Have you ever heard of the village of Lacock?
Even if the name doesn’t sound familiar, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve seen it. Lacock village is a beautifully preserved place in Wiltshire, and it’s been around for a while; it dates from the 13th Century. One of the main draws of Lacock is that it’s kept looking exactly as it did hundreds of years ago.
The entire village of Lacock is managed by the National Trust, which rents out the homes but keeps the old-world look to the streets. So you won’t see any TV aerials, telephone or electricity cables, or satellite dishes at Lacock. There are hardly any outward signs of modern life at all, but Lacock is a living village – don’t expect to be able to go into the houses!
Because of its preserved good looks, Lacock has been a set location for films like Harry Potter and The Other Boleyn Girl. It’s also been used for sets on TV series of Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey, and Wolf Hall, among many others.
Read on to find out what to see and do in this gorgeous village.
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What to see in Lacock village
We visited Lacock village on a grey, rainy day in early April. As it was a Sunday many of the people who live in the village were at home so there were lots of cars in the streets which did detract from the houses a little, so I’d suggest going in the week if you can. However, despite the cars and the dreary weather, we still had a fantastic visit.
Lacock village isn’t large and on paper it doesn’t look like it’ll take long to look around, but we ended up spending ages walking through the streets. There’s a quirky window or doorway around every corner, or a spot for Potter fans who queue up to get photos outside the Sign of the Angel pub.
Some of the things that you should see are St Cyriac’s church which has some pretty stained glass windows, and just across the street from the entrance to the church you’ll find a pretty bridge and a ford if you walk a little way down the lane. There’s also a huge tithe barn which has survived unchanged since the 14th Century (bar some repairs) and just next to it, the old village lock-up. Gloomy and cold, I wouldn’t have fancied spending a night there!
Shopping in Lacock
As well as trying to find the various film and TV locations, we had fun looking in the quirky shops dotted through the village. Definitely don’t miss the chocolate shop, an absolute haven for kids and anyone with a sweet tooth.
Just over the road we found a room suitable for any budding wizard; full of incense and magic wands, at the back of Quintessentially English. On Church Street, Lacock Bakery is very photogenic. Other shops include souvenir and jewellery shops – just take your time wandering about and see what you find.
Many of the residents have their own shops in their gardens and they operate an honesty box system (perhaps Britain isn’t broken after all!).
Filming locations in Lacock village
You can pick up a leaflet when you arrive which will show you most of the recent filming locations so you can take yourself on a self-guided tour.
As well as the church and the ford which have been used in Moll Flanders and The White Princess, you’ll find a couple of scenes in some of the Harry Potter films were shot here. Look out for the muggle house that Slughorn was staying in, as well as Harry’s parents’ house from the first film.
I was more interested in seeing the high street which doubled as Meryton in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (probably my go-to comfort TV!). The high street was also used in Cranford, as was the bakery. Church Street was used in Downton Abbey.
It’s amazing what a difference moving the cars and scattering straw on the ground makes – that’s pretty much all the TV crews need to do to roll back the centuries!
Lacock Abbey and Fox Talbot Museum
After we’d looked around Lacock village we grabbed a cake and coffee in the National Trust cafe before heading to Lacock Abbey.
Lacock Abbey is spectacular – it’s full of stunning medieval architecture and absolutely oozes history. Construction began in 1232 when Lady Ela of Salisbury founded a nunnery. The cloisters and chapter house have survived practically unaltered ever since – you can easily picture the medieval nuns bustling around the corridors. Look out for the blocked up staircase and the faded paintings on the walls.
The Abbey continued to house nuns until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, when it became a private home. The private rooms were then built over the top of the cloisters which were left as they were originally built. Over the centuries, more rooms were added to the Abbey.
Kids will want to see the film sets for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets which were shot in the cloisters and medieval rooms of the Abbey. The enormous cauldron in the Warming Room could easily be mistaken for a prop from the films but in fact it’s a 500 year old relic.
I had only heard of the cloisters and the old rooms at the Abbey, but there’s more to see in the furnished rooms upstairs. They’re set out as they would have been lived in by the Talbot family in the 1800s. These rooms are full of their books, childhood toys, moving letters from the children to their father, and the famous “mousetrap” cameras which William Henry Fox Talbot used to take the first photographic negatives. The impression that I got was that the Fox Talbot household had been a happy one.
Back outside, the grounds at Lacock Abbey are extensive and are a great way to let kids blow off steam after looking around the Abbey and the museum. There’s also a botanic garden with a glasshouse, as well as the winding paths through the grounds. You should also take a look at the Tudor Courtyard, with its brewery and beautiful doors for yet more perfect photo opportunities!
Realising that we’d been on our feet for hours, we collapsed in the cafe in the Tudor Courtyard for more fortifying coffee before we headed to the Fox Talbot Museum, back by the entrance to the Abbey.
Fox Talbot was quite a scholar as well as inventing the photographic negative. The Fox Talbot museum has a display on the history of photography as well as information on Fox Talbot’s other works (he was also an historian).
The museum is worth a look for the antique cameras alone – there are some beautiful examples and some hands on cameras for kids to look at. We looked at it after we’d been inside the Abbey, and this is probably the order to see things in as the kids might be tiring by this point. I know we all were!
Lacock village and its Abbey are a must-see if you’re coming to this part of the UK – it’s rare to see such a complete village with hardly any signs of modern life. I’m sure we’ll be back, although next time we’ll wait for better weather!
Know before you go
Getting to Lacock
It’s best to reach Lacock by car. It’s an easy journey from Bath, if you’re staying there. If you’re visiting the Cotswolds then we recommend staying either at Bath or the more central Cirencester.
Tickets for Lacock Abbey and Fox Talbot Museum
Lacock Village is run by the National Trust but it’s free to walk around the village (you’ll have to pay for the car park if you’re not a member of the National Trust).
There’s an entry fee of £14 for adults and £7 for children (family ticket £35.40) for the Abbey, grounds and Fox Talbot Museum.
If you’re one of my readers from the USA, then you can get free entry to National Trust properties in the UK if you’re a member of the Royal Oak Foundation which has a partnership with the National Trust. It might be worth looking into as admission prices at National Trust properties can add up quickly.
There are plenty of places to stay in Lacock and the surrounding area. We like to use booking.com for our stays as they’ve got a good flexibility and cancellation policy. You can find more accommodation options on the site, but here are a few family-friendly picks.
The Sign of the Angel is a popular option right in the centre of town. Quirky but cosy rooms and comfortable beds and an on-site bar and restaurant mean that this is one of the best hotels in Lacock. Check prices and availability here.
The Rectory is a holiday cottage which can sleep a family of four. All amenities are provided so you can self-cater if you like. See if it’s available for your visit here.
Just a 10 minute walk from the town centre, Spire View is a holiday cottage in the grounds of an 18th Century house. It’s got great reviews and is perfect for a stay with kids as in the summer there’s access to a swimming pool. Check prices and availability here.
If you or your kids are Potterheads then make sure you go to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour to explore the sets, props and learn about how the Harry Potter film series was made.