Our Top Things to Do in Wiltshire
Alien stones, spies and the country's tallest steeple: welcome to Wiltshire.
It may have made the news in recent years for the Russian Novichok poisoning, but even those (alleged) spies couldn’t resist a trip to the Salisbury Cathedral and the other highlights of the quaint and picturesque county of Wiltshire. And, what’s more, the history stretches back a little further than both the spy incident and the cathedral, with the prehistoric rock formations of Stonehenge and Avebury, among other ruins.
In this serene and scenic county, you’ll find plenty of stately homes with lovely gardens, so you can feel like the count or countess that you know you really are deep down. Before you arrive, look up the history of the Magna Carta, Longleat House and the Great Western Railway, so you can appear to simply know everything to the rest of your family or traveling companions. So here it is, the Plum Guide take on what to do in Wiltshire. To any spies reading, we suggest you pay attention.
Visit the Salisbury Cathedral
If it’s good enough for the Russians… but yes, Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most popular places to visit in Wiltshire. Its huge spire – the tallest in the United Kingdom – lords it over the leafy surroundings, dwarfing the rest of this Early-English church that dates back to the 13th century. If you think that the spire is compensating for something, you’d be wrong, because the church has so much to show for itself. Inside, it has one of the world’s oldest working clocks and the best-preserved of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. To save you the quick Google search, that’s the royal charter of rights declared by King John of England (not the most famous of kings, is he?) in 1215. Catch a fright every time those old-time clock bells ring out, which they do four times per hour.
Walk around the serene grounds and set up a picnic on the grass with this historic church in view. Delve inside and appreciate the decorative font by William Pye, before gazing up and losing yourself in the complex vaults of the ceiling. Among the most surprising and modern features are the nests of peregrine falcons in the tower. You didn’t expect that, did you? Now, head back to your gorgeous Plum Guide apartment, such as the romantic Farmyard Bells or converted barn Forest Horses.
When it comes to things to do in Wiltshire – and even the UK – this prehistoric monument is usually at the top of everyone's list. We don’t care if you're tired, Stonehenge is simply one of those things that everyone has to see at least once. Drive on down and enter the visitor centre for its informative exhibits and helpful staff. Download the audio guide and make your way around these weird rocks and stones that were put here by aliens. We mean, not aliens, but by archaeologists between 3,000 B.C. and 2,000 B.C. Wait, not archaeologists, that makes no sense. It was set up as a burial ground by prehistoric folk, long dead; although their big rocks remain.
What's so special about this pile of rocks that make it one of the top things to do in England? Why it has become the pre-eminent iconic landmark in Britain? Well, consider its mysteries. It is thought Neolithic builders worked on it for 1,500 years to create a sacred burial ground. But given they constructed it before the wheel had even been invented, nobody knows how they brought some of these stones from as far away as Wales. And you were complaining about having to carry a few bags on your trip. Chat to the docents about the various theories for how and why they transported these huge rocks over such vast distances, and simply marvel at this circle of rocks. Or maybe it was aliens. You believe what you want to believe, we’re just a guide.
Learn about the railway
One of the best things to do in Wiltshire is undoubtedly visiting the STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway. If you like trains – or even if you don’t – this will make for a fun day out and something entertaining for the whole family. It has all sorts of multimedia presentations that give us an insight into the Swindon Steam Railway and its effect on the region. Recorded experiences and film archives bring the past to life, while exhibits trace the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunei, perhaps England’s most famous architect and engineer.
Enjoy the parks
On a warm and sunny day, Wiltshire is the ideal county for a leisurely stroll through leafy fields and gardens. Head to the Longleat House for a glimpse of an old-world stately manor. It also has play areas and family-fun exhibits for the little ones. Explore the gardens and relish the utter serenity. Relax by the water in the picturesque Stourhead House and Garden, go for a picnic in the Coate Water Country Park or embark on the Ridgeway National Trail.
There you have it: our top things to do in Wiltshire. Looking for somewhere to stay? Our fastidious home critics have expertly vetted every property we list, so whether you're after a swish Cotswolds pad or this idyllic country home, you know you're in for a great night's sleep in a Plum Guide home.