The medieval village of Lacock in Wiltshire, with its timber-framed cottages and stunning abbey, has to be one of the prettiest villages in England. Wander through the streets and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon a film set. The beautifully preserved stone cottages look like they belong in another age. There are no television aerials or overhead cables to spoil its old world look.
As you walk around, some of the streets and houses might start looking a bit familiar. The village has been used as the setting for numerous films from Harry Potter to Pride and Prejudice and Wolfman and TV series like Cranford and Downton Abbey.
The village dates from the 13th century and was once the centre of the medieval wool trade. The 15th-century wool merchant’s house is now an inn called Sign of the Angel, which stood in for the Babberton Arms in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
You’ll find timber-framed cottages everywhere you look.
Even the bus stop looks like an historic monument.
The shops are the quaint, old-fashioned kind, with home-made jams, pasties and soaps.
Even the doors and windows are a delight.
Don’t miss a visit to the medieval church of St Cyriac’s and the 14th-century tithe barn.
After wandering around the village, make your way to the 800-year-old Lacock Abbey. Once a medieval nunnery, its beautiful cloisters are some of the finest in the country. They stood in for Hogwarts in the first Harry Potter film and last year’s acclaimed production of Wolf Hall.
In one of the adjacent cloister rooms, my boys were delighted to discover a gigantic cauldron. It’s not, in fact, a prop left over from one of the Harry Potter films, but was made in Antwerp in 1500 and may have been used in the nuns’ kitchen. Harry Potter fans of all ages will have to content themselves with the thrill of discovering the room where Harry looked into the Mirror of Erised and Professor Quirrell’s classroom from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
But a tour of the abbey is not just for Harry Potter fans. The building is beautiful both outside and in.
Upstairs, the rooms are laid out as they would have looked in the 19th century when the abbey owner, William Henry Fox Talbot, invented photography in 1835, by creating the photographic negative.
Wander around the grounds and you’ll find a 16th-century stable courtyard, a clock tower and beautiful latticed windows.
The village of Lacock is owned by the National Trust and is open to visitors every day. The abbey cloisters and the Fox Talbot Museum are open daily from 10.30 until 5.30pm in the summer, from 11am until 4pm in the winter months.