Timber-framed medieval buildings are clustered together on narrow streets, some leaning and teetering in a geriatric sort of way.

Church spires punctuate the sky line and well-tended flower displays can be seen in every available space.

A dreamy river lined with parkland and weeping willows curves protectively round Shrewsbury centre.

With the many tributes to the past - Medieval, Tudor and Victorian buildings are just some examples of the architecture to be seen - at first glance Shrewsbury seems to have all the characteristics of a pretty-yet-sleepy town, but we soon learn otherwise.

In fact the town is a-buzz with activity with events like the Shrewsbury Grand Prix, which took place during our stay.

There’s also the drive to achieve city status with the coming addition of its first university and the sheer range of interesting enterprises everywhere you look.

It is also the birthplace of evolution-discovering Charles Darwin, marked not only with a statue but with annual events like the Darwin Festival. Then there’s the flower displays scattered in all directions: this is a multiple-time Britain in Bloom winner don’t you know.

Independent businesses outnumber the chains here and many of them provide specialist services or are traditional-style shops which breathe new life into old crafts and trades.

This is best seen on Wyle Cop, the famously-steep shopping street. At the top a window display in a deli entices visitors inside with speciality beers, olives, cheese and sweet treats. Further down an entire shop is colourfully dedicated to chocolate: Chocolate Gourmet. An ironmongers selling period house furnishings (Period House Shop) is an attraction in itself, with its treasure trove of gilded door knobs, pulleys, bells and embellished picture hooks. You certainly wouldn’t be able to run all your errands in one store on this street and that is precisely what is so nice about it. The rustic and the charm of old is hammed up to great effect and we spend hours happily poking around.

After shopping we hop on a boat tour along the River Severn which weaves through the town.

We sit at a red and white gingham-clothed tables and a waiter serves refreshments as though you’re at a bar or cafe. We sip away and enjoy the picturesque views while listening to a commentary on the history of the town.

What with the scenery and the civilised Englishness of being served tea while going down a river, we start to understand how a naturalist mystery like evolution could have been solved in a place like this. We feel charmed and relaxed by the time we check into our accommodation.

The custom at our hotel is to greet guests with a glass of sherry poured from a decanter kept right on the reception desk. I wonder if this used to be a tradition at all hotels and if so, why it ever stopped?

We’re shown to our suite personally by a porter who opens the door to low, wooden beamed ceilings, clean and modern furnishings and plush bedding.

Looking out the little Tudor window at the narrow street, it’s easy to imagine the sound of hooves and the contents of slop buckets being hurled out onto the cobble stones below a few hundred years ago. Thank goodness it’s 2015 then and time for dinner.

At the trendy Henry Tudor House drinks are served in a cosy lounge area and food in an airy conservatory-style space. We’re offered sourdough with olive oil and balsamic vinegar while we look at the menu, which stumps us with the choice of tempting-sounding platters. Eventually we select spiced scallops served with cauliflower bhajis and burnt lime for starters, the sharpness of the limes perfectly balances the salty seafood.

For mains I have a summery risotto with asparagus and peas and my mother orders the cauliflower tarte. Both are beautifully presented; mine with very finely chopped herbs and my mother’s dish garnished with edible flowers.

Any previous prettiness however is really surpassed by the desserts. My mum’s peaches and cream come with pannacotta, peach foam, charred peaches and Champagne; all lined up (again with flowers - this is Shrewsbury after all) to form a pink, white and orange work of art. My blue pansy-garnished chocolate torte is also spot on, a perfect silky consistency and satisfyingly rich.

The next morning, refreshed from a comfortable night’s sleep and full English at the hotel, we venture out to visit Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery where we learn a little more about the history of the town; such as how it used to have a big underwear factory - explaining the number of lingerie shops in the town.

We also see an exhibition on the kinetic sculptor Johnny White called Beastly Machines. His interactive artworks of animals made out of recycled material are inspired by word play and contemporary topics like consumerism.

By now the town is kinetic too with the Shrewsbury Grand Prix. Commentary from a tannoy chatters in the background as cyclists warm up and spectators amass, vying for a good spot on the route that runs through the centre.

We are lucky enough to get a great view from Sophie’s Crêperie, which lures us in with the sweet smells of syrup and cooking butter. The cafe is 100 per cent French, from the owner to the decor, right down to the radio station playing, and staff prepare amazing sweet or savoury crepes on hot plates right in front of you.

The cycling action rages on as we squeeze past the crowds out of the cafe and head towards the award-winning Dingle. This beautiful sunken garden, landscaped with alpine borders, colourful bedding plants, shrubbery and water features, is found at the centre of Quarry Park, the 29-acred parkland which sits next to the river. The Dingle was created by world-renowned gardener Percy Thrower, who was Shrewsbury’s Park Superintendent for 28 years. There are seasonal floral displays here all year round which likely help to secure Shrewsbury’s Britain in Bloom status.

Nearing the end of our stay we hurry to see some of the churches Shrewsbury is known for. We silently inch our way into Shrewsbury Cathedral to avoid disturbing the worshippers and discover its spectacular stained glass windows by artist Margaret Rope whose work is remarkably detailed and brightly coloured. Then there’s St. Chad’s; one of only three (or four depending on who you speak to) round churches in the country and widely regarded as a Georgian masterpiece. The nave’s wooden pews, carefully coaxed into a perfect crescent, are an incredible feat of craftsmanship. The building has a number of claims to fame: Charles Darwin was baptised there in 1809, in the graveyard you will find Ebenezer Scrooge's ‘gravestone’ from the 1984 film A Christmas Carol, filmed in Shrewsbury. You will also find the grave of Charles Bage, designer of the first ever iron-framed building, the Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury, built at the end of the 18th century.

There’s just enough time for afternoon tea so we head to The Libertine, a cocktail bar and tea rooms.

The colourful interior includes an old leather gym vault used as a drink-prop, retro patterned wallpaper and vintage trinkets on the shelves. There’s even reggae music playing which made for afternoon tea with a difference, although the sandwiches (cucumber and salmon and cream cheese) and scones (served with Cornish cream and strawberry jam) were conventional in the best possible way. This theme of the traditional mixed with the new and unexpected is what sums up the town for me, I think to myself, as we finish our scones to the sounds of Bob Marley and leave on a high.