CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today CLICK HERE

Things to see and do in Shaftesbury

PUBLISHED: 11:14 06 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:14 06 June 2017

The legendary Cheese Race at Gold Hill

The legendary Cheese Race at Gold Hill

Archant

Sara Niven reveals some hidden treasures in this historic hilltop town with sweeping views of the Blackmore Vale

Shaftesbury really comes into its own in summer, and as the second highest market town in England (Buxton being the first), you can enjoy some fabulous vistas over the picturesque Blackmore Vale. Known as ‘Shaston’ in Thomas Hardy’s novels, there are lots of reasons to make you linger longer in this north Dorset town.

Top of the list is a visit to the steep cobbled street of Gold Hill. Recently voted one of the UK’s prettiest streets it is a real Dorset gem. If you prefer just to admire the sweeping views, then approach Gold Hill from the top, where you can soak up the panorama from The Salt Cellar restaurant and café. 


Out and About

Those with a love of art will enjoy browsing the main gallery at Shaftesbury Arts Centre on Bell Street. Andrea Jenkins, whose work is inspired by the sea, and wood fired pots created by Jonathan Garratt feature in a two week exhibition starting on 7 June. Nearby in Swans Yard is The Cygnet, a fabulous gallery that sells work from a broad range of local artists (thecygnet.org.uk).

In the summer the town is hit by festival fever. Gold Hill Fair (2 July), organised by Shaftesbury Rotary Club, has been running since the mid 80’s. Originally a one day event, solely based on the Hill, it now includes Park Walk and St James Park and incorporates a street parade on the Sunday. It also features the legendary Cheese Race up Gold Hill!

Timed to coincide with this annual event is the Shaftesbury Fringe. Running 30 June – 2 July it features a packed weekend of entertainment from comedy and cabaret to children’s shows. This year’s line-up of 80 performers across 30 different venues includes Africa Entsha, a pop/acoustic a capella group, stopping off in Shaftesbury during their world tour. If it all gets a little much, join in one of the free open air meditation sessions in the Abbey Gardens. Full listings at shaftesburyfringe.co.uk.


A Sense of History

Shaftesbury Abbey is at the heart of the town’s heritage. Established in 888 by King Alfred the Great, it was one of England’s most influential Benedictine nunneries until 1539 when it was destroyed during the Dissolution. The excavated foundations of this Saxon abbey lie within a peaceful walled garden which has over 100 herbs, similar to the ones the nuns would have once cultivated.

The Abbey Museum has displays of medieval stonework, an interactive virtual tour and activity packs for children. Events taking place here in June include a Herb Walk & Talk with medical herbalist, Julie Wood (17 June, 2.30pm & 3.30pm) and open air Shakespeare on 23 June when the Festival Players perform The Merry Wives of Windsor in the Abbey Gardens (gates open 6pm for picnics, performance starts at 7.30pm). More details at shaftesburyabbey.org.uk.

Nearby, Gold Hill Museum provides a fascinating insight into rural and town history including displays on the once thriving local industries of lace and glove making and Dorset buttons (goldhillmuseum.org.uk).


A Taste of Shaftesbury

The newly refurbished Grosvenor Arms, right in the heart of town, provides an upmarket but relaxed place for a glass of wine, wood fired pizza or dinner. The jungle-themed cocktail and music bar Angola 76 on Mustons Lane is a popular hot spot, with regular live music and open mic nights.

Order breakfast or afternoon tea at The Ugly Duckling in Swans Yard where you can sit outside before browsing the lovely shops in the courtyard. For a pub lunch with sensational views head to The Mitre on the High Street to tuck into a menu that ranges from sourdough and smashed avocado to beer battered fish and chips. Also on the High Street, King Alfred’s Kitchen is worth checking out for its great coffee and Dorset apple cake.

On warm and sunny days enjoy a picnic on Park Walk, overlooking the Blackmore Vale or find a spot in Castle Gardens, where you can see Glastonbury Tor on a clear day. Do it in style and order a picnic from the renowned local deli, cheesemongers and bistro Turnbull’s Deli, prices start at £50 for four to enjoy a range of sweet and savoury goodies with plates and cutlery included.

Fancy a picnic in a vineyard? Melbury Vale Vineyard lies just outside the town at Foots Hill, Cann. It is open daily during the first week in June for tastings and tours to mark English Wine Week. The first 2,000 vines of this sustainably run vineyard were planted back in 2008 and this month they launch their first sparkling wine. Founders Clare and Joseph are happy to let visitors picnic in their orchard areas. Find out more at mvwinery.co.uk. 


For information on accommodation, events and attractions in and around Shaftesbury visit shaftesburytourism.co.uk.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The guide to Dorset’s best firework displays and bonfire events happening in 2018

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

From festive light switch-ons and Santa’s Grottos, to German Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Dorset this season

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

Dorset villages are some of the most beautiful in England – think winding lanes, thatched cottages and a cosy pub or welcoming tea room. We suggest ten of the prettiest villages to visit in the county

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

Autumn is a great time to brush up on your gardening knowledge with the help of some experts, as well as see some well known gardens in a different light

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

Follow in the footsteps of the Romans on this lovely walk that takes in rare habitat, ancient woodland and glorious views

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This challenging coastal walk rewards your efforts with spectacular views along the Jurassic Coast

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Marine photographer Steve Belasco shares some very special wildlife moments

Read more
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TravelSupermarket has uncovered the top 25 most popular UK beaches on Instagram after analysing hashtags used for over 1,100 beaches and Bournemouth comes out on top

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ride + Stride, Dorset Historic Churches Trust’s annual fundraising event, is a great way to explore and support some of the county’s more unusual places of worship

Read more
Monday, August 6, 2018

This easy level walks takes in an ancient village described as The Mother of Bournemouth and Throop Mill of the River Stour

Read more
Friday, July 27, 2018

Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places

Read more

From paddling on the Frome to admiring one of the best vistas in Dorset, Adam Lee-Potter’s beloved home town just keeps getting better and better

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Butterflies, buzzards and beautiful views sum up this lovely summer walk around Piddletrenthide and Plush Hill

Read more
Sunday, July 8, 2018

Visit Dorset reveal their favourite lesser-known local beaches to explore if you want to get off the beaten track this summer

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search