This is a paid article written in partnership with the Field Studies Council UK with products or services supplied by them. Full editorial integrity is maintained at all times. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.
FSC Preston Montford is a unique accomodation option for all travellers who love the great outdoors and want to get back to nature. This working field study centre for enviorontmental sciences doubles as a hostel and B&B, and up until now has largely been the hidden secret of specialist academic, scientific and school groups. With easy access to some of the most spectacular national parks and areas of natural beauty in the UK, nature loving travellers are lucky to have this extraordinary hidden gem to sleep in.
The Field Studies Council is an envioronmental education charity formed in 1943 to provide opportunities for everyone to surround themselves by and study the natural envioronment and have have since then provided fieldwork and outdoor education opportunities to schools, colleges and industry for over 75 years.
Their aim is to get everyone back to nature and reconnect everyone to their natural envioronment, to make them see the natural beauty all around them and inspire them to want to help protect and conserve it. Up until now they have largely provided facilities and accomodation to educational facilities, colleges and academics, and now travellers have the chance to stay somewhere really unique and very special.
The FSC Field Study Centres are working academic and scientific envioronments, used primarily by academics, school and college groups and DofE Award groups, but what many travellers don’t know is that these working field centres also double up as hostels and B&Bs in some very unique locations!
The Field Studies Council have a network of hostels and accomodations set up around the country in locations surrounded by areas of natural beauty or unique conservation interest, a network above and beyond the usual backpacker options that many travellers don’t even know about, making these field study centres one of the single most unique hostel options in the UK for any traveller looking for something a little different!
It is not often that a travellers accomodation becomes one of the reasons to specifically visit an area but this field centre certainly fits that bill. FSC Preston Montford is a large, grade II listed eighteenth Century country house with 19th Century modifications and a ton of original architectural features that have given it protected status.
The building is set in 12 hectare estate that includes the River Severn area of semi ancient woodland with 18th Century specimen trees and a steep bank of ancient glacial drift, as well as grazed farmland and specialist habitats. If you want to enjoy some peace and quiet and escape for a while, the estate also has a range of ponds, a wildflower meadow and an orchard. There is even a bee hotel if you look for it!
FSC Preston Montford is situated in the heart of Shropshire on the banks of the River Severn with views into Wales. As an academic and scientific field centre there is still a heavy emphasis on conservation education here and the classroom ambience is a charming addition to the atmosphere of staying in a unique building. Perfect for any traveller who loves wildlife and nature or has an interest at any level in conservation, Preston Montford is an ideal place to get away from it all and relax in the midddle of nowhere but still perfectly balances that with easy access to everywhere you may want to visit with some of Shropshire’s must see attractions a short distance away. This is not a hostel with instant access to city ameneties and nightlife, but that is not why travellers would choose to come here and if you are looking for somewhere to get away from it all, get back to nature and relax, Preston Montford cannot be beat.
Located less than 6 miles from Shrewsbury, it is easily accessible from the A5 motorway and local pickup is available from Shrewsbury bus and train station if you arrange it beforehand.
With easy access to Shropshire’s well deserved Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the National Trust’s Long Mynd and Carding Mill Valley, a small handful of officially recognised Dark Sky Discovery sites, the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and even Snowdonia National Park, FSC Preston Montford is the perfect location for lovers of nature and outdoor adventures and an ideal base for visiting the surrounding Shropshire hills and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Field Studies Council offer a range of awesome and unique hostels based in some of the most stunning and unique coastal and countryside areas all over the UK, with a huge focus on getting back to basics and back to nature with their Stay With Us campaign.
I could not fault the service at Preston Motford at all and was genuinely surprised at how attentive and helpful they were! I suppose after dealing with specialist groups and colleges a few travellers aren’t much of a bother for them at all! Communication before arrival was exemplary and after booking, staff contacted me to arrange for any meals I would want on site and special attention was given for any gluten or allergy needs in a professional and sensitive way. Nothing was too much trouble for them.
The site was spotless with a lot of attention given to infection control. My room was spotlessly clean and once I had checked in I was the only person to touch and clean my room which kept it clean and minimised risk.
The Field Studies Council Hostels have all been made ‘covid secure’ and have recieved the ‘Good to Go’ mark in recognition of following government and industry COVID-19 guidelines, ensuring robust processes are in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social/physical distancing.
The only thing I can take note of as a piece of constructive criticism is that they could do with taking a few cues from traveller hostels in terms of having more information on local attractions and landmarks and providing services such as tours, transport, guided hikes or courses that very specifically targeted travellers and tourists. They had some of course, and information was there when asked for but they could definitely improve on that. Being relatively new to the tourism side of hostel life they can’t really be blamed for this but they are missing out on a huge opportunity until they do. This wasn’t a huge issue at all, as an experienced traveller I already had an idea of what I wanted to do in Shropshire and could get around myself, but in the interests of a balanced review I think this is something they could work on for the future as newer travellers or travellers with families will definitely look for this information.
