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Centred on a majestic cathedral that’s topped by the tallest spire in Europe, Salisbury makes an appealing Wiltshire base. It’s been an important provincial city for more than a 1000 years, and its streets form an architectural timeline ranging from medieval walls and half-timbered Tudor town houses to Georgian mansions and Victorian villas.
Whilst visiting Salisbury this Christmas, be sure to explore this truly beautiful city and all that it has to offer.
Set in the centre of the beautiful City of Salisbury, The Salisbury Christmas Market is a wonderful collection of artisan products, festive gifts and tantalizing food and drink from across the South West.
This year we are also delighted to announce our all-weather real ice rink will be situated alongside our Christmas Market, bringing great festive fun for all ages.
Come and join us for a truly Christmas in Salisbury festive experience
Visit the Salisbury Christmas website for full details
From Darkness to Light Illuminations at Salisbury Cathedral
This Advent and Christmas Salisbury Cathedral and Close will be transformed inside and outside, with illuminated art installations on the West Walk, in the North Porch, on the Cloister Garth and in the Cathedral itself.
Visitors approaching the Cathedral via the West walk will encounter Light Wave by Squidsoup, the team behind Enlightenment, the stunning installation that hung in the North Porch during our Magna Carta celebrations in 2015. This immersive walk-through experience comprises 500 light and audio spheres, suspended in a 20-metre wave formation, which softly glow and play plainsong creating a dreamlike experience.
Approaching the Cathedral from the High Street Gate, a neon installation entitled I Will Turn Darkness Into Light, inspired by scripture and installed above the North Porch Gates, will welcome visitors with its simple promise of hope.
On the Cloister Garth, Lumen by David Ogle RBS, will sit among the grand Cedars that were planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne. This installation of 5 tree-like structures will form a luminous canopy of interlocking neon branches up to 3 metres high which will bathe the stone arches with a vibrant glow.
Suspended inside the Cathedral you will find The Light, a 4-metre illuminated globe created by Richard McLester and his Poole-based studio team, which projects a galaxy of stars that whirl and spin around it until finally focusing on the ‘Star of Bethlehem’, the symbol of Christ’s birth. Join us for an evening of immersive music at the Songs of the Light Concert. Please see here for more information.
Visit the Salisbury Cathedral website for full details
The Stonehenge Travel and Tour Company
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
The Local Experts
Shop ’til you drop at Salisbury’s annual Christmas Market, held in the beautiful Market Place. (24th November – 18th December)
With beautifully decorated chalets, inspiring and desirable gifts and a very warm welcome, be sure to pay a visit to the Salisbury Christmas Market this year.
Meet Father Christmas, enjoy the food and drink stalls and hear traditional music from local choirs and schools whilst you shop.
Many of the chalets sell British made products, making it the perfect place to pick up a unique gift.
After exploring the stalls, make time to explore Salisbury’s other attractions too, including twilight tower tours of Salisbury Cathedral and candle-lit services, where you can see the twinkling lights of the city from up high.
With special offers running in many of the city’s hotels, you can turn your visit into a festive break.
Make the most of your visit to this beautiful city with a visit to the historic Cathedral and surrounding Close or explore the beautiful surroundings with a trip to Winchester, Stonehenge, or the New Forest. There’s a whole city to discover in Salisbury with ample parking and easy access to public transport, together with a wide range of shops, restaurants, cafes and plenty of places to stay both inside or near to the city. Wht not organise a guided tour of Salisbury and perhaps Stonehenge or even join a coach tour from London
Content provided by VisitWiltshire
The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury, Wiltshire
DISCOVER the magic of Stonehenge and the fun of an off-road safari on a trip to Salisbury Stonehenge attracts tourists from across the globe to Salisbury.
But the attractions of the city don’t start and end with the incredible prehistoric monument.
Go on safari across a chalk plain, watch polo and test your fitness on a climb up the tower of Britain’s tallest church spire.
