriver, and you will find a little wooden shed on your right-hand side, 50 metres or so from the Iron Bridge.
Useful Information and FAQ for Ironbridge
If you are looking for free parking in Ironbridge, there is free parking at Bedlam Furnaces. If you choose to park here, you will have a short walk to the Iron Bridge, which is 0.4 miles away.
Each of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums has parking on-site or very nearby and each car park uses Automatic Number Plate Recognition where you can pay for parking upon returning to your vehicle. Parking at these car parks costs £1 per hour, up to a maximum of £5. They also allow a 30-minute window for pick-up and drop-off.
Other car parks around Ironbridge:
Waterloo Street Car Park, Waterloo St, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7HG
Ironbridge Central Car Park, 5 Ladywood, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7JR
Station Yard Car Park, Ladywood, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7JP
The Square, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7AQ
Wharfage Car Park, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7NH
Dale End Car Park, Wharfage, Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7NJ
Park and Ride
Operated by Telford & Wrekin Council, the Ironbridge park and ride offers free parking for 100 cars and costs £1 per adult (children are free) to ride.
For more information on Ironbridge Gorge Park & Ride, click HERE.
There are two sets of public toilets in Ironbridge. Their locations are below.
The Square Public Toilets, 7-8 The Square, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7AQ
Wharfage Car Park Toilets, Ironbridge, Telford TF8 7NH
When is the best time to visit Ironbridge?
The best time to visit Ironbridge Gorge is in spring, summer or autumn. That’s not to say you should avoid it in winter because that’s not the case but Ironbridge comes alive once the UK starts to warm up a bit. Not only does Ironbridge Gorge look prettier when the trees are green and the flowers are in bloom, but loads more things are going on like fetes, activities and events. The River Severn also tends to get a little bit high in winter after heavy rainfall which might ruin your trip a little if the flood defences are on guard. Despite the time you choose to visit Ironbridge Gorge, I’m confident you’ll enjoy the place.
-Things to Do in Ironbridge Gorge-
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