Tag Archives: city break

Walk This Way: Shaftesbury, Dorset

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.

Train Journey Reading Drinks

We arrived in the picture-perfect hilltop town of Shaftesbury and checked in at The Grosvenor Hotel, formerly a busy Georgian coaching inn.

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Hotel Sofa

Grovesnor Hotel Lounge

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Hotel Dining Room

We had a perfect lunch of pizza, cooked while we watched in the brick wood-fired oven.

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Counter

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Room

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Oven

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza in Oven

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza

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.

Shatesbury Gold Hill Cover

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Morning

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Back View

Shaftesbury Gold Hill View Down

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Cottages

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.

Shaftesbury Lovers Walk Countryside View

Shaftesbury Sundial

Shaftesbury Lover's Walk Downhill Path

Shaftesbury Town Wreath Door

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.

Shaftesbury Pump Yard Gate

Shaftesbury Pump Yard

Our Shaftesbury walk looped us back to Gold Hill, and this time we heaved ourselves up the steep cobbled path.

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Walking Up

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Walking Up Swing

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Hanging Basket

Gold Hill Eddie

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…

Gnocchi, cavolo nero, chanterelles, parmesan cream

Gnocchi, cavolo nero, chanterelles, parmesan cream

Filet of hake, baby spinach, trumpets, capers and brown shrimp

Filet of hake, baby spinach, trumpets, capers and brown shrimp

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Olives

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.

 

Roman Baths and Stonehenge

My parents are in town! Which is great because not only did I miss them, but now we get to explore around England together!

We set off for a day seeing Bath and Stonehenge, stopping along our route in the charming market town of Tetbury. Every Saturday, the 17th-century market hall comes alive, and I loved browsing the racks of vintage furs and rummaging through trays of antique jewellery.

Tebury Town Flag

Tetbury Flea Market England

Tetbury Market Fur

Above the market hall is a vendor selling a hearty selection of sheepskin and leather goods. We picked up two pairs of shearling gloves for £15! A terrific bargain for locally made products.

Tetbury Sheep Market Steps

Tetbury Sheep Market Skin Pelts

Tetbury Market Shearling Gloves

Tetbury Genuine Sheepskin Shearling Gloves

We piled back into the car and rambled through some beautiful countryside to the World Heritage city of Bath. Bath has special significance to me and my family because it is the sister city to my mother’s hometown of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia – also a historic resort town known for its natural springs.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Bath Cathedral

Our time in Bath was severely limited, so we made our primary stop the ancient Roman Baths. The ruins here date back to 60 AD when the city was a spa town called Aquae Sulis.

Bath Roman Baths Entrance

Bath Roman Baths View Down on Water

Bath Roman Baths Railing

Bath Roman View Cathedral

Bath Balcony Rail Roman Baths

Bath Roman Bust

The first Romans to come here were soldiers. Their architects and craftsmen built the Baths and Temple. Below is what remains of the temple front.

Bath Roman Baths Freize Temple Front Stone

Bath Roman Baths Sun Head God Freize Temple

People from local tribes, officials and priests, and traders from across the Empire began to settle here. Pilgrims travelled here. And monuments were built here.

This stone head probably decorated the tomb of a wealthy lady. Her hair-do was fashionable in Rome in the later 1st century AD.

This stone head probably decorated the tomb of a wealthy lady. Her hair-do was fashionable in Rome in the later 1st century AD.

Bath Roman Baths Source Waterfall

Bath Roman Baths Looking Up Inside Springs

Bath Roman Baths Surface of the Water Springs

Bath Roman View

Roman Baths Springs Private Area

Bath Roman Baths Sitting Springs

There was a fountain at the exit where we were able to taste the purified spring waters. It has a stinky sulphuric taste, but contains hundreds of times more minerals than your standard mineral water. I savoured a few sips, letting my body absorb the curative powers of the water. However, I won’t be giving up my Perrier anytime soon!

Our final stop for the day was the obligatory Stonehenge tour. It is, by far, one of the most moving sites on earth. I swear I can feel the energy in the air.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

When I came two years ago, you could park your car right across the street from the stones, then cross through an underground tunnel to walk right up to the site. Now there’s a new visitor centre, and a shuttle bus ride one mile down the road.

But same as before, the experience once we reached the site was equally breathtaking.

Stonehenge Green Grass

As much as the little wheels in my brain churned away at the thought of it, these stones and how they got here, and the reason why, is frightfully unexplainable.

Stonehenge Up Clsoer

Stonehenge Up Close

Stonehenge Portrait Gloves

Stonehenge Portrait

Stonehenge Portrait Audio Guide

Stonehenge Sunset

We walked the circuit around Stonehenge, utterly mesmerizing from every angle, the landscape changing like a kaleidoscope around it. A true wonder of the world!