There so much to discover on a trip to Salisbury in Wiltshire.
1. Look up to discover Salisbury Cathedral – it has the tallest spire in Britain at a whopping 123 metres tall. Inside you’ll find one of the most significant churches in the country as it houses one of the original copies of the Magna Carta. For great views, take the Tower Tour. It’s a 332 step trip to the top and the reward is stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
2. Find yourself steeped in legend on a visit to Stonehenge. It’s a magical place shrouded in history steeped in legend. If you stand on Salisbury Plain at sunrise or sunset it’s easy to understand why the ancient Britons believed Stonehenge was special. Its orientation on the rising and setting sun is one of its many outstanding features, but why it was built in this way remains a mystery. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/
Join the local Stonehenge experts for a guided tour: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/plan-your-visit/stonehenge-guided-tours-p1550943
3. Watch polo, or even sign up for a beginners’ lesson at Druids Lodge Polo, which is open all year round six days a week (closed on Mondays). From October to March polo takes place in the floodlit arena which is hidden away in a sheltered area near the main house and stables. Druids Lodge provides pony hire, polo livery and high quality tuition for all levels and is the home club for a number of school and university teams. http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/things-to-do/druids-lodge-polo-p1938583
4. Go for the ultimate race car experience – on a virtual car! Kids over 12 can have a ago and it’s a great experience to keep them happy during the half-term week. The Ultimate Race Car Experience (URCE) is an exciting brand new, purpose built facility, providing the very latest in full motion race car simulators. You’ll find it at Sarum Business Park,Lancaster Road, Old Sarum, in Salisbury. http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/things-to-do/ultimate-race-car-experience-p1827763
5. Get up close to aircraft and see restoration taking place at Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.. It’s a great thing to do when the weather’s bad as it’s mainly all indoors. The collection of aircraft, cockpits, replicas and models weapons and equipment show the story of flight and flight test in the UK. Many of the cockpits are open and you can sit in and use the controls. http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/things-to-do/boscombe-down-aviation-collection-p1416553
6. Explore the streets of Salisbury by following the Murder Mystery Walking Treasure Trail of the city. It’s a self-guided fun and imaginative way to explore the city. As you follow the route, there are clues to solve and spot on the buildings, statues and monuments you pass. A great way to keep the kids happy on a walk. http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/salisbury/things-to-do/treasure-trails-the-salisbury-murder-mystery-walking-treasure-trail-p1773823
7. Get on your bike! Cycling around is a great way to discover a new area. Hire yours at Hayball Bike Hire and peddle away. Flat, safe traffic-free trails, make Salisbury a cycle friendly city and you can even cycle all the way up to Stonehenge.http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/things-to-do/hayball-bike-hire-p1957623
8. Go carting! Take the kids and try your hand around the track at Wessex Raceway Indoor Carting centre. It’s got a unique a700-metre indoor asphalt track, free of pillars with no ramps or bridges – which allows ALL our adult karts to reach a maximum speed of over 50 miles per hour! http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/things-to-do/wessex-raceway-indoor-karting-p547143
9. Learn how to juggle at the Discovery Day Circus Workshop at Salisbury Museum over half-term on February 16. Experts will be on hand to teach this top skill at a drop-in session from 10am-1.30pm. http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/whats-on/discovery-day-circus-workshop-p1953053
10. Go off road and on safari with Salisbury Plain Safaris for an exciting trip to discover wildlife and local history. Go on tour in a luxury Land Rover Defender 110 that takes groups of up to six. Tours include a refreshment break and chances to get out and explore areas and tracks to parts of the Plain that are simply not accessible to cars and buses.
Spectacular views of Europe’s largest chalk downland and the UK’s largest military training area. http://www..visitwiltshire.co.uk/things-to-do/salisbury-plain-safaris-p1960783
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
Plans are under way to mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in the town linked to the most famous conflict in English history.
