We'd obviously heard of Shropshire, but it's not somewhere we'd ever considered for a short break before.

After months spent in lockdown we were relieved that restrictions were lifted in time for our July trip - and more excited than ever to be heading for the hills.

With strict social distancing rules still upon us, we probably would have been wary of other types of accommodation, so our trip to Wilderness Lodge was seemingly tailor-made.

On the lower slopes of the rugged Stiperstones in the heart of the Shropshire Hills, the luxury rustic wooden lodge is like something from a fairytale - as is its tiny wooden replica birdhouse that sits outside - our first sign of the attention to detail that's gone into this place.

The birdhouse replica of Wilderness Lodge

The single-storey lodge features an open plan living area, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms, perfect for our family of four.

From the main bedroom, French doors open out onto decking which overlooks the surrounding woodland, with a natural pond and that all-important log fired hot tub.

The owners of this place, which is booked through Sykes Cottages, clearly have comfort in mind and - from the well-equipped kitchen and living room woodburner to the supersoft bedding and rocking chairs on the veranda - you'd struggle to find a cosier setting.

The lodge is a home from home

But the real beauty of this place is the privacy it offers and it's easy to see how they came up with the name.

There are distant neighbours, including a cottage let by the same couple nearby, but you can't see or hear the occupants and the only real noise - apart from the tweets of birds and squirrels rustling in the trees - is the occasional group of walkers or cyclists passing by on their way up or down the hill.

We couldn't not experience the walks for ourselves and our trek to the top took us to the rather spectacular Devil's Chair - the most famous of the distinctive rocky outcrops on the Stiperstones ridge and an area steeped in myth and legend.

Stunning views on the walk to Devil's Chair

Some say it’s where Shropshire witches meet to sup with the devil himself as he sits on the imposing quartzite rock.

With such stunning views stretching over the North Shropshire plain and the hills of Mid Wales, who would blame them?

There are plenty more walks to enjoy nearby too. We enjoyed a couple of hours exploring Snailbeach Mine, which in its heydey was one of the biggest and richest lead mines in the country.

And a simple walk to the village was a treat on its own, with friendly locals on tap offering their own suggestions for days out and raving about their pub and Aladdin's cave village shop where 'there's nothing you can't buy'. They were right!

Further afield and there are lots of other places to explore.

Shrewsbury Prison offers guided tours

A visit to jail might not be everybody's cup of tea when they're on holiday, but we jumped at the chance to join one of the guided tours at Shrewsbury Prison and it didn't disappoint.

Having closed in 2013, it now hosts interactive prison tours. They're run by ex-prison officers, so you get to find out exactly what life was like on the Victorian prison wings, how prisoners lived from day to day and how executions were carried out there until 1961.

You can step inside the cells at the jail

From start to finish it was fascinating and few trips out will probably stick in the minds of our children as hopefully the one and only time they visited a prison cell.

For a day of lighter relief we headed to the popular Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom, around an hour away in Telford.

You can walk among the ringtailed lemurs at Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom

As well as being known as 'the home of Shropshire's big cats', there's a wood full of wallabies, 'Parrots of the Caribbean' and Lemur Forest - where you can actually walk among the ringtailed lemurs, which happily bounced up and balanced on the beams of the bars guiding our path.

Like most attractions the place had only just reopened following lockdown with reduced numbers and measures in place to help keep families safe.

Ludlow Castle

Last but not least on our list of days out was Ludlow, and we couldn't visit the picturesque market town without exploring the medieval ruins of Ludlow Castle.

Around 40 minutes from Stiperstones, it's in the centre of the town and you can walk through the castle grounds and see the ancient houses of kings, queens, princes, judges and the nobility.

Younger ones will undoubtedly be more fired up about the castle's resident dragon, but with a cafe and gift shop too, there's something to keep all ages sweet.

The resident dragon at Ludlow Castle

Back at the lodge and our final night in the wilderness was spent toasting marshmallows and enjoying hot chocolate around the fire pit while trying not to be too sad about the little piece of paradise we were leaving behind.

It might well have been our first ever stay in Shropshire, but fingers crossed it won't be our last.

Sykes Holiday Cottages (www.sykescottages.co.uk) offer a seven-night stay at Wilderness Lodge from £527.

A family ticket for a guided tour of Shrewsbury Prison costs £49.50 and can be booked online at www.jailhousetours.com. It is closed for filming until the November 26, but is still running guided tours, escape rooms and prison break events on the weekends of October 10 & 11, 17 & 18 and November 21 & 22.

Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom is open daily until December 23. A family ticket for four costs from £40. Visit hoofarm.com to book.

Ludlow Castle is open all year round, but closed mid-week throughout January and on selected dates. A family ticket costs £20. Visit ludlowcastle.com to book.