Departing Henley-on-Thames we headed to Shaftesbury in Dorset, to spend a few days with a long time family friend, who visited us in Vancouver, many years ago, for our wedding. After many weeks of playing tourist and driving the length and breadth of UK, it was a very pleasant and relaxing few days.
However, one of the days we did head out for a drive, visiting a couple of local attractions, and enjoying both lunch and dinner at local restaurants.
In Shaftesbury, the primary attraction is Gold Hill, which is the location of UK’s favourite advert – the 1973 Hovis Bread advert. Select here to view the advert on YouTube.
Gold Hill in Shaftesbury
The advert features an evening scene of a young lad pushing a delivery bike up the hill to deliver the bread. I walked down and then back up the hill, which is rough and slippery cobble-stones, with an elevation of about 20%, it was definitely a tough hike on the return.
Compton Abbas Airfield
Although a mariner by trade, flying was my first interest, so my ears always perk up when mention of an airfield visit is mentioned. Compton Abbas is a small, grass airfield about 3 miles south of Shaftesbury. In addition to a selection of vintage aircraft – we saw a Harvard and Tiger Moth, they also have a busy flight school.
We stopped in at the restaurant, sitting on the patio, watching a number of planes completing touch and goes. All 4 of us enjoyed our lunches.
La Fleur de Lys
The La Fleur de Lys is an exceptional restaurant, with a tripadvisor rating of 5.0 and 87% of over 200 reviews giving an excellent rating. This small town restaurant is fine dinning at its best. Without a doubt, this was one of the best meals and service we have enjoyed in many years.
On arrival, we were met at the door by a young lady, who welcomed us warmly, taking our coats. No claim checks are issued, as they tracked which coat belongs to each guest, not just to your group. Devoid of coats, we were directed to the lounge, with overstuffed and very comfortable chairs. The waitress delivered menus, olives and nuts, while the barman arrived for drink orders. You remain seated in the comfortable lounge until invited to proceed to the dinning room.
When seated, the waitress delivered a selection of canapes, explaining the content of each. Shortly after the canapes were cleared away, our starters were served. All starters were well prepared and presented. I enjoyed the lobster mousse, with smoked salmon, crab and avocado. For main course I enjoyed the roast venison, which was cooked to perfection – pink throughout.
While the staff were all young, they were highly trained, by the owners, in proper service, which sadly I find is rarely received. The table was properly set and all plates were delivered from the correct side and used plates removed from the other. On departure, we were again met at the door, where staff delivered the correct coat to each member of our group.
If visiting this area, I highly recommend this restaurant, where reservations are recommended. Costs were very reasonable for the quality – 2 courses UKP 30.00 and 3 courses UKP 37.00.
Shaftesbury to Newton Abbott, Devon
With a week in a Newton Abbott timeshare next on our agenda, the most direct route was about 80 miles, but we elected to follow the coast, taking almost 140 miles. Departing Shaftesbury after breakfast, we headed for Poole, which, with its sheltered bay is a mecca for boaters.
Aerial photo of Poole Harbour & inlet
We drove into downtown Poole, following the shore around to the Sandbank Ferry. Downtown shoreline was a continuous line of marinas with thousands of boats.
Small selection of boats at Poole
We arrived at Sandbanks about 10:00 on a Saturday morning, noting signs advising of potential long ferry waits, especially on weekends. After a few minutes we reached the end of the queue on Banks Road, with the ferry nowhere in sight. The GPS indicated about 1/3 mile to go, and not knowing the size of the ferry, we prepared for a bit of a delay. However, the queue started moving about 15 minutes after we arrived, and to our surprise, we were one of the last cars to board the next ferry, which held about 50 cars.
Sandbanks ferry terminal shoreline – nice waterfront homes
On the aerial photo above, the ferry crosses the short gap in the entrance to the inlet, and is only about 300 yards, taking less than 10 mins. I had time to run up top, get a couple of photos, then back to the car to drive off. Cost was UKP 4.30 and is paid ashore at a booth on the Shell Bay side.
Wide angle view of the inlet from aboard the ferry
Departing the ferry you head through the dunes, where lots of parking is available both sides of the road. From the road it would have been about a 1/4 mile walk across the dunes to reach the beach, but we continued driving for about 3 miles, stopping at the National Trust’s Studland Beach.
Studland Beach (National Trust)
They have loads of parking, which is complimentary for NT members, a gift shop, cafe and rental of beach equipment/toys.
Cafe with patio seating in the sand
After a short stroll on the busy beach we returned to the cafe, enjoying a pot of tea and scone at one of the picnic benches, while enjoying the scenery and sunshine.
Returning to the car, we completed a short 4.5 miles, before arriving in Swanage, a south coast seaside resort that is at the eastern edge of the Jurassic Coast. The small town is a popular tourist resort, with some nice sandy beaches.
Swanage Beach from Shore Road
Swanage Panorama from hill at edge of town
Our next planned stop was Isle of Portland, which was about 30 miles, but with no coastal road we headed inland. Unfortunately, traffic around Weymouth was gridlocked, so we bypassed the causway to Isle of Portland, continuing along the coast to Hive Beach.
From B3157 looking east at Isle of Portland
Hive Beach is another National Trust parking lot and the restaurant came highly recommended by friends who visited a few years ago.
Hive Beach and cafe
It was already about 14:00, so we parked the car and headed over to the cafe, which is the green roofed building in the above photo. Unfortunately, it appears standards have slipped significantly. We both ordered fish & chips, which had overly thick and still raw batter on the inside. The fish also came with skin on, a question we actually asked the waitress. Service was poor and washrooms can best be described as disgusting.
SW trail at Hive Beach looking east
After a disappointing lunch, we headed along the SW trail, enjoying the spectacular views and some rare sunshine.
Hive Beach looking west
By the time we returned to the car, it was about 16:00 and were still about 55 miles from Newton Abbott. We curtailed any further sightseeing, since the route was mostly inland, heading directly to our timeshare property, Passage House Inn. Located on the banks of the River Teign, it was an excellent base to explore Devon.