The events aim to mark the significance of the battle which altered the course of history in medieval England and led to the Norman Conquest.
William the Conqueror established a royal castle at Old Sarum (Salisbury, Wiltshire), in the middle of the earthworks, shortly after 1066. This, says English Heritage, transformed the site, effectively dividing the hillfort in two: an inner set of fortifications, which became William’s castle, and a huge outer enclosure, within which a cathedral was built in 1075
Here, we tell you everything you need to know about Old Sarum in Wiltshire…
1) Old Sarum is the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury. It is two miles north of where the city now stands
2) The Romans, Normans and Saxons all left their mark there: Old Sarum was used as an Iron Age hillfort between about 400 BC and AD 43 – one of the largest in England – before being occupied shortly after the Roman conquest of Britain, when it became known as Sorviodunum. The Romans occupied the site until about AD 410.
William the Conqueror established a royal castle at Old Sarum, in the middle of the earthworks, shortly after 1066. This, says English Heritage, transformed the site, effectively dividing the hillfort in two: an inner set of fortifications, which became William’s castle, and a huge outer enclosure, within which a cathedral was built in 1075
3) The royal castle, created shortly after 1066, was “a major administrative centre”, says English Heritage. The sheriffs of Wiltshire were established in the castle, and the cathedral later provided a body of clerks who assisted with major projects
4) Old Sarum is historically important as the site of the Oath of Sarum of 1 August 1086. Facing revolt and invasion, William I [aka William the Conqueror] gathered the powerful, landholding men of the realm to a ceremony in which they swore allegiance to him. The ceremony, described by English Heritage as “a striking assertion of royal power”, underlined William’s position as the source of tenure of all land across England.
5) Between 1173 and 1189 Henry II’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was kept under house arrest at Old Sarum for having incited her sons to rebel against their father
6) The cathedral was demolished during the medieval period: dissatisfaction with the site and poor relations with the garrison in the castle caused the cathedral to be moved to its present site in Salisbury (New Sarum) in the 1220s. After this time, royal interest in the castle waned. English Heritage explains: “The castle seems to have limped on as an administrative centre into the 15th century, the end finally coming in 1514, when Henry VIII made over the ‘stones called the castle or tower of Old Sarum’ to Thomas Compton, together with the right to carry away the materials.”
7) Old Sarum lived on as a famous ‘rotten borough’ that continued to elect members of parliament until the Reform Act 1832. The parliamentary constituency had a very small electorate and could be used by a patron to gain unrepresentative influence within the unreformed House of Commons. Thomas Pitt became the owner of the site, and the votes attached to it, in 1691. Arguably, had it not been for this, Pitt’s famous grandson William might never have entered the House of Commons, because he first sat in parliament as a member of Old Sarum.
8) Today, people visiting Old Sarum can see the earthworks of the Iron Age hillfort, the inner stronghold of the Norman castle on the motte at its centre, and the remains of the cathedral
Source: English Heritage
A great year to visit Old Sarum Castle Website
Old Sarum can be visited independently or it is easy to arrange a private guided tour from Salisbury with the local experts.
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
Historically a centre of the cloth industry, Salisbury – the county town of Wiltshire – is situated at the point where the Rivers Nadder and Bourne flow into the River Avon. The city is famous for its cathedral, a masterpiece of the early Gothic style that dates to 1220 when the building’s foundation stone was laid.
A checkerboard layout, with enclosed gardens between the houses, was a model for medieval town planning. On receiving market privileges from the king, a bridge was built across the Avon in 1244, thereby creating perfect conditions for Salisbury to become a major trading center.
1 Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral was built in a relatively short time – from 1220 to 1266 – in a typically English style consisting of a nave, long choir, retrochoir, main west transept and east choir transept (shielded from the choir by false arches). The interior of the cathedral, which is of bright-colored limestone and darkly gleaming Purbeck marble, displays the horizontal sequencing of the trusses, strengthened by continuous ledges. The construction of the walls is divided into three zones, with arches, a gallery-like triforium and a passageway above. A ribbed vault in four parts encloses the nave at a height of only 82 ft. The interior fittings of the cathedral, considerably altered in the 18th century, include elaborate tombstones dating back to the 13th century.
