Set on a hill overlooking the Blackmore Vale to the east of North Dorset , Shaftesbury has one of the most beautiful settings of any market town in England. It is world famous for the view from ‘Gold Hill’, a setting used in a Hovis Bread advert of the 1970s, and as a result one of the most recognised Dorset landmarks. Shaftesbury is the highest town in Dorset, and has magnificent views over the surrounding countryside of the Blackmore Vale – it is also one of the oldest towns in Dorset.
Today, Shaftesbury has a wide selection of quality cafés, pubs, restaurants, an Arts Centre and a High Street filled with independent shops and local produce. The newly refurbished Gold Hill Museum offers an insight into Shaftesbury’s diverse history – it is housed in a traditional sandstone cottage and among its local history exhibits are the town’s first fire engine and a mummified cat!
Visitors can walk along Park Walk to see the panoramic views. There is a Heritage trail where visitors can learn more about the history of the town and its buildings, as well as its connections with Thomas Hardy (in his novels Shaftesbury is known as ‘Shaston’).
The Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and Gardens is also a great attraction for visitors. The Abbey dates back to 888 AD and was one of the richest abbeys in Dorset – the Museum, recently renovated, tells its story in animated displays. Outside, the walled garden has a collection of more than a hundred herbs, many used in Saxon times.
The town has a market on Thursdays and a farmers’ market the first Saturday of each month. It has a number of inns, restaurants and hotels and is a popular base for touring the wider area.