The official title, the Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and Garden, says it all really. Anyone expecting a grand Gothic ruin is going to be disappointed.
Instead what you get is an interesting little museum and some pleasant gardens, set in the ruins of the old abbey, the scant remains of which can be spotted in the flower beds.
A lot of similar ruins are presented as just the outline of the base of the walls set into a lawn. The Preservation Trust is to be congratulated on imaginative way the site is presented.
Dominating the gardens is a very fine statue of King Alfred by Andrew DuMont, which was originally made for nearby King Alfred's Middle School in 1984. It was moved here in 2004 when the school closed.
It was King Alfred who founded the monastery in 888CE and it was the first religious house in this country solely for women. Over the next seven centuries it continued to grow in power and wealth, becoming one of the richest abbeys in Dorset.
It was dissolved in 1539 and almost completely destroyed soon after.
There is an audio guide where a bloke tells you about the relevant feature, and a woman pretending to be a nun, moans on about the destruction of that feature after the dissolution. Still you only need to listen to the first part.
The garden features a medieval orchard and Æthelgifu's Herb Collection, named after King Alfred's daughter, the first Abbess.
For opening times etc. please see the Shaftesbury Abbey and Museum Preservation Trust's official site listed below.
For those of us of a certain age, when standing at the top of Gold Hill it is almost impossible not to put on a cod Yorkshire accent and mutter "Eh! But it were a grand ride back though", whilst humming extracts from Dvorák's New World Symphony. I tell thee, kids today too young to remember t' Hovis ad, don't know they're born.
Whilst the views to the south of Shaftesbury from Gold Hill and Abbey Walk are well known, those to the north are almost as impressive. They are best seen from Castle Hill Gardens, which can be accessed down the path beside the Ambulance Station in Bimport opposite the Magdalene Lane turning. (map)
External Links and References
Castle Hill, Shaftesbury
Some information on Castle Hill from the Dorset County Council site https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/countryside-coast-parks/countryside-sites-and-nature-reserves/north-dorset/castle-hill-shaftesbury.aspx