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Visit Shaftesbury and Gillingham for far reaching views
Shaftesbury is one of the oldest and highest towns in England and home to renowned, iconic landmark – Gold Hill. Nearby Gillingham is Dorset’s most northern town and has connections with the famous oil painter John Constable.
Whether you're in in Shaftesbury and Gillingham for a weekend, short break or longer, there is plenty to keep you busy, whatever the weather.
If time allows, you could venture further afield south to the Jurassic Coast, north to Wiltshire and Stonehenge, east to Cranborne Chase AONB and west to Sherborne.
Shaftesbury is quintessential Dorset. Alongside thatched cottages and quaint tea shops, you'll find small independent shops and stylish hotels and eateries.
Take a stroll along Park Walk and admire the seemingly endless panoramas. Visit quaint old-fashioned stores, flea markets and country fayres on the High Street. Or climb the cobbles of one of England’s most renowned landmarks – the iconic Gold Hill – made famous by a loaf of bread!
Be energetic and hike up Gold Hill or take the easy route to the top off the High Street, then sit and enjoy a coffee and the magnificent views over the Blackmore Vale. Here, you will also find the Gold Hill Museum set in two historic buildings with an award-winning cottage garden.
Another award-winner is Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and Gardens which is also well worth a visit, for an interactive virtual tour of this once important and influential Abbey. Touch relics and be guided by a fascinating audio tour. Take in the unique aromas of the Anglo-Saxon herb collection in the peaceful walled garden and end your visit at the Museum shop where you will find an interesting selection of books, cards, gifts and plants.
To help you find your way around, you might like to download our Shaftesbury town map.
Just 5 miles from Shaftesbury, Gillingham nestles among the lush pastures of the sweeping Blackmore Vale. It is Dorset’s most northerly town and borders Somerset and Wiltshire.
It is only 4 miles from the A303 main route, is easy to reach and conveniently positioned for exploring Dorset and its neighbouring counties of Somerset and Wiltshire.
The town flourished when the railway opened in 1859 with new industries including brick and pottery works and dairy services, bringing a variety of shops and other facilities.
Although now quite modern, with the only mainline railway station in north Dorset, the town’s origins can be traced back to Saxon times and beyond. The town is the site of Dorset’s first grammar school established in 1516 and many Tudor buildings can still be seen.
Gillingham Museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of the town and surrounding area from pre-history to more modern times. The famous artist John Constable valued this area so highly he produced five oil paintings and four sketches when he visited in the 1820’s. Visitors to the museum can learn more about these paintings and the sites that inspired them.
Whether you are visiting for the day or here for a holiday, there's lots of choice of where you can enjoy something to eat or drink.
From traditional pubs and street-side cafes, there is something for all tastes and budgets.
Why not get a coffee overlooking the famous Gold Hill, buy a picnic to enjoy at Castle Hill or savour the flavour of Dorset with some delicious local produce.
Shopping in Shaftesbury
If you love small market towns then you'll love wandering along Shaftesbury's High Street. Packed with small, unique and individual shops, you are sure to find something to take home as a reminder of your visit to Dorset. And you'll be guaranteed of great customer service from these traditional, independent retailers.
There are a number of markets which take place in the town on Thursdays and Saturdays selling a variety of food and crafts.
Events for the whole family
If you are after some fun events to entertain the whole family, there’s plenty going on throughout the year in North Dorset.
Shaftesbury Snowdrop season in February is a wonderful winter festival, the Spring Country Fair follows in April.
Early summer sees the Shaftesbury Food & Drink Festival, followed by the Gold Hill Festival in July. The Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show takes place in August.
During autumn, the Gillingham Walking Festival, Wessex Heavy Horse Show and Country Fair and Shaftesbury Carnival happens in September, with Gillingham Carnival in early October.
Read our blogs
Explore the Blackmore Vale
The free 'glossy' monthly digital magazine from north Dorset, the Blackmore Vale is your slice of contemporary rural Dorset life - no matter where you happen to live. Known for their chatty tone and sense of fun, grab a coffee and settle down for a peek into north Dorset every month.
Alongside local news & issues, the magazine has a brilliant team of local columnists covering Dorset Food & Drink, Wildlife, Farming, fascinating Local History & Dorset Walks.
Stay in a part of Dorset that is pure nostalgia
A chance to drink in life’s simple pleasures, take time out and wander cobbled streets and enjoy delicious local fayre.
Feeling tempted? Start planning where to stay and book your perfect Dorset break today.
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From fancy, country house hotels to low cost camping and everything in between.
Follow in Thomas Hardy's and John Constable's footsteps and explore two towns in north Dorset.
Choose from bistros and cafes to pubs and tea rooms.
Shaftesbury and Gillingham have many small, independent shops to explore.
Music, food, historical and art events take places all year round.
The monthly digital magazine from north Dorset, the Blackmore Vale is your slice of contemporary rural Dorset life.
Walking trail connecting the five towns of Shaftesbury, Gillingham, Stalbridge, Sturminster Newton...
Gold Hill - the famous cobbled stoned street featured in Hovis adverts.
A 3 day itinerary for exploring east and north Dorset.