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A picture-perfect town, high in the hills of Dorset, made famous by an old TV advert

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Gold Hill
Shaftesbury Abbey Ruins
Countryside Views
Shaftesbury is a town that's been featured countless times in travel guides and tourism magazines. It's filled with photogenic thatched roof cottages, perfectly evoking the traditional image of a quaint, rural England.
Of course, to see all these pretty structures, you'll have to reach them. Shaftesbury is one of the highest towns in Britain, at over 200 metres above sea level. Nowadays we have buses, cars and taxis, but a century or two ago people had no such luxury. Travellers and merchants had to hire extra horses to drag their carts up the steep hills!
One of the town's slopes is particularly famous. It's called Gold Hill, and it provides a typical view of Shaftesbury's cobbles and cottages. For a few years in the 80s, this quiet little street became one of the most recognisable places in Britain when it was featured in a Hovis bread advert. The short clip was made by the famous director Ridley Scott, who also created films like Alien and Gladiator. His advert appeared on television so often that practically the entire nation knew it off by heart. A young boy struggles to the top of the hill to deliver bread, before mounting his bicycle and zooming gleefully back down again. If you happen to have a bike to hand, you wouldn't be the first person to recreate the advert in real life.
In an old cottage at the summit, you'll find the Gold Hill Museum. It portrays the history of the town through a large collection of tools, clothes, photographs, and other objects. They also have a fire engine from the mid-18th century, that's rather insensibly made of wood.
Just across the road from here is an old wall, which curves its way down Gold Hill. Many centuries ago, this frail structure used to be part of a tremendously important place called Shaftesbury Abbey. The building now lies in ruins, but would have once been an impressive structure. It was founded in the year 888 AD by Alfred the Great, an ancient King of England. This marks the very beginning of Shaftesbury's life, as the town grew up around the abbey.
Alfred populated the new building with devout nuns, and placed his daughter in charge. For centuries, it was one of the most revered religious places in the country, with fabulous influence and wealth. Royal visitors regularly passed through its doors. This lasted until the 16th century, which was a period of great change for Christianity in Britain. Henry VIII set about dissolving all the monasteries in the country, and Shaftesburys was no exception. It was reduced to nothing more than a pile of rubble. Today, aside from a few small walls, only its foundations are left.
It would have been a shame to let such an important structure be forgotten, so a museum was built on the ruins. Inside, you'll find many objects which were excavated nearby. These include stone carvings, and floor tiles. Medieval manuscripts and old photographs also help to tell the story.
It can be sad to see such an incredible building in such a crumbled state. In Shaftesbury though, the good news is that youre never too far from an amazing view of Dorset's countryside. You can turn a corner, and suddenly find miles of trees and fields laid out in front of you.
Visitor Information
Shaftesbury Tourist Information Centre, 8 Bell Street, Shaftesbury, SP7 8AE. Tel: 01747 853 514
The Gold Hill Museum is open daily from April to October, from 10am to 5pm. Entry costs around £3 for adults, £1 children. Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 8JW. Tel: 01747 852 157

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