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Shaftesbury and Gold Hill

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Shaftesbury and Gold Hill
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 13 Jun 2012 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Walking Guidestar1 Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Walking Guidestar1 Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Walking Guidestar1 Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Walking Guidestar0 Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Walking Guide
Dorset, Shaftesbury
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
Shaftesbury and Gold Hill
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Walking Guide boot Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Walking Guide boot Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Walking Guide
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A four mile circular walk from the beautiful Dorset town of Shaftesbury, near the Wiltshire border. The walk gives you chance to enjoy the lovely mix of thatched and stone properties in the town, follows stretches of quiet country lanes towards the downs in the south and also visits the two main view points in the town where you’ll enjoy views stretching northwest to Glastonbury Tor and south to Melbury Hill and beyond. Of course, no walk through Shaftesbury would be complete without a stroll down Gold Hill, the cobbled hill made famous in many photographs and, most memorably, in the 1973 Hovis TV Advert.

Shaftesbury sits high above sea level on a chalk ridge. The walk follows the streets and lanes heading south into the chalk downlands meaning there are several steady slopes and one steep section both climbing and descending. The route follows a mix of pavements, quiet country lanes with no pavements and a few field paths which can get muddy after wet weather. There are a couple of gates plus one stile, which is quite tall and has just a small gap under the gate alongside for dogs. You may come across cattle in one of the fields. Approximate time 2 hours.

The walk starts from outside the Tourist Information Centre on Bell Street in the centre of Shaftesbury. Behind the centre there are both long stay and short stay pay and display car parks. Public toilets (coin operated) are available in the car park. Approximate post code SP7 8AR.

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Walk Sections

Bell Street to Gold Hill
Bell Street to Gold Hill

Start point: 51.0066 lat, -2.1975 long
End point: 51.0055 lat, -2.197 long

With your back to the Tourist Information Centre on Bell Street, turn left along Bell Street. Go past the arts centre on the right and then the Bell Street United Church on the left.

Opposite a row of terraced thatched cottages, turn right onto Mustons Lane. At the T-junction with the High Street turn right. Pass The Mitre pub and the 15th century Church of St Peter on the left as the street widens into the market square. On the left now is the Town Hall (built in 1827) and in front of it is the first sign of the link between Shaftesbury and Hovis bread – a giant fibreglass Hovis loaf.

The loaf claims to be the most photographed loaf of bread in the world (perhaps not a difficult accomplishment!) and acts as a charity collection box for the upkeep of the famous cobbled street that you will see later. The name Hovis was introduced in 1890 and was derived from the Latin ‘Hominis Vis’ meaning ‘strength of a man’.

Turn left immediately after the Town Hall down the cobbled narrow stepped path between houses. Follow the path round to the left and you will emerge at the top of Gold Hill to your right.

Gold Hill to Wilderness
Gold Hill to Wilderness

Start point: 51.0055 lat, -2.197 long
End point: 51.0025 lat, -2.1915 long

The view from the top of Gold Hill will probably look instantly familiar and for good reason. The well worn cobbled street winds down the hill passing old stone cottages with views over the roofs to the Blackmore Vale. The hill is thought to capture the quintessential image of rural England and it has been used on everything from book covers and calendars to chocolate boxes.

Most famously, the hill was used in the ‘Boy on Bike’ Hovis bread advert in 1973. The advert was directed by Ridley Scott (who later went on to direct films including Alien and Gladiator) and featured the distinctive theme music of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. It captured the hearts of the nation and was voted at number 28 in the 100 Best TV Adverts of All Time by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times. In 2008 Hovis teamed up with Olympian Victoria Pendleton as the new ‘Girl on Bike’ to promote healthy eating and exercise.

Make your way down the wide cobbled hill. On the right are the old buttressed walls of Shaftesbury Abbey. At the bottom of the hill you’ll come to a T-junction, turn left onto Layton Lane.

Follow the road as it levels out and begins to bend to the right. As the road begins to climb continue straight on into Hawksdene Lane between tall hedges. As you come to the brow of the hill, look out for a kissing gate set into the hedge on the right, opposite a salt bin on the left.

Wilderness to Three Ways
Wilderness to Three Ways

Start point: 51.0025 lat, -2.1915 long
End point: 50.9913 lat, -2.1938 long

Turn right through this kissing gate and follow the grass footpath straight ahead with the downs sloping away to the right. (Note: this field is part of Hawksdene Farm, so please keep to the path and keep dogs under close control). At the end of this field, pass through the five bar gate (or use the stile alongside if it is locked) into the next field (which may be holding cattle). Turn immediately right along the field edge for just a few paces and then go over the stile ahead to reach a tarmac lane.

