Following the end of the festive season, I needed nothing more than a quick escape from the city to unwind before starting the New Year afresh.
Loaded with refreshments and entertainment for the train journey, we departed Waterloo station and hurtled down to the lush pastoral lands of Dorset.
We arrived in the picture-perfect hilltop town of Shaftesbury and checked in at The Grosvenor Hotel, formerly a busy Georgian coaching inn.
We had a perfect lunch of pizza, cooked while we watched in the brick wood-fired oven.
After polishing off our pies, we took a walk around town, past the old 14th century church, down the scenic Park Walk, and to the summit of Gold Hill.
Gold Hill is famous for its striking views across Blackmore Vale and Cranbourne Chase. If you’re English, you might recognize it from Ridley Scott’s memorable commercial for Hovis bread.
Park Walk is a wonderful, spacious promenade with serene southerly views across the Dorset countryside. From the viewpoint near the sundial you can see for twenty miles on a clear day. I strained my vision to see Dunclie Hill and Gillingham in the distance.
We passed by the old Pump yard – a quaint reminder of Shaftesbury’s need to pump water from the wells in St James up the hill into town until a pipe network was laid in the mid-19th century.
Our Shaftesbury walk looped us back to Gold Hill, and this time we heaved ourselves up the steep cobbled path.
Huffing and puffing, we reached the summit and staggered back to the hotel just before dinnertime. We had an outstanding supper at the Grosvenor, arguably some of the best gnocchi ever…
If you visit Shaftesbury, definitely pick up a complimentary copy of the Grosvenor Arms Walk booklet. It gives some excellent routes to help you explore this lovely historic town and surrounding countryside.