English village series: Arlington Row and Gold Hill

If you love the traditional villages of England as much as we do, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about Arlington Row and Gold Hill.

These stunning areas are among the most photographed scenery in the United Kingdom – and it’s easy to see why.

The picturesque cottages of Arlington Row are located in the acclaimed Cotswold village of Bibury, Gloucestershire.IMG_1351

Built in 1380 as a monastic wool store and converted into cottages for weavers in the 17th Century, the row attracts big crowds of visitors, especially in Spring and Summer.

The street is a notable architectural conservation  area that is shown on the inside cover of all United Kingdom passports.

When we wandered through the cottages, the beauty of the location was enhanced by the backdrop of the bubbling River Coln and Bibury’s stone bridge.

We were amazed at the low level of some of the cottage floors that were well below the height of the roadway outside. It’s a real case of ‘mind the gap’.

Bibury is about 83.4 miles – or one-hour-and-42 minutes -from London via the M40 and A40. The trip takes about three-and-a-half hours by bus from London’s Victoria Coach Station and about three-hours-and-50 minutes by train.


Gold Hill is a stunning cobbled street at Shaftesbury, Dorset – often described as “one of the most romantic sights in England.

The view down the Hill over Dorset’s Blackmoor Vale appears on the covers of many books and is a popular film and TV setting.

Shaftesbury is about two-hours by car from London and about two-hours-and-37 minutes by train.

Of course, everyone seems to have their favourite English villages and readers will know of our liking for Denham in Southern Buckinghamshire – and its wonderful 16th Century Falcon Inn – as well as the Gower villages in Wales, Lacock in Wiltshire, Painswick in Gloucestershire, Stamford in Lincolnshire and Port Isaac in Cornwall.FullSizeRender 12

See our report on Denham and its location close to London – yet a world away.

But we will also touch on a few more of our preferred English villages in coming months – so Follow us to see if your favourites are mentioned.






Bibury Shaftesbury UK village life

An iconic and romantic English sight

You may not yet have visited Shaftesbury – but you probably know it well.

Although only a dot in the scenic English county of Dorset, an image of Shaftesbury has spread around the world over the past few decades.

Known world-wide

And it’s all because of one local street – the iconic Gold Hill, which is so quintessentially ‘Olde England’ that it has adorned movies, TV, magazines, calendars, postcards and countless chocolate boxes.

In the UK, Gold Hill is almost a household name because it was the main setting for a Hovis Bread television commercial, directed by Ridley Scott in the 1970’s and since voted England’s favourite advertisement of all time.

The steep cobbled street with a medieval wall and unbelievably picturesque  views from the top, has been aptly described as “one of the most romantic sights in England”.


Seeing Gold Hill at first hand was, however, only one of the pleasant surprises that awaited us in Shaftesbury.

We also discovered Number 5, an elegant Bed and Breakfast that exceeded our every expectation.

The stunning Dorset countryside, with its intense greenery, narrow roads and thatched-roof cottages, is a delight in itself.

More than half the county is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; a fact that is easily understood as you reach Shaftesbury, perched high over the Blackmore Vale and part of the River Stour basin.

And for anyone with even a passing interest in history, this town has a fascinating story to tell.

Once a Saxon fort

Shaftesbury dates back to a hillside fort established in 880 by King Alfred the Great as part of defences against raiding Vikings.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Alfred and his daughter founded Shaftesbury Abbey in 888.

A wall from the abbey ruins now runs alongside Gold Hill and the story of what is described as ‘Saxon England’s foremost Benedictine nunnery’ is now told in a museum located on the site.

Later, King Canute of England, Denmark and Norway, died in the Abbey in  1035 and local word has it that his heart was buried at the site.

The abbey was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII in 1539, but Shaftesbury went on to become an important market; a stop-over for coaches; and a centre for the production of hand-made buttons – an industry which was eventually decimated by automation.

Number 5’s central position

We arrived at Shaftesbury late in the afternoon and found our Bed & Breakfast as mist started to swirl up from the Vale below.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Number 5  B&B is a beautiful 1820’s  building  which has been lovingly restored by its owners, Trevor and Kate Toms.

The building is centrally located in Shaftesbury’s Bimport, opposite the Trinity Church where we were able to leave our car in a secure parking area.

We were warmly greeted at Number 5, which is stylishly and tastefully furnished.

Our room had a lovely ensuite bathroom, TV, tea and coffee facilities, complimentary WiFi, yummy chocolates and home-made biscuits.

A short stroll

After enjoying a cuppa, we were off to explore the town, take an obligatory photograph of Gold Hill and check out the site of the former Abbey before dark.

From there, it was a short stroll to a local Indian restaurant for a meal before retiring to the comfy bed at Number 5.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBreakfast the next morning was served in a bright and warm guest dining room and Kate informed us that all the produce came from the local farmers market.

We were quite sorry to leave Number 5 and Shaftesbury; both of which  we recommend without hesitation.

Where it is

Shaftesbury is in northern Dorset, at the intersection of the A30 and A350 roads.  From London, the 110 miles takes about two-and-a-half hours.

Trains run from London’s Waterloo Station to Salisbury in Wiltshire, a trip of about  one-and-a-half hours.  It is then a further one hour by bus to Shaftesbury.

Number 5 B&B is located at 5 Bimport, Shaftesbury.

Bound for the coast

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter leaving Shaftesbury, we headed down ever-narrowing roads toward England’s southern coastline.

Dorset features prominently in Sue’s family tree so we were keen to see the home of her ancestors, the nearby market town of Sturminster Newton, before heading into Cornwall.

But that is a story for another day.


Ian Roberts





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