Last weekend, we took a trip up to Wiltshire, to the picturesque village of Lacock. Founded in the 1200s, this sleepy little place really makes you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.
The village houses a 14th Century tithe barn, a 14th Century church, some Grade II listed buildings and rows of Cotswold stone houses.
It’s no surprise that this magnificent place has been the set for period dramas such as the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey and more recently, Harry Potter and the spin-off Fantastic Beasts series.
We’ve been the village itself several times. Whenever we visit my partner’s parents in Wales, our return journey back to Dorset takes us straight past Lacock as it’s straight off the Chippenham junction from the M4. We’ve often indulged in chocolate or other gifts from the lovely independent shops that the village boasts.
One of our favourites is Coco Chemistry.
These award-winning artisan chocolatiers never disappoint. They specialise in experimenting with chocolate, fusing together different textures and flavours. We had travelled to Wales with one of our friends who had been visiting us from America. As a threesome, we decided to take advantage of the shop’s chocolate slab deal that offered you three for twelve pounds (I think… I may have got the figures wrong, but it was a splendid deal!) We opted for mint, orange and fudge.
After indulging our sweet teeth, we decided that we would finally cross Lacock Abbey off our bucket list. Although we’ve made several pit stops to the village itself, we’d never really made time for the famous Abbey before. The village is free to visit but to enter the Abbey and the accompanying museum are National Trust properties so you do have to purchase a ticket.
Before we actually went inside the Abbey, we explored the courtyard. Truth be told, we were enticed in that direction by the glimmering lights of an impressive Christmas tree.
The Abbey started its life as a nunnery but during the 16th Century, when suppression of Roman Catholic institutions in England was rife, it was shut down and sold to a wealthy landowner who converted it into a family residence. Therefore, this structure has remnants of both an abbey and also a Tudorian home present – examples being the fact that there was a brewhouse and bakehouse built into the home, as well as a stable courtyard.
It’s safe to say that the Abbey represents a mish-mash of different periods of time and architecture in British history, being that it has undergone several renovations in its life time. Before we made our way to the Abbey, we checked out the grand hall, which had a pretty grand entrance…
Inside, we were greeted with a roaring fire, an impressive Christmas tree and festive decor. To call it cosy would be an understatement!
Back on the outside, I couldn’t resist taking a few (hundred) snaps of the Abbey. It’s a fascinating building architecturally speaking – from the rubble stone to the stone slated roofs and the sixteenth century chimney stacks.
There’s also Gothic elements to the building which is explained by the fact that it underwent renovations during the Gothic Revival of the 1750s too.
During my frenzied snapping, the boys were also forced into playing models for me. However else would I convey size and perspective? (Insert sneaky winky smile here).
The highlight of our exploring was the cloisters within the Abbey. Cloisters are covered walks which are attached to cathedrals or churches and their inclusion usually suggests that the building was part of a monastic foundation – the cloisters connected but also separated the world of monks and nuns from that of the rest of the world.
The cloisters at Lacock Abbey are famous due to how deeply embedded they’ve become in popular culture. The 2008 film The Other Boleyn Girl was filmed here, as well as Anthony Hopkin’s horror film The Wolfman.
Perhaps the most famous pop culture moment to have happened in these walkways is the scenes filmed here for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. There’s a scene where Harry leaves Professor Lockhart’s office after detention and hears the basilisk that’s particularly noticeable. There’s a cauldron on display within the cloisters that Harry Potter enthusiasts can take snaps with.
The cloisters was also host to a Community Christmas Tree festival which is running between now until 4th January 2019. Around 20 beautifully decorated trees were positioned throughout the medieval cloisters. These trees have been provided by and decorated by local clubs, societies and charities.
Some of the decorations were pretty adorable….
After a walk around the town and Abbey, we did try and get a spot of Sunday lunch. After trying two different establishments, we realised how naive it was for us to think we could waltz in somewhere and expect to find spaces on a Sunday afternoon.
Despite that, it was a magical afternoon in Lacock and our first ever visit to the Abbey was made extra-special by the festive decorations. We’ll be back the next time we take a road trip up to see family!