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A Saxon hilltop-town overlooking the Blackmoor Vale. Situated on a promontory of greensand. At 220m above sea level the walks around the old town boundary afford commanding views to the west, south and east. Many of the buildings in the town are constructed from this distinctively green local stone, whose colour appears enhanced in the wetter winter months (the pictures in this gallery were taken in March).

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The centre of the town is a compact warren of small streets and passageways, more suited to horse and cart than modern day motor vehicles. Much of the town is Georgian or Victorian, the oldest remains still to be seen of a building are of the Abbey founded by King Alfred for his daughter in the 9th century. For a time this was the wealthiest Benedictine nunnery in England, most of its stone was robbed following the Dissolution and only tantalising glimpses remain today.

A meteorological feature triggered by Shaftesbury's prominent position high above the Blackmoor Vale (which opens out to the west of the town) is a micro-climate that can leave – on certain days – the hilltop shrouded in cloud for extended periods whilst the surrounding low-lying regions are bathed in sunlight.


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In the top row of pictures:

  • Looking west up High Street (picture)
  • Bell Street, one of the many small streets that make up the compact town centre (picture)
  • Junction of Bell Street and Angel Lane, a narrow street plan set out long before motor vehicles (picture)
  • Eastern end of High Street, particularly busy due to it being a market day (Thursday) (picture)
  • Away from the bustle, Pump Yard off St. James' Street at the foot of the promontory (picture)

In the bottom row of pictures:

  • Back on the hilltop, the view from Park Walk south-eastwards to Melbury Hill (picture)
  • And from the western side, on Castle Hill, the view north-westwards over Motcombe to the Wiltshire and Somerset borders (picture)
  • One of the many Inns in Shaftesbury, this one a fine example of a building constructed using the local greensand (picture)
  • Holy Trinity church, built 1841, one of the early works of Sir George Gilbert Scott, a landmark that can be seen from far around (picture)
  • Gold Hill, descending southwards off the promontory (picture)

Nearby locations that also feature in galleries on this site:


directionMelbury Abbas, Glow-worm Hunt on Hambledon Hill, Blandford Forum

More views of Dorset in March

Other sites on the web

The Shaftesbury Website:   Official website for the town

The Dorset Page:   Shaftesbury – local information and links to further resources on the web

Maps of the area on streetmap.co.uk:   1:50,000 – detail, 1:250,000 – locality and route to get there

picture resolution
The pictures of Shaftesbury in this gallery were captured at high resolution.
This is images of dorset stock photography gallery 030
All photographs copyright © 1998–2003 John Allen

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