Although there are a few medieval fragments, the stained glass – primarily 19th and 20th centuries – is exquisite, particularly the Gabriel Loire window in the Lady Chapel. The Gothic cloister and the octagonal chapterhouse both date from the 14th century, the latter having a single central pillar acting as a vault support, a fine wall-frieze with pictures from the Old Testament and tracery windows divided into four sections with 19th century glass. Items stored there include one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, the foundation of the British constitution, as well as other Anglo Saxon documents and the inspection report on the cathedral tower written by Sir Christopher Wren in 1668.
Address: Chapter Office, 6 The Close, Salisbury
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Salisbury – TripAdvisor.com
2 Cathedral Close
Within Salisbury Cathedral Close and separated from the rest of the town by three gateways, a number of notable Elizabethan and Georgian houses have lovely green lawns and date from the 14th to 18th centuries. These were the residences of the dean, ecclesiastical officers and teachers at the cathedral school. Of special interest is Mompesson House, with its elegant interior fittings and wonderful collection of glass. Another nearby home worthy of a visit is Arundells, residence of former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.
Address: The King’s House, 65 The Close, Salisbury
The old city center includes the 15th century parish church of St Thomas of Canterbury as well as the wide market place with its 15th century market cross, the Guildhall (1788) and the 15th century Plume of Feathers Inn. Nearby is the Red Lion Hotel with its fine 1820s facade and pretty inner courtyard, and Joiner’s Hall, an attractive half-timbered building dating from the 16th century.
Through the North Gate are the meadows of the River Avon with their fine views of the cathedral. John Constable captured these on canvas in his famous painting of 1820.
Address: Pennyfarthing House, 18 Pennyfarthing St, Salisbury
Old Sarum was the precursor of present-day Salisbury, built two miles to the north of the city center on a hill, which even in prehistoric times was fortified. The Romans built the camp of Sorviodonum here, while under the Saxons a town settlement grew up on the site. William the Conqueror chose this strategically favorable spot to build a castle in 1075, and in 1220 the inhabitants of Old Sarum were moved to New Salisbury. Today, only a few remains of the castle within the inner circumference wall can be seen, and the cathedral ruins within the outer wall.
Location: Castle Rd, Salisbury
5 Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
The Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum has permanent displays and special exhibitions throughout the year that highlight the art and history of England and the Salisbury area. This is one of the most fascinating areas in Britain, rich in mediaeval history and home to the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge. The award-winning museum is home to the Stonehenge Gallery, Monkton Deverill Gold Torc, as well as unique costume, glass and chinaware collections.
Address: 58 The Close, Salisbury
6 Larmer Tree Gardens
The Larmer Tree Gardens, set in the ancient forest known as Cranborne Chase, were established by general Pitt Rivers in 1880 as pleasure grounds for “public enlightenment and entertainment” and were the first privately owned gardens to be opened for public enjoyment. You’ll find Indian buildings, a Roman Temple and an open-air theatre amidst acres of gardens inhabited by pheasants, peacocks and other exotic birds.
Location: Rushmore Estate Office, Tollard Royal, Salisbury
7 Salisbury Festival
Salisbury Festival takes place in spring with a different theme each year, and includes orchestral, choral and chamber concerts, recitals, film screenings and lectures. Numerous venues are used, including St Thomas Hall, the cathedral and other historical buildings.
Another important event is the Southern Cathedrals Festival, an annual festival that rotates every year between the cities of Winchester, Salisbury and Chichester. The festival takes place mid-July and includes daily concerts and a program featuring a mix of orchestral, choral and chamber concerts, recitals and fringe events. The repertoire is equally varied and includes classical and sacred music as well as newly commissioned works performed in the host city’s cathedral. Another great event, The Salisbury Arts Festival, runs for two weeks each May and features dance, music, street performances and art exhibitions.
