Insider knowledge: your Wiltshire must sees
From the big-beast tourist destinations to our cool insider alternatives, read on for our pick of unmissable attractions in Wilts
Whether you live in the county, day tripping or staycaying in the ‘hood, there’s plenty to see and do plus oodles of in-the-know Muddy intelligence to steer you away from the tourist crowds and help you live it up like a local.
Uncover the story of Stonehenge in the extraordinary atmosphere of this World Heritage Site. It’s the best known prehistoric monument in Europe, no less! A fabulous day out for all. For something really special, book a VIP treat and go inside the stones with Stone Circle Experience: an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime gig.
In-the-know intel: Bowood House, Calne
Discovery waits around every corner at the gorgeous Bowood estate, with 100 acres of beautifully landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland and, especially for Mudlets, an adrenaline-fuelled Adventure Playground featuring a life size pirate ship plus a soft play area for the younger children. Day Visitors are now able to visit Bowood House & Gardens by purchasing a ticket online in advance. Access will be controlled using a timed, wristband system – wristbands will be allocated at admissions on arrival, giving each family the chance to access the Adventure Playground for two hours during the course of their visit.
Headliner: Longleat Safari Park
The last time I took the Mudlets to Longleat, they (and I, obviously) were utterly gutted that the monkeys didn’t pick our car to clamber over, and ever since this lack of simian attack has been noted every single holiday, accompanied by wails of ‘when are we going back?‘ This is exactly the magic of Longleat – the rolling plains of gazumping giraffes, rhinos in their paddock, some seriously terrifying lions and tigers, even the monkeys, all of it contribute to the uniqueness, the fabulousness of this emporium of mammalian excitement in the heart of Wilts. With a Safari Drive-Through, Longleat House and Grounds, Jungle Kingdom, Adventure Castle, Family Farmyard, Longleat Railway, Little Explorer’s Garden and a penguin walk-through (and that’s just for starters) the park will keep your Mudlets entertained for a day or three.
In-the-know intel: River Bourne Community Farm, Laverstock
Wiltshire’s only FREE to visit community farm (just what we like to hear), it sits prettily on the edge of Salisbury by the River Bourne, overlooking stunning water meadows. They are now open for limited hours each day of 10am to 1pm. Go to their website and book a slot. The café and farm shop will be open for drinks, cakes and ice-creams from 10am to 1pm.
Headliner: The Dining Room at Whatley Manor
Whatley Manor’s not only a to-die-for boutique hotel and spa, it’s also got form in the kitchen, with a fine-dining repertoire that’s got not one but TWO Michelin stars. Michelin’s Young European Chef of the Year 2018, Niall Keating, takes his inspiration from around the world including Korean, Japanese and French cuisine. £200 will get you the gastronomic tasting menu with matching wine.
In-the-know intel: A constellation of Michelin stars
Four Michelin stars don’t lie and it makes the county one the hottest places in the UK for damn fine food. So where do we start? The Bybrook at The Manor, Castle Combe is a five-star luxury country house hotel in the Cotswolds with Rob Potter, previously at Michelin starred Lucknam Park, in charge of The Bybrook restaurant since 2016. Walk off a gourmet lunch in the glorious grounds or picture postcard village – or maybe make a weekend of it? Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park is a stupendous 5-star country house hotel (it’s got a mile-long driveway) with a very posh dining room – no ripped jeans or trainers allowed in here – headed up by Hywel Jones. Michelin starred since 2006. The Red Lion Free House, East Chisenbury is a thatched country pub run by two chefs, just 15 mins drive from Stonehenge. Prix Fixe Weds–Fri lunch/Thurs & Fri dinner is especially good value.
Headliner: The Spa at Lucknam Park, nr Chippenham
Traditional, relaxing and quite frankly downright gorgeous. It’s a tad spenny but for the price you get it all – award-winning spa and wellness centre, Michelin-starred restaurant, 500-acre estate and stables home to 35 glossy-flanked horses. Tennis courts, croquet lawn, football pitch and a cookery school are further feathers in this handsome hotel’s hat, while picture perfect Castle Combe is a mere 10 minute skip away. Oh, go on then, see you there this weekend…
In-the-know intel: Whatley Manor, Malmesbury
Whatley Manor may be an über luxe, 17th-century, Grade II-listed country manor house in a knockout Cotswold setting but it’s also got one of the best spas in the country, which makes it possibly one of the nicest places to visit in the world. (Yes, Muddy LOVES Whatley!) The impossibly lovely Aquarias Spa will take you close to heaven with their hydrotherapy pool complete with airbed, air tub and neck massage jets, tepidarium with heated stone recliners, salt scrub showers, thermal cabins and wave dream sensory room. Spa days are on offer for those looking to rejuvenate quickly but we recommend a spa break for ultimate relaxation.
Bowood Hotel and Spa, Calne
Fancy an idyllic escape surrounded by endless views, wildlife and remote Wiltshire countryside? Oh, and a luxury spa too? Yes please! Take a dip in the infinity swimming pool, detox in the sauna or steam room, or pamper yourself with a brand new Sundari Kansa Wand treatment such as their Brightening Glow Facial – it’ll bring the sunshine back to that pasty winter skin. Choose from a range of spa packages – our fave is their Luxury Spa Pamper Break which includes a night’s accommodation, 3 course evening meal, full Wiltshire breakfast and use of the spa including a luxury spa treatment per person. Their new relaxation area looks utterly fabulous and they have just relaunched the Twilight Spa package. A recipe for pure tranquility.
Headliner: Roundway Down walk, Devizes
The scene of a battle during the English Civil War, check out these sweeping views across Wiltshire with cowslips and orchids attracting hosts of butterflies. Seriously, the scenery here is just incredible. Chuck in an Iron Age hill fort and a couple of dogs and you have a fab 9-mile hike (9 miles?) around Roundway. Go at dusk to make it extra special.
In-the-know intel: Pepperbox Hill walk
This is a wonderful place for a walk, starting at the folly on Pepperbox Hill and taking you across to Dean Hill, with gorgeous views over the open countryside to the southeast of Salisbury. Carry on through Mean Wood, which in springtime is thickly carpeted with bluebells, and on down into the village of Whiteparish, before heading back across fields and a gentle climb back up to Pepperbox Hill. Good for lovers of butterflies – the chalk downland here is a significant site in Wiltshire for rare butterfly species, including the duke of burgundy. 6.8 mile route. View walk here.
Headliner: Old Wardour Castle, nr Tisbury
Old Wardour Castle is a hexagonal ruin with a seriously bloodthirsty past. If you’ve got mudlets like mine who regularly threaten to murder each other, buy them an audio tour here and earn yourself a few minutes of silence. Ah… There’s also a secret grotto if you can find it, and the castle was the inspiration for the one in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood (watch out for those flying arrows).
In-the-know intel: Great Chalfield Manor and Garden, Melksham
Bowood, Stourhead and Lockeridge Dene may lead the charge of National Trust houses into spring but oh, the lesser-spotted Great Chalfield warms my 19th century cockles. A sucker for pretending Mr Darcy is about to emerge out of the reed-filled lake or just that one day I shall win the lottery and buy me one of these stately home babies, a stroll around Chalfield puts the world to rights. Known as Wiltshire’s hidden manor, Chalfield is utterly charming, with its own moat, gatehouse and parish church. The little ones can keep themselves busy counting the soldiers, griffons and monkeys that adorn the rooftops, while you grab a romantic (yeah, right) stroll through the Arts and Crafts gardens. Entrance to the manor is by guided tour only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays but it is worth getting organised and booking it. Trust me, you’ll love it.