- December: Shaftesbury Christmas Lights and Fair
- January-March: Shaftesbury Snowdrop Season
- January-March: Go behind closed doors at Stourhead
- January: The 92nd anniversary of his death this month (and June 2020 marks the 180th anniversary of his birth)
- January: Celebrate cider with a wassail in January!
- February: Dark sky stargazing on Cranborne Chase
- Bonus event: Have Gold Hill to yourself!!
REASON NUMBER ONE
CHRISTMAS IS COMING!
(Parking will be free in Shaftesbury on all Saturdays during December).
Nov 23 – Dec 22: A handmade Christmas at Stourhead, 11am – 5.30pm.
The house is decorated with handcrafted flowers, lights and trees which continue across the property. You can also take a walk in the garden and spot the 12 days of Christmas handcrafted in wicker. Entrance free.
Dec 2: Christmas late night spectacular, Shaftesbury, 5pm-9pm.
The High Street is closed from 4pm, and at 6pm the Shaftesbury Town Silver Band begins to play. Shaftesbury choirs will sing carols and the Christmas lights go on at 6.30pm, with Santa taking up residence in his Town Hall grotto. The town’s many independent shops will be open late.
NOT many people know this. Every winter, when Stourhead House is closed to the public, the volunteers run special tours into the back passages of the house while it is being cleaned and the conservators move in to do their work.
The tours are free (although you have to pay the £17.50 admission to the house) and provide a fascinating insight into the colossal work that goes on just to keep the house going and its contents preserved.
Today is the first of 44 days when the Behind Closed Doors tours operate over the five floors of the house, including the servants’ quarters in the attic and the below ground storerooms.
Three tours run on most days through to March 8. Booking is essential by calling 01747 841152 and groups are usually up to 15 for each tour. Shaftesbury Tourism accompanied four members of the British Guild of Travel Writers on a visit last year, and this is what we found….
Stourhead is just 10 miles from Shaftesbury and the garden remains open year-round (the house remains closed on weekdays after Christmas until March 13, although open at weekends).
The landscaped garden was created more than 250 years ago. In winter, as the leaves have fallen, you can clearly see the design and how Capability Brown’s vision has turned into something spectacular.
The garden temples take pride of place during winter, offering viewpoints and shelters before you continue on the circular walk around the lake. The winter light, a result of the low sun, also creates wonderful shadows throughout the day allowing the garden to be seen in a new perspective. Sight isn’t the only sense that benefits from the winter season; sounds are amplified around the garden due to the lack of leaves.
The garden itself is quieter, with fewer visitors, and so you are more likely to see some of Britain’s native species of birds. And as a bonus, visitors are able to take their dogs on a lead between December-February all day, every day.
You can combine the walk with a Behind-Closed-Doors guided tour of the house, to learn about the conservation work at Stourhead. The tours are being held three times daily on 29 days in January and February, 2018. They are free, but normal admission charges apply to the venue.
* Read more about the stupendous walking around Shaftesbury, including The Wessex Ridgeway, North Dorset Trailway, the White Hart Link and walks in Gillingham’s Royal Forest.
** This is part of the feature Nine Brilliant Reasons to Visit Shaftesbury in Winter