When it comes to planning a road trip, Wiltshire might not be the first destination that springs to mind. However, this unspoilt county in the South West of England has just as much culture, history and charm to offer as some of the most talked about trails in the world!
If you have a couple of days to spare and are in search of a road trip with a touch of culture, here are my suggestions to make the perfect Wiltshire road trip itinerary for a long weekend around the Wiltshire countryside.
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This post is in collaboration with Visit Wiltshire but all thoughts, opinions and images are my own. Many from my own personal trips to this fantastic county – one of my favourite for culture and picturesque villages here in the UK. Head to Visit Wiltshire for further ideas on travels in the area.
Where To Go
Abbey House Gardens
Located beside the 12th Abbey Church in Malmesbury, Abbey House Gardens is a truly spectacular 5 acre oasis in the heart of medieval Malmesbury which draws visitors from across the globe. Straddling the River Avon and boasting a fascinating history which includes being the burial place of England’s very first king, it’s not hard to see why. The perfect place to begin your Wiltshire adventure and take in this historical English garden. We sat down by the lake in the Japanese inspired gardens and watched as a heron flew down to fish for its lunch. It was mesmerising to watch.
Just 10 minutes away by car, Westonbirt Arboretum is another great outdoor destination to escape to. This stunning woodland space dates back to the Victorian era and is home to 15,000 trees from 2,500 different species! It plays an important role in research and conservation and offers visitors the opportunity to explore some of the rarest plants in existence. I highly recommend planning a visit around autumn to enjoy it at its finest!
A road trip around Wiltshire wouldn’t quite be complete without a visit to Avebury. This quaint little town is home to some of the county’s most visited historic attractions, from its manor house and garden to the prehistoric monuments that surround it. The stone circles surrounding Avebury are one of the greatest marvels of prehistoric Britain and really shouldn’t be missed.
My particular favourite from my day trip was exploring Avebury Manor. The current manor house dates back to the mid 16th century, however the site in which the house stands is considerably older dating back to the 1100’s. As with most places of this age there are a considerable number of ghosts who supposedly haunt it. Sir John, The White Lady, the ghostly cat, the monk…I didn’t see anything on my visit but let me know if you have any more luck.
In recent years Avebury Manor was used by the BBC in ‘The Manor Reborn’ – a four part tv series recreating the manor house as it would have been centuries ago, during its prime. I haven’t watched it yet but I will be checking to see if it is still on BBC i-player as I find this kind of thing fascinating!!
While you’re there, be sure to pay Elements of Avebury a visit. A delightful little gift shop which sources jewellery, paintings and other knick-knacks from talented artists across the UK – predominantly from Avebury and the surround area. On my visit I was treated to quite the display. Upon my arrival I was shown to the garden where two bee keepers were trying to get a hive down from the tree – was fantastic to watch. Naturally, I was prepared to scarper should the bees descend!
If it’s more history you’re after, make Iford Manor the next stop on your travels. You will find it tucked away at the bottom of a tranquil valley with Frome River babbling away alongside.
The romantic, grade 1 listed building and its award-winning Peto gardens are nothing short of breathtaking. The home is still family owned so you are not able to go around the house but you are able to explore the Italianate gardens designed by the revered Edwardian architect and Arts and Crafts designer, Harold Peto, when Iford was his home from 1899-1933. Peto loved Italy and designed these gardens with the country in mind. You will find a cloister garden, many a terrace, ancient statues, fountains – oh so many fountains, sarcophagi..the gardens really are a delight!
Visit in the summer months and you might be lucky enough to experience the opera and jazz festival it hosts every year. My personal favourite time of year to visit though is at the end of April/early May when the front of the house is coated in a stunning display of wisteria. It smells divine.
This stunning property was created in the 17th century by a banking family by the name of the Hoare’s. The Hoare family had a very successful career in banking which enabled them to buy Stourhead. In fact, they were so successful that even today they are still an independent bank and the family are in charge or running it. The last independent bank in the country.