Address: 144 East Main St, Salisbury
8 The Rifles (Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum
The Wardrobe is an elegant building housing The Rifles (Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum, an award-winning museum detailing the history of English County Regiments. The building dates to 1254 and contains exhibits on the Royal Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiments.
From the gardens you can stroll down to the River Avon with its views of the Water Meadows. Another military museum to visit is the award-winning Museum of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment.
Address: 58 The Close, Salisbury
9 Cholderton Charlies Rare Breeds Farm
Cholderton Charlies Rare Breeds Farm has breeds dating back hundreds of years, reflecting an animal heritage as interesting as its buildings and monuments. In addition to the many animals is a nature trail, water gardens, a picnic area and adventure playground for children. Also popular are the many opportunities to feed piglets and other young animals.
Location: Amesbury Road, Cholderton, Salisbury
10 Malmesbury House
Malmesbury House is located on The Close near Salisbury Cathedral where many of the city’s historical attractions are found. The house has seen many faces, both architecturally and in its visitors, and was originally a canonry in the 13th century before being enlarged.
The west facade was added decades later to accommodate rooms displaying magnificent rococo plasterwork, and notable visitors included King Charles II and the composer Handel. (Although privately owned, tours are occasionally permitted.)
Location: The Close, Salisbury
Built by architect Inigo Jones in 1653 after the original Tudor home was destroyed by fire, Wilton House is a masterpiece of the Baroque style and most notable for its huge white Double Cube Room. Decorated with gold-painted flowers and garlands of fruit and rounded off with a brilliantly colorful painted ceiling, the room is also fascinating for its portraits by van Dyck, as well as portraits of Charles I, Queen Henrietta Maria and their three children. Equally impressive is the Single Cube Room, its painted ceiling having scenes from Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, written in 1590 while a guest at Wilton House, as well as paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Reynolds. The landscaped park surrounding the house harbors a magnificent stock of old trees. Another unusual feature is the Palladian bridge (1737) over the River Nadder.
Be sure to visit the picturesque Village of Wilton, the old capital of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex, and later of Wiltshire. It is famous for its carpets, plus home to antique shops and a weekly market.
Location: The Estate Office, Wiilton, Salisbury
Located 19 miles southwest of Salisbury, Shaftesbury is a picturesque little market town famous for its ruined Benedictine abbey. Only the foundation walls remain as a reminder of the abbey’s existence, while in the Shaftesbury Abbey and Garden there’s a model of the building as it once was as well as finds from the Middle Ages.
Shaftesbury is also a notable tourist destination due to the steep cobbled streets of Gold Hill, picturesquely lined on one side with tiny houses dating from the 16th to 18th centuries, while on the other side there’s a 13th century ochre-colored wall. Visitors enjoy superb views across the Blackmoor Vale to Somerset.
St Peter’s Church is the only one of the 12 medieval churches that’s been preserved, and possesses an interesting crypt and a fine doorway. Also of note, the Shaftesbury Gold Hill Museum has many exhibits detailing local history.
Location: Gold Hill, Shaftesbury
Stourhead, 26 miles west of Salisbury, is one of the finest landscaped gardens of the 18th century and unchanged since its inception. The unique design of the garden includes an artificial lake with caves, classical temples and landing stages surrounded by hills planted with trees. The park and the stately Palladian mansion were designed in 1721, with elegant period furniture provided by Chippendale, while the gallery contains paintings by Canaletto, Raphael, Nicolas Poussin and Angelika Kaufmann. King Alfred’s Tower, erected to commemorate the Saxon king, towers over the surrounding parkland and affords fine panoramic views.
