Stone, which has already gained a widespread reputation as “the food capital of Staffordshire”, will once again host the county’s biggest gastronomic gathering at the Food and Drink Festival from October 4-6 in 2019.
But nearby Eccleshall is also gaining recognition as a satellite sweet-spot, offering beer, bakers and butchers…and even a chance to enjoy a cup of tea to a 1950s soundtrack.
Its already popular pubs and restaurants have been boosted recently by the appearance on its high street of a Belgian bar, artisan bakers, and an atmospheric 50s-style tearoom, not to mention a whole new range of butchery and bakery courses presented by Britain’s Best Butcher.
The latest additions to the high street include Belgian Bar, ‘Merckx’, and the arrival of ‘The Gingerbread Men’ – a pair of acclaimed artisan bread-makers who, until recently, plied their trade in London and Manchester.
A little further down the Georgian high street, Betty B’s opened in March, offering an irresistible mix of tea and cupcakes, and gin and cocktails – all set to a perfectly themed Fifties soundtrack.
And, from late summer 2019, Perrys of Eccleshall – named Britain’s Best Butcher in the Countryside Alliance Awards – will launch a series of artisan butchery and cookery courses in a newly built specialist cookery school, in the town. (For further details visit https://perrysofeccleshall.co.uk/services-courses/).
Eccleshall is located seven miles north west of the county town of Stafford, about 15 minutes from Junction 14 of the M6. Twinned with Sancerre in France, it is also just seven miles from the main West Coast Line from London Euston
It first took prominence when it became important a market town for the surrounding area; and in 1153, it was granted the right to hold a weekly market. Eccleshall Castle – now a private family home, lived in by the Carter-Motley family for over one hundred years – briefly played a part in the War of the Roses, when it was used as a base for the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou and her troops before and after her defeat at the nearby Battle of Blore Heath in 1459.
In June 1643, the castle was besieged by Sir William Brereton and his Parliamentary forces. The Castle is currently not open to the public, but the gardens are occasionally opened to raise money for local charities.
Today, the town’s high street has a lively collection of independent shops, pubs and restaurants. It has many Georgian and earlier buildings; is a conservation area; as well as a regular winner in the Britain in Bloom competition.
A Farmers’ Market is held here every fourth Saturday of the month, and there is also an annual Eccleshall Show which will be staged, this year, on Saturday, August 31 https://www.eccleshallshow.co.uk.
The biannual Eccleshall Festival, meanwhile, will next be held in 2020.
Nearby ‘attractions’ include the Holy Trinity Church; The Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre at Fletcher’s Country Garden Centre; Izaak Walton’s Cottage; and Sugnall Walled Garden and Tearooms.
For walkers, there are over 130 public footpaths maintained by the Parish Council covering Eccleshall and the surrounding area.
Full details of this year’s Stone Food and Drink Festival can be found at https://www.stonefooddrink.org.uk.
Further tourist information about Staffordshire as a whole, meanwhile can be found at https://www.enjoystaffordshire.com.