Our guide to holidays in Shaftesbury
It says it all that Gold Hill in Shaftesbury was the setting for that famous Hovis ad we all knew and loved, and this market town is very much a little slice of everything we love about traditional English life. Holidays in Shaftesbury should be spent forgetting what time it is, logged out of the social media accounts and just embracing some of Dorset’s finest scenery. They’re about long walks on ancient pathways, lazy lunches in friendly pubs and spending time together somewhere peaceful.
Shaftesbury sits on a hill high above the spectacular Blackmore Vale, and that means that however you choose to spend your holiday, you’ll never be far from those views. If you’re a history lover, you’ll find attractions like Shaftesbury Abbey and Gardens on your doorstep, and what a way to gain an insight into the town’s past.
Things to do in Shaftesbury
When it comes to things to do in Shaftesbury, we reckon you’re probably going to start by popping your walking boots on. For many, a stay in the area means the chance to walk Blackmore Vale. Once described as “the vale of little dairies” by Thomas Hardy himself, this landscape is indeed made up of pretty dairy farms and cow-dotted fields, and you’ll feel a world away from the madding crowd.
To be honest, if you don’t feel like a long hike during your holiday you still enjoy a wander around Park Walk. Thanks to its far-reaching views over St James and across to Blackmore Vale, this one’s a popular spot for a stroll with a view. In fact, if you take a picnic on a sunny day it’s even better.
Now, forget everything else, there’s one thing you have to do during a holiday in Shaftesbury, and that’s pay a visit to the infamous Gold Hill. The setting for that infamous Hovis advert, this cobbled hill captures everything about England that makes us feel all nostalgic, and it’s beautiful. There’s a museum nearby too, so we say make sure you pop this one onto your holiday itinerary.
There’s a Shaftesbury attraction to suit every kind of visitor, but Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and Gardens is a great starting point. It’s best to do this one on a dry day as the ruins are uncovered, and there’s something fascinating about this walled medieval herb garden and the abbey ruins inside it. Founded in 888 and home to nuns, the abbey was dissolved in 1539 at the hands of Thomas Cromwell, and the site opens every day between the 1st April and 31st October. There’s a peaceful atmosphere at Shaftesbury Abbey, so it’s perfect for some time out during your holiday.
Now, we’ve all seen the Hovis advert over the years, complete with a cobbled hill and sleepy cottages, and it was all filmed at Gold Hill. The Gold Hill Museum sits right at the top of the infamous hill, and with an award-winning cottage garden to its name it’s a lovely place to catch up on the area’s history. Eight galleries depict the story of the town’s past, and exhibits include the oldest fire engine in Dorset, a Byzant once used during celebrations when the water supply was secured, and costumes.
With so many walks to wander and attractions to visit, you’ll be keen for hints and tips when it comes to those Shaftesbury restaurants. The Salt Cellar, perched at the top of Gold Hill, is a firm favourite, and its views are incredible. Set in the cellar of the former town hall, this café’s perfect for a stop-off during a day of sightseeing, and we have it on very good authority that the baguettes are delish!
For that special evening meal, Chutneys has been serving up yummy Indian food with a modern twist for 17 years. With a relaxed atmosphere and award-winning chefs, it has a reputation for great service and food to match. It’s probably best to book a table if you fancy trying this restaurant during your holiday, as it has a loyal following and it does get busy.
Every holiday needs that secret little pub off the beaten track, and for Shaftesbury holidays that’s The Forester. This country pub serves gorgeous food, and visitors love its olde worlde feel. Expect a warm welcome and friendly service, so this one’s perfect after a long walk or a busy day of adventures.