Location: Mere, Wiltshire
Old Wardour Castle
Old Wardour Castle, near Tisbury, is a 14th century structure on the edge of a beautiful lake. A battle was fought here in 1643 when Parliamentarian forces besieged the castle causing extensive damage. More recently, Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves starring Kevin Costner was filmed here. The castle’s unusual hexagonal ruins are surrounded by landscaped grounds, and are a picturesque location for picnics or a relaxing day out.
Location: Tisbury, Salisbury
During 2015 we are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Here in Salisbury we are particularly proud that our own Magna Carta is considered to be the best of the originals. Salisbury Cathedral also has the tomb of William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury, half brother of King John. Longespée is specifically mentioned in Magna Carta as an advisor to King John. Richard Poore, Bishop of Salisbury is described as a witness in the 1225 re-issue of Magna Carta on display in Washington & Canberra. In addition Salisbury has been the scene of many historic visits by the Kings and Queens of England over the last thousand years. This walk will look at the changes to liberty, justice and power, both in Salisbury and throughout the kingdom, over many centuries.
We shall see how the liberty of the people of Salisbury has been influenced by harsh Norman Kings, Magna Carta, powerful Bishops, cruel civil wars, severe punishments, a Rotten Borough and unjust laws. This walk is a journey from absolute medieval monarchy to the constitutional monarchy of today. From feudal law to parliamentary law. From royal power to people power.
Please see Magna Carta Walk Flyer 2014 (2).pdf for more details
6th, 13th, 20th, 27th June 2015
Walks start at 2.00pm and last for about 90 minutes.
Tickets £6.00 each and can be bought in advance from Salisbury Information Centre Telephone: 01722 342860
The Walks do NOT include entry to Salisbury Cathedral Magna Carta Exhibition.
For more information about these walks visit Salisbury’s Blue Badge Guides website
The Stonehenge Travel Company
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
Legend has it that in 1220 the Bishop of Salisbury shot an arrow high into the air from the ramparts of Old Sarum castle vowing that he would build a new cathedral wherever the arrow landed. He must have had arms like an ox or some seriously impressive divine intervention for Salisbury Cathedral is actually several miles from the castle.
Little matter. The reality is that the Cathedral he had built is probably the finest example of Early English gothic architecture in the country. It is perfectly positioned on the beautiful water meadows beside the slow-moving River Avon and topped by the tallest spire in the country (which you can climb if you have the knees and lungs for it).
It is also home to the best-preserved of the four remaining original Magna Cartas which guarantees the city a starring role in the document’s 800th birthday celebrations throughout 2015.
Salisbury and surrounding areas of Wiltshire, including Stonehenge and the market town of Trowbridge, make up one of six designated Magna Carta trails. These guide visitors through some of the most historic and picturesque parts of England from Durham and York in the north to Worcester and Hereford in the centre, Norwich in the east and Dover, Canterbury and Pevensey in the south west.
Events kicked off in February when the four surviving original Magna Cartas — from Salisbury, from Lincoln Cathedral and two kept at the British Library — were brought together, the first time this has ever occurred, for three days in London.
For the rest of the year the Magna Carta is at the heart of a myriad of festivals, fetes, exhibitions and displays, literary and academic gatherings in every city, town and village with even the flimsiest link. And a few without any connection at all.
The Magna Carta, literally the Great Charter, was essentially a political device, drawn up to settle an increasingly violent dispute between King John and 25 rebel barons. Much of it referred to specific grievances. Its enduring legacy was that it outlined basic human rights, setting the principle that no-one was above the law and everyone had the right to a fair trial.
It not only became the cornerstone of the British constitution, it influenced subsequent documents like the US Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In March the Salisbury Magna Carta was returned to a redesigned interactive display in the Cathedral Chapter House along with other historical treasures from the extensive archives.
And the Cathedral itself is well worth a detailed exploration: from medieval tombs and effigies to the arched supporting pillars bent inward under the weight of the tower. There’s a beautiful modern baptismal font which spectacularly reflects the ceiling and the brilliantly coloured stained glass windows and the bumping stone, worn away from the centuries of traditionally “bumping” the heads of new choirboys to welcome them.
