The Best Places to Visit in Wiltshire
Travel back in time via a steam railway, a historic cathedral and Stonehenge.
Prehistoric ruins (we’re talking about Stonehenge, not you) are all the rage in Wiltshire, and they have been for quite some time. In fact, we don’t remember a time when the two were not linked – we'd have to be pretty old, to be fair. But if you’re scratching your head about the mystery of how prehistoric peoples managed to drag enormous rocks down from Wales before the wheel had even been invented, then don’t even think about why they did it. Your head might explode, and some mysteries are best left as just that.
Speaking of mysteries, Wiltshire’s famous Salisbury Cathedral was the humorous punchline at the end of a not-so-funny affair involving a pair of poisoned Russians in 2018. The agents accused of the crime appeared to read out the Wikipedia entry to its description in response to questions about what they were doing in this quiet and scenic hinterland. Just tourism, guv; no poisoning. The words ‘famous for its 123-metre spire’ were printed across the world, leaving Brits cringing at the use of the metric system, when we all know it’s actually 404 feet tall.
In any case, see for yourself, as you explore the likes of Longleat, the Great Western Railway and Stonehenge. Here’s the Plum Guide look at places to visit in Wiltshire.
Topping our list (which is in no particular order, but something has to top it, right?) of the best places to visit in Wiltshire is, of course, Stonehenge. It’s one of the most famous places to visit, not only in the UK, but in the world. And it's of course one of the most popular things to do in Wiltshire, so try to book your trip in the off season to avoid crowds.
Check in at the visitor centre and study the exhibits about the various theories as to the hows and whys of this prehistoric jumble of massive rocks. Get the audio guide on your phone to listen as you explore rocks that were apparently (according to clever archaeologist people) put here somewhere between 3,000 B.C. and 2,000 B.C. That’s a 1,000-year-window of error, so perhaps they’re not that clever. Even we could have hazarded a guess like that. Note: you don’t often see the past tense of 'hazard' in writing.
As you wander around the premises, imagine the Neolithic builders hard at work, dragging these stones from as far as Wales. It may have taken around 1,500 years to complete (if you can call it complete), and our best guesses (not literally ours, but those of the scientists) are that it was some form of sacred burial ground. Without the benefit of the wheel – a futuristic piece of tech that was yet to be invented – they must have found all sorts of ingenious ways to drag and roll these boulders. Surely, the invention of the wheel would have been much easier. They must be kicking themselves when they realised. Unless it was aliens wot did it.
Visit the Salisbury Cathedral
The wheel had been invented by the time of the construction of the Salisbury Cathedral. But, dating back to 1215, it still has some pretty impressive feats, including that 404-foot (123-metre) spire. You’ll even find the best-preserved (in their opinion) of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. That was basically the first example of some sort of royal charter of rights, decided by King John of England. Hear the bells ring out four times an hour (bit much, but go with it) and enjoy the view of the church from the scenic green field surrounding it.
Snap some photos of your family by the church for a sense of its size – that spire we keep going on about is the tallest in the United Kingdom. So, it wins the prize for being a big thing; the biggest thing for some distance. Inside this ecclesiastical behemoth, inspect the decorative font crafted by William Pye. In recent years, peregrine falcons have begun nesting in the towers, and we’re certainly not going to stop them.
Just south of Salisbury is Plum Guide home Forest Horses. A converted barn surrounded by countryside, this is a rural retreat the whole family will enjoy.
Perhaps you’re done with all these old-timey rocks and spires and things. For something somewhat stately (and also old-timey), visit the Longleat House. ‘We’ll take it,’ you remark to your partner or friend, as you pass through the regal corridors. And what’s this? It even has something for the kids, with family-fun exhibitions and a play area. Embark on a pleasant stroll around the scenic gardens and enjoy the tranquillity for which Wiltshire is famous.
Longleat isn’t the only posh mansion in the county; not by a long shot. Stop for a picnic right by the lake in the picturesque Stourhead House and Garden. It has a historic bridge and stunning grounds. Alternatively, you could book a stay in a stately home of your own. How about Cotswolds mansion Even Keel? If that doesn't suit your fancy, we're sure there's something in our collection of homes in the Cotswolds that will.
Learn about the railway
For something a little different, bring the whole family down to visit the STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway. Browse its many audio-visual presentations to learn about the history of the Swindon Steam Railway, and how it helped the county to prosper. Watch the various videos about the extraordinary life of Isambard Kingdom Brunei, one of the nation’s most well-known architects.
Now you know the best places to visit in Wiltshire, it's time to start looking for a place to stay. Plum Guide has you sorted: every home we list home is thoroughly vetted by professional critics, so whether you want a swanky apartment with a view or more of a rustic farmyard feel, you know you're in for a great night's sleep in a Plum Guide home.