Tried and Tested: Dracup's Railway Cottage, Shropshire
Filled with wonder and charm, entering Dracup's Railway Cottage feels like stepping into a unique fantasy world.
The Bridgnorth railwayman's cottage once belonged to Antony Dracup, a visionary artist and inventor. Between 1980 and 2000, he transformed his modest home with several lovingly hand-built features... including a spectacular cave room with Gothic-style arches.
When they bought the cottage in 2019, new owners Karolina and Jason wanted to preserve Antony Dracup's enthralling legacy and imagination, and share it with others.
Alongside this, they've painstakingly restored and renovated parts of the cottage in their own creative style, including turning the lounge into a joyful ‘Alice in Wonderland'-themed space, and building a spectacular industrial-style shower room.
They've also imbued the cottage with welcoming warmth, as my fiancé David and I discovered from the moment we walked through the door.
I don't think I've ever felt so relaxed and comfortable in a brand-new place so quickly... a feeling underlined by the generous welcome basket and friendly hand-written note left by Karolina and Jason for our arrival.
We absolutely loved exploring the cottage, flitting from room to room in childlike awe! Each space is styled in a different theme, and with a level of attention to detail that means you're always discovering something new.
Along with a colourful 1940's sofa bed, art nouveau lighting, and a quirky backwards clock, the ‘Alice in Wonderland' lounge features tiny ‘secret' doors and magical accessories that were a joy to stumble across.
Accessed via the Severn Valley Railway-inspired breakfast room, we then discovered that Antony Dracup's beloved cave room had been given an ancient makeover, with medieval music, chandeliers, flickering candles, and a knight's banqueting table that made us feel like we'd travelled back in time.
Upstairs awaited a gloriously rustic bedroom ‘lair' taken straight from the pages of a classic novel - with ridiculously comfy bedding - and a hypnotic Art Room. This features a 360-degree mural of Bridgnorth created by Antony Dracup, and a swivel chair in the middle of the room.
(Be warned: once you sit in that chair and start taking in the exceptional detail of the artwork, you may be there awhile!)
Furnished with vintage posters, reclaimed timber, and wall décor by Antony Dracup, David and I spent our first evening in that incredible railway-themed breakfast room, firing up the vintage-radio-style Bluetooth speaker and chatting over a bottle of wine. As well as flooding the room with natural light, the skylight made us feel as though we'd brought the outside in... a lovely feeling as the sun began to set.
Dracup's Cottage shouldn't be seen as a simple base for exploring Bridgnorth, but a captivating space to savour in its own right. Since you can't bring your children or pets (the stairs are steep, and there are lots of small spaces that render it unsuitable) it's also perfect for romantic couples looking for a hideaway that's completely out of the ordinary.
But that's not to say there isn't anything to do in the local area - on the contrary, in fact!
Breakfast on our first morning was languorously spent at Violet's Tea Room, a 1940's-styled café with gorgeous views of the Shropshire countryside. We also paid a visit to the beautiful, nostalgic Severn Valley Railway station, and hiked up to the High Town, from which Charles I once declared the views to be "the finest in all my kingdom".
Oh, and we whiled away one afternoon at the nearby Apley Farm, feeding the friendly animals and indulging in afternoon tea.
Along with plenty of information about Bridgnorth and things to do, there's a fascinating book of photos in the cottage, donated by Antony Dracup's son Dennis, that chronicles the work Antony completed during his time there. This added to the welcoming feel throughout the cottage, as we could see just how much love and careful attention had gone into it.
There was also a notebook, filled with scribbled compliments from delighted guests. We were more than happy to add to them, as we discussed when would be the best time for a return visit.
Author: Nina Jervis