It has wide vaulted cloisters and boasts the oldest working clock in Europe. Built in 1386 it’s an ingenious series of weights and pulleys that has no traditional face but sounds the hour.
Running parallel to the building is the eye-catching Cathedral Close where the clergy lived. It still has a number of the original medieval buildings as well as some elegant Georgian town houses such as the impressive Mompesson House and featured in a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
Stonehenge, just 13 kilometres from Salisbury, remains one of the world’s great mysteries. Religious temple? Astronomical clock? Ancient burial chamber? Alien landing zone (that’s my favourite)? Truth is, nobody knows for sure. The mesmerising prehistoric circle of monolithic stones, dating back to between 3000-2000 BC and one of the most distinctive monuments in the world, still baffles experts and attracts more than a million tourists each year.
The new visitor centre, designed by an Australian firm of architects, is modern and eye catching yet sits surprisingly sympathetically in the rolling Wiltshire countryside.
Consisting of two main “pods” one of glass and one of wood, under a soft wave metal roof balanced on slender, unevenly angled metal poles. Inside, it contains an engaging interactive education centre, a cafe, shop and toilets.
The original “facilities” have been removed from their position much closer to the stones, and an access road grassed over which means Stonehenge can now be viewed not as an isolated structure but as part of a broader sweep of ancient mounds and barrows.
Visitors must walk through the gently undulating fields the approximately 2kms from the centre to the stones or take the official land-train. It always was an awesome site but now, with less clutter, it seems even more impressive.
There is more mystery at nearby Avebury which has the largest stone circle in the world, more than 100 stones believed to have been erected about 4,500 years ago. Or Woodhenge, with the remains of six concentric rings possibly part of a structure used by an early community.
From Avebury you can also see Spilbury Hill, the largest man made mound. What the circle and the mound were for, and who created them, is still unknown. Another mystery.
Trowbridge is impressively credentialed for inclusion on the Magna Carta trail. Mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1200 the town was granted one of the earliest market charters from King John.
But by 1215, Baron Henry de Bohun, tiring of the King’s constant demands for increased taxes, joined with 24 other barons to force him to seal the Magna Carta at Runnymede near Windsor. Henry, clutching the charter, is immortalised in a stained-glass window in the parish church.
Through the centuries, Trowbridge forged itself a position as a centre of weaving, first fine woollen cloth, largely for export to Europe then, when that dwindled, into coloured cloth made from the wool of Spanish merino sheep. Quick to adapt to new technology, first the spinning jenny and then the power looms, at one stage the town’s industry was so dominant it was dubbed the “Manchester of the West.”
Although not as cutesy as many of the villages and towns in Wiltshire, Trowbridge has numerous important historic buildings across a wide range of eras. Its museum, which focuses heavily on the town’s nationally important textile heritage, is a kids’ paradise. Established in one of the old cloth mills it has that real feel of living history which many of the newer and more high tech museums have lost. Here you are transported back in time in a series of historic tableaux.
No visit to any part of England is officially complete without a pint of the best local brew. Wadworth Brewery is based in the pretty town of Devizes, roughly 40 kilometres north of Salisbury and has been serving up specialist regional beers for more than 125 years.
It runs regular tours that include the opportunity to meet two of the brewery’s most popular workers, the gentle giants Max and Monty, two magnificent Shire horses who still deliver the beer to local pubs pulling the distinctive drays.
But the highlight has to be dropping in to the brewery’s own private “pub”. Here, visitors can compare the various brews like the popular 6X and the Bishop’s Tipple. Or go for something a little different like the Swordfish, created for the 100th anniversary of the Fleet Air Arm, where beer blended with Pusser’s Navy Rum. Cheers.
The writer was a guest of Visit England and travelled with British Airways.