The best place in Britain!
A survey of the UK's loveliest locales sees Salisbury starring and Tisbury and Corsham trending. Did your neighbourhood make the list?
The Sunday Times published its annual Best Places To Live list last weekend and three Wiltshire locations made the top 10 of the Southwest category, with Salisbury as the overall winner! Well, tell us something we don’t know, right?!
Britain is blessed with a wealth of cool cities, thriving market towns, lively villages and charming suburbs. And in Wilts we have outstanding schooling, a thriving tourist industry, a burgeoning foodie scene, vineyards aplenty and gorgeous countryside. Is it any wonder these 3 Wilts towns made the cut of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2019?
Local knowledge and seeking out the fun stuff is Muddy’s speciality, so here’s our take on those Wilts hotspots, with some suggestions in case you want to go have a nosey this weekend.
The very Best Place To Live in the whole of the UK (yes, indeed – it won Overall Winner) is our very own Salisbury. Arty, off-beat and yet not too cool for school, Salisbury is the only city in Wiltshire but boy what a gem it is. Toxic nerve agents aside, it’s full of medieval splendour, is divinely attractive and has a cluster of funky independent shops and restaurants. It has a thriving marketplace — with Nando’s in a medieval home and the Odeon cinema in a 15th-century building — and some of the best schools in the southwest. The train ride to London takes an hour and a half, and you can be in the sporty, sandy coastal playground of Poole Harbour in 50 minutes. Plus, it’s only a few short miles from the Neolithic splendour of Stonehenge, so when you’re bored of shopping, eating and drinking you can hot-foot it there and find your inner druid.
For a small city there are an abundance of eateries that are intimate, quirky and irrefutably independent. If you like your Indian grub less bright orange and more out of the ordinary, Anokaa on Fisherton Street is the place. Its street food style twice cooked beef vindaloo curry, chardonnay soaked crispy duck breast and Persian spice rub and oven roasted Gooshargh’s organic black leg chicken breast (try saying that after a couple of Tiger beers) will sort you out. Or fancy cooking it for yourself? Pure Punjabi is a fab local cookery school, offering a fully immersive and cultural experience with an Indian Experience cookery workshop. They also do parent/child classes (children up to 16 come for free!) so little ones can learn new skills too. Head to Dinghams Cookshop for more inspiration and for everything you need in the kitchen.
Giggling Squid on Market Place is a chain but is still lovely – the restaurant is large but they’ve been clever with the design and it has a comfortable feel. Plus it serves one of the best lamb Massaman curries ever. A nod goes to the Old Ale and Coffee House for the best Sunday roast in town and some pretty cool beach huts out back. If you’re staying over, Old Mill Hotel is a 15th century building with features dating back to 1250. From its early ecclesiastical beginnings, it was transformed in the 16th century to a paper mill and now is a hotel is in the most tranquil location with rushing water, roaring fires and impressive gardens.
Salisbury has a thriving cafe scene and one of our faves is The Yard, a shop and gallery as well as tea rooms. Try The Cafe at Fisherton Mill (a lovely art gallery and working artisan workshops too) and Boston Tea Party is also worth a stop, if only because it is nestled in The Old George Inn, a Grade 1 listed building dating back to the early 1300s which once boasted the likes of William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell and Samuel Pepys amongst its guests.
Come evening (or lunch? Depends on how you roll, I guess), Craft Bar at The Salisbury Arms is a popular jaunt. Plenty of craft beer and cider (obvs) with a cool street food kitchen, it’s a welcoming local – some might say it’s that great ‘back street bar’ you’ve always hoped to stumble across. It’s an independent, young family business, which we always like to hear, and we’ve heard the Monster gourmet burger and cheesemary (rosemary and cheesy) fries are legendary.
There are some cracking indie treasures tucked away if you know where to look, and our enduring favourite is OsoBoutique, who have two shops on St Thomas’ Square and the High Street, with a beautifully curated collection of stylish and affordable jewellery, clothing and accessories. They stock super-cool ranges Uno De 50, Mama B and Two Danes and some unusual jewellery and accessories from all corners of the globe.