Between lakeside walks, hidden grottoes and Greek-inspired temples, Stourhead Gardens are quite literally out of this world. I can’t even begin to describe how magnificent the gardens were on my visit in mid May. The rhododendron were all in bloom and reflected magically on the water of the lake. I think this is definitely another one to add to the list of places to visit in Autumn. But whether you spend an afternoon there with a picnic or delve deeper into its past with a guided tour, make Stourhead a must-visit on your road trip itinerary.
Old Wardour Castle
Old Wardour Castle is located near Tisbury and set deep in the Wiltshire countryside, besides a serene lakeside setting and protected by acres of woodland.
This historic castle, originally built back in the 1300s, was once one of the most daring and innovative homes in Britain and is still famous for its unique hexagonal ruins. Originally built as a lightly fortified luxury residence for comfortable living and lavish entertainment. From the Banqueting Hall where guests would have been entertained to the Upper Rooms where its families once resided, the remains of this castle offer a fascinating insight into Wiltshire’s history. Pay a visit and discover more of its bloodthirsty past and the battle that was fought here back in 1643.
Sailsbury Cathedral attracts more than half a million visitors every year and for good reason. Britain’s tallest spire and the world’s oldest working mechanical clock are just a couple of them.
The Cathedral has so much to offer visitors. You can book a Tower Tour to get the chance to climb the 332 steps to the top and explore the ancient roof spaces and get the best panoramic views over Salisbury and the surrounding countryside. When you come back down you can wander the beautiful cloisters – which always remind me a bit of Hogwarts!! My particular favourite was finally getting to see with my own eyes a copy of the Magna Carta. Dating from 1215, the Magna Carta is a fascinating document which underpins everything that the United Kingdom was built on. There are only 4 copies that have survived the ravages of time and Salisbury Cathedral is home to the best preserved original manuscript of them all (read more here). It actually gave me goosebumps setting eyes on this piece of history.
Once you’ve finished exploring the Cathedral you can then wander the streets of central Salisbury which are rich in history and offer a variety of things to see and do. I enjoyed a visit to Casa Fina, an antique shop specialising in British design and craftsmanship, where I lost myself for an hour looking at all the beautiful new and vintage ware’s it has to offer. It is only a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral too and just through the ancient gateway – well worth a visit to take home a little memento of your trip!
If you are interested in Tours of Salisbury Cathedral check these out.
Where To Stay
Howards House Hotel
This independently owned country house hotel comes highly recommended. Its location in one of Wiltshire’s most charming villages, a warm country welcome and traditional English food are some of what make this hidden gem the perfect base for a few days of exploring.
Built in 1623 and tucked away in the unspoilt Wiltshire village of Teffont Evias, Howards House Hotel is a blissful escape in the quintessentially English countryside. My stay in this oasis of calm was set to a backdrop of birdsong and in the evening, the gentle pitter patter of rain against the window pane. Otherwise, silence. It was the perfect way to relax on my final evening exploring Wiltshire and was ideally positioned for a short drive east to Salisbury or west to Shaftesbury and other chocolate box towns and villages.
Howards House is nestled in two acres of it’s own gardens and overlooks lush green pastures and a crystal clear brook which runs just along the side of the hotel. The interior is cosy and stylish, full of English charm. The beautiful gardens are peppered with traditional, romantic features including an original stone amphitheatre and a fountain which trickles into a fish pond.
Howards House really is a hidden gem. And I think I can safely say that I will be returning when I am next in Wiltshire!
For anyone really keen on embracing the outdoors this place offers a truly unforgettable stay. Opt for a luxury camping experience in one of their quirky shepherd’s huts or sleep under the stars the old-fashioned way in a bell-tent. Either way, Highway Hill offers a unique opportunity to experience Wiltshire’s countryside.
We spent two nights in Daphnis and Chloe, one of the shepherd’s huts, and absolutely loved it. I wasn’t too sure on what to expect when it came to glamping as it is something I have never done before, but was keen to give it a go. I have to say, it surpassed all my expectations in the most positive way. We got to make friends with all the animals, take the goats for an evening walk, cook outdoors (or indoors on your own cooker if you fancy), sit by the fire in the evening listening to the sounds of the fire crackling and the sounds of the countryside – it was fantastic to be outdoors and so close to nature. And it is run by the friendliest people who are so very accommodating and happy to help in any way they can. We went without little Heidi but are already planning a trip back with her as we know how much she will love it!! I really recommend you give Highway Hill a go!
