Abbotsbury / Portesham
Abbotsbury village is a fascinating historical location in a rather idyllic village, a protected conservation area of charming, thatched cottages, pretty stone houses and a rich history based around one of the most important Abbeys in the south west.
The land for Abbotsbury was a gift from King Canute in the 11th century, and a Benedictine monastery, the Abbey of St. Peter, was founded by monks from nearby Cerne Abbas. The abbey here ruled supreme for 500 years until it was disbanded during the dissolution. Today there is little left of the main abbey structure though you will find some ruins around the village church which also holds a 13th century marble effigy of one of the old abbots. What does remain is the Abbey Tithe Barn, the largest example in Britain at nearly 300 feet in length and now over 600 years old. This was the store for the grain paid by the locals to the Abbey as taxes.
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens were established here in 1765 as a kitchen garden for the Countess of Ilchesters nearby castle and again are world famous, now a magnificent 20 acre site filled with rare and exotic plants from all over the world and well worth visiting. To the south of the village is the famous Abbotsbury Swannery which has been here as long as the abbey. The monks themselves farmed the swans to produce meat and the marshy swannery is still quite a sight, home to over 500 free flying swans.
Facilities for the walker are excellent, plenty of tea rooms and a couple of well placed pubs. There are art and craft galleries to browse with everything from jworkshops and local honey to pottery on offer.
For an evening stroll from the village head to the iconic 14th century St Catherine’s Chapel, which holds its commanding position at the crest of the ridge staring out to sea and boasts an unusual stone tunnel vault. Perfect for a sunset stroll with a view over Chesil Beach and Portland that has been voted the third best view in Britain by Country Life readers.