Treasure Trails is a great way for kids to see Salisbury – they offer a murder mystery-themed walking trail around the city which’ll keep them busy for an hour or two – then stop for coffee and when you’ve got your energy back, rent bikes from Hayballs and explore the flat traffic-free trails around town. Our absolute fave is Splash of Colour in Fisherton Street, which will rest your feet and deliver you flat whites while the Mudlets get creative with pottery. For hot yoga we love Grace Lounge, while for sports massages extraordinaire head to Salisbury Sports Therapy. Salisbury Playhouse does its thing for youth theatre and West End shows on tour as well as producing its own high-quality theatre.
This cathedral city not only has a distinguished history but also offers top-class schooling The schools are truly top notch, including Salisbury Cathedral School, Chafyn Grove, Leehurst Swan and the world famous Godolphin.
Surrounded by green hills, the centre has a wealth of funky shops and cafes, including Mother & Wild and the Deli, where you can take away or eat at the counter. Camomile Cafe is an amazing children’s activity and therapy café in the centre of town, and The Neston, just outside Corsham, is one of those rare and wonderful finds: a traditional village pub with a cosy bar, great rustic food and comfy rooms. The Methuen Arms is set beside the stately home and beautiful grounds of Corsham Court and serves fab food, while The Royal Oak is situated in the centre of the town has two lovely refurbished bars.
If your favourite weekend afternoon pastime is pootling around a gorgeous emporium of vintage goodies and funky retro relics, you’re in for a treat with Previous Homewares, offering fabulous homewares, jewellery, cards, children’s toys, furniture and stunning interior fabrics – basically the fine art (and one that is waaaaaay beyond me) of putting contemporary items together with pieces from different eras, in a stylish way that works for new and old houses alike. They also have a cafe, serving home-made, (often home-grown) goodies, local teas and coffee.
The Pound is a welcoming and vibrant arts venue with a 100-seat auditorium, exhibition space, cafe bar, parking and baby-friendly facilities. The centre also includes rehearsal and workshop spaces, studios housing three resident artists and a community workshop space. Fancy watching the latest Mike Leigh film? A lunchtime recital? The newest shows? Stand up? Then this is the place for you. They also have an active youth theatre with groups from ages 4-25, plus loads of classes, courses and workshops covering everything from music to ceramics, paper quilling to Lego building. Oh, and look out for their special ‘School’s Out’ activities during school holidays too.
Not too far from town is friendly Guyers House, a lovely hotel and restaurant, or treat yourself to Bowood Hotel , a fab country house hotel, spa and golf course. Check out Bowood House next door for a positively perfect place for a day out with the kids, with gardens to die for and adventure playgrounds galore.
It’s country life for the smart set in Tisbury, with a station, lovely indepenendent shops, pubs, cafes and a top-notch art gallery. Steeped in over 2,000 years of history, Tisbury is the largest village in the Nadder Valley, in the West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. St John’s 12th century parish church is in the centre of the village, with the churchyard boasting an ancient yew tree still flourishing after 4,000 years. It’s a seductive town with an appealing mix of ancient stone properties and Victorian red-brick houses, a growing number of commuters both to London and Exeter, and a thriving high street with a great range of shops.
At the edge of the village is the Grade 1 Listed thatched Tithe Barn at Place Farm, arguably the largest tithe barn in England and open to the public as a gallery, arts centre and restaurant run by Messums Wiltshire. The high street offers up the fab Beckford Bottle Shop, Tisbury Deli, Genuis Coffea for espressos or, at the other end of the spectrum, Beatons Tearooms for a pot of the fine stuff. We love Clementine’s Shop for an eclectic mix of clothes, toys, games and homeware, Casawara for jewellery, greetings cards and accessories, and of course The Loft for our fave boutique.
Explore the wonderful local countryside, with its fantastic network of public rights of way; head for local attractions such as Old Wardour Castle – a fine example of a 14th century castle – and enjoy lunch and dinner at The Compasses Inn or The Riverbarn restaurant at Fonthill.
Last, but by no means least, is our very favourite gaff in the whole of Wilts – The Beckford Arms. Enjoy seasonal menus at this tip top country pub, including everything from traditional whole suckling pig to game pies with homemade pastry and aged Wiltshire steaks. Their fab Sunday lunch menu includes starters of salt baked celeriac and haddock & hake chowder, and mains of braised lamb brisket and pork belly from Richard Windebank. Keep room for pud – fancy butterscotch bread & butter pudding or red wine spiced pear?