Due to current covid19 restrictions not all facilities at Preston Montford are available for the time being. Alternative arrangements have been put in place to minimise the impact on guests and maintain high standards of clinical infection prevention control.
Being an envioronmental charity and a field study centre as well as a hostel, there are a ton of ameneties available for travellers here that the students and academics who usually stay here already take advantage of. The FSC accomodations pride themselves on getting back to basics, but I have stayed in many truly basic hostels and Preston Montford was a cut above. Nothing over the top or fancy, but definitely a basic but very comfortable stay.
You may not need to use the six or so fully equipped classrooms on site, but you will definitely want the free wifi! All bedding and linen is provided, as was a towel. There is a small bar available and a small but functional shop for basic necessities just in case you run out of toothpaste. There are even FSC publications if you want to read up on the scientific and conservation efforts in the area you are visiting.
Meals are available but they do also have a kitchen and self catering is available on request if you really want to cook your own cheap noodles and pasta, but to be honest once you see the meals on offer you won’t want to take the usual backpacker option!
The award winning food here definitely deserves special mention as the meals were genuinely awesome! Made fresh from locally sourced ingredients as much as possible (and yes they can tell you the local farms they came from) and using a seasonal based menu, the meals were nothing fancy but they were unbelievably good! The food here really is a case of quality and substance over style. And the best things is they really do cater for every dietary requirement too! Gluten free? No problem. Vegan? No worries. Vegetarian? Easy! Just a fussy eater? Well you have your own set of problems there but they’ve got you too!
It’s no wonder they have won the Soil Associations Food For Life Served Here award! This recognises organisations which go the extra mile to make sure visitors are receiving healthy, nutritious and sustainable meals, and the FSC does that with ease and style!
Breakfasts were provided as well with a huge range on offer from cooked breakfasts to continental style and with all allergy options carefully taken care of too, and I was given the option of having it delivered to my room at any time I wished to aid with social distancing, which allowed me to enjoy my breakfast with the pleasant view that greeted me when I woke up.
Like I said earlier they don’t have much in the way of tours you can book or classes you can take, but they do have a wide range of walking boots, wellies, waterproofs and coats for hire, so if you want to go hiking or indulge in some outdoor adventures you don’t need to bring all your own kit with you which is a godsend for those of us who like travelling light! And if you do want to do some things on your own initiative there are countless activity options for wilderness hikes, wildlife spotting, bird watching or even a bat walk! You just have to do this off your own initiative. Even if you ignored all the surrounding attractions of Shropshire, lovers of the countryside could spend weeks here just getting back to nature.
In fact this is one thing that I wish I had planned for before I arrived at Preston Montford. Shropshire is an amazing destination with a lot to see and do so I had a lot planned on my trip here, but the next time I stay here, and I will definitely stay here again, I’ll spend a week just relaxing and exploring the surrounding countryside.
The hostel has 131 beds seperated between three blocks and there are a range of rooms to choose from with different layouts and sizes, from larger hostel dorms with multiple beds to single and twin private rooms with en suites. All rooms here at Preston Montford have private bathrooms attached.
I chose a private room with twin beds and an en suite bathroom and was more than impressed. Again, the FSC pride themselves on being simple and no frills, so my expectations weren’t high, but with clean comfortable beds, plenty of pillows, a small kettle and coffee available and a really big, modern en suite bathroom, I really couldn’t have asked for more.
There is a small wardrobe behind the door and a tiny area for your bags, which is a little bit of a squeeze but is hardly terrible. I’m 6″2 so most things are a squeeze for me anyway, and compared to many hostels I have stayed in over the years this was palatial!
In general the only gripe I had with the room is the exact same gripe I have with hostels and hotel rooms all over the world, not enough plug sockets and none near the bed! There were just two plug sockets available at the small work desk, so if you wanted to charge more than a couple of phones you couldn’t do them all at the same time overnight, and you couldn’t charge your phone by your bed overnight either. I suppose it does actually make you get out of bed to turn off the alarm, but still!
This truly was an incredible room though and despite that extremely small criticism I had an extremely comfortable stay here for a few nights. For the money you are paying to stay here you genuinely are getting incredible value for money.
Back to nature and back to basics, the FSC Preston Montford delivers on that promise and then some! The Field Studies Council accomodations all over the UK are extremely good value for money, good quality and a unique and fascinating choice for any traveller who wants to get back to nature and build a trip around wildlife, nature and conservation, and Preston Montford is no exception. With very few travellers even aware of FSC accomodations they really are an exclusive hidden gem that academics, college groups and DofE groups want to keep for themselves, but with such a hidden goldmine of tourist opportunity at their fingertips, I think they will explode in popularity sooner rather than later.
The Preston Montford Field Centre is located at Preston Montford, Shrewsbury, SY4 1DX.
Ready to book? The FSC website can be found here.