Widbrook Grange is a delightful Georgian country house hotel which was once a working model farm. Set in the Wiltshire countryside, it is a stones throw from one of the prettiest town’s here in England, Bradford-on-Avon – a must visit if you are in the area. It is also only a short twenty minute drive from Bath so ideally located to explore both Bath and as I like to call it, Bath’s poorer cousin, Bradford-on-Avon. If you visit you will see what I mean. It is very similar in style and architecture to Bath however it is much smaller and personally I have to admit, I prefer it to the bigger city of Bath – although both are absolutely delightful and a real must see when in England. If you are interested in day trips from Bath then click here for some ideas!
Click here to read my full review of a stay at Widbrook Grange.
Widbrook Grange is also home to a superb restaurant. That leads me on nicely to where to eat in Wiltshire.
Where to eat
The Kitchen At Widbrook Grange
The Kitchen offers a wonderful selection of dishes, thoughtfully created by award winning Chef Sandor Szucs, a winner of the Hungarian version of Masterchef with over 20 years of experience working in restaurants throughout Europe. Using only the freshest local ingredients and produce, all sourced from local independent suppliers, the menu comprises traditional fair with a modern gastro twist. To read my full post on a stay at Widbrook Grange please click here.
The Bybrook Restaurant at The Manor House
The award winning Bybrook Restaurant, named after the river that runs through Castle Combe and the hotel grounds, has 1 Michelin Star and 3 AA Rossettes. This puts it as one of the pricer places to eat on this list but my goodness is it worth it! Everything about this restaurant even down to its setting is sheer perfection. Set in the most elegant country manor with breathtakingly beautiful gardens, it really couldn’t get better. If you are looking for a romantic place for a date or just fancy pushing the boat out, then this is the place to go! And you have the added perk of getting to explore Castle Combe..and you all know how much I love Castle Combe. Possibly my favourite village in the entire of the UK. Pay a visit and see if you agree with me.
Click here for reviews on the Bybrook Restaurant at The Manor House.
Howard’s House Hotel
The restaurant at Howards House is headed by chef Andy Britton, a chef trained under the legendary Albert Roux and the likes of Michael Caines. Andy himself is an award-winning chef with a passion for delivering the finest local ingredients from field to fork. Vegetables and herbs are grown in the kitchen garden, free-ranging chickens that roam the gardens provide eggs for the kitchen and all other ingredients are sourced as locally as possible. I was treated to one of the most fantastic meals here during my stay and I cannot recommend eating here highly enough.
Click here for reviews on the restaurant at Howard’s House Hotel.
Chippenham Pit Stop
This might be a self-confessed truck stop but in reality it has so much more to offer!! As well as an award-winning restaurant and café, its on-site convenience store sells locally sourced, fresh fruit and veg to stock up on for your travels. I stopped here and had an absolutely brilliant pork and bacon pie. I know I know, it might sound like just a humble pie at a truck stop – that was my initial thought. But it really was the best pie I have had in a long time and I will definitely be stopping here again on my travels next time I am in this part of the country.
For reviews click here.
The Boat House
Overlooking the tranquil Marina in Bradford on Avon, The Boat House boasts stunning views as well as authentic British food. Their hearty Sunday roasts are a crowd favourite and after having sampled one I can say they are extremely generous portions too! This is a place to go and enjoy dinner with a view.
Click here for reviews and more photos from The Boat House
The Cross Gun’s
This 16th century pub is another fantastic place to enjoy dinner outdoors in the summer months. Sit out on the lawned riverside garden and take in the views of the nearby aqueduct. Or stroll along the canal like we did. The Cross Gun’s is located just outside of the gorgeous village of Bradford-on-Avon and a stones throw from Iford Manor. We visited straight after a wander around Iford to relax at the end of a lovely day.
For reviews click here.
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So there you have it – my guide to all the very best places to visit on a tour of Wiltshire! Is there anywhere you feel should be on this list that I missed? I purposely haven’t included any towns or villages as I will be creating a separate post especially for those. As you can imagine, it is quite a long one!
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