Turn left along the narrow lane heading downhill and with steep banks each side. Pass by Frenchmill Cottage and Spur House on the right. The lane eventually reaches a T-junction with Three Ways Cottage on the left.

Three Ways to Post Box
Three Ways to Post Box

Start point: 50.9913 lat, -2.1938 long
End point: 51.0028 lat, -2.1932 long

Turn right here to follow this small tarmac road. Ignore the turning to the left (to Gears Mill) and continue on the lane heading gradually uphill. Follow the lane for some distance and you will come to a staggered junction with French Mill Lane. Continue straight on here.

Pass through a small settlement of houses. As these properties on the left end and just before you reach the crossroads ahead, look out for a small post box on the left marking the entrance to a footpath.

Post Box to Top of Stoney Path
Post Box to Top of Stoney Path

Start point: 51.0028 lat, -2.1932 long
End point: 51.004 lat, -2.2006 long

Turn left onto the narrow grass footpath heading steeply downhill with tall hedgerows each side. As the path opens out continue to the right onto the broader grass track. Keep straight ahead as the track becomes a narrow tarmac lane, climbing steeply uphill with properties each side.

At the end, turn left onto St James’ Street and continue past Ye Old Brewers Pub on the left. Opposite a row of whitewashed thatched cottages on the left, take a moment to see the old meeting house and pump yard opposite, a beautiful courtyard. A short distance further, turn right into Tanyards Lane.

Turn right at the T-junction onto Laundry Lane and almost immediately turn left up Stoney Path, a narrow cobbled path rising steeply uphill. Climb the three steps and continue on the tarmac path still climbing. Keep right at the fork, to reach the top of the climb and stop to admire the magnificent views over the downs to the right.

Shaftesbury is built 718ft/219m above sea level on the side of a chalk and greensand hill, the only significant hilltop settlement in Dorset. It is one of the oldest and highest towns in Britain and it was the Saxons who first founded a hilltop town here because of its strategic position overlooking the surrounding countryside.

Top of Stoney Path to Castle Hill
Top of Stoney Path to Castle Hill

Start point: 51.004 lat, -2.2006 long
End point: 51.0056 lat, -2.2022 long

Continue along for just a few paces and then turn left along to the tarmac path to pass through a kissing gate set into the stone wall. Turn left along Love Lane and then, immediately after Number 6, turn right onto the wide tarmac path between houses.

At T-junction at the end, cross over the road and then turn right. On the left you’ll pass a beautiful row of terraced old workers' cottages. After the Ambulance Station on the left, pass one more small property and then turn left down a tarmac alleyway to take you to Castle Hill, an area of grassland and benches where you can enjoy the views.

The north facing slopes look out across Dorset to the Somerset and Wiltshire border, with views of King Alfred's Tower and the long wooded line of Penselwood Ridge. On a clear day Glastonbury Tor is visible in the west.

Castle Hill to End
Castle Hill to End

Start point: 51.0056 lat, -2.2022 long
End point: 51.0061 lat, -2.1977 long

When you have finished enjoying the views, retrace your steps to the road, and turn left. After just a short distance turn right down Abbey Walk. On the right you’ll pass the Westminster Memorial Hospital built in 1871. At the end you will come to the war memorial.

Turn left here and walk along the wide tarmac walk with the views to vale once more on the right. On the left you will pass by the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey, now a museum and garden.

Shaftesbury Abbey was founded in 888 by King Alfred the Great and was the first religious house founded solely for women. Alfred’s daughter - Aethelgifu - was its first Abbess. Through the centuries the royal abbey became one of most powerful in the country, owning land as far as Bradford on Avon to the north and to the Purbeck coast to the south. The abbey was closed in 1539 by order of King Henry VIII.

At the end of the walkway, keep left through the alleyway to reach the market square. Follow the pavement round to the left and turn right onto Bell Street. The tourist information centre and car park are just a short distance along on the left.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2012 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


4 responses to "Shaftesbury and Gold Hill"

Lovely walk. looking down "Hovis Hill" was the highlight, the views are amazing. The rest of the walk allows you to take a ramble around the local countryside taking in Shaftesbury from a variety of stunning angles.

By DebbieK on 2012-06-20 22:16:45

Our guests will love this walk! Especially being able to join it straight from the cottage door on 'Hovis Hill'!

By Updown on 2013-05-25 18:47:18

A well directed walk with a large degree of variety and a truly steep steep bit. On a sunny warm day this walk was perfect.

By colart on 2015-08-04 20:20:05

Lovely walk. Fantastic views. Amazing steep bits to keep you fit and earn your lunch!

By 1442emma on 2016-05-08 21:42:28

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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