Old Sarum to Wilton

With a history dating back over 5,000 years South Wiltshire is steeped in history and overflowing with places to visit. Look just 2 miles north of modern Salisbury near the A345 road, climb the hill and massive ramparts and literally move back in time. Old Sarum (Salisbury) is the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury and indications of prehistoric settlement have been discovered from as early as 3000BC, contempory with the world- renowned Avebury and Stonehenge , a World Heritage site just 8 miles further north.

The story of Old Sarum is truly fascinating. Once an Iron Age fort controlling the intersection of two native trade paths, the site saw occupation by Romans, Saxons and Normans, the last constructing a great stone castle, walls and Cathedral. A royal palace was built within the castle for King Henry I and was subsequently used by Plantagenet monarchs.

The settlement lasted for around 300 years until disputes between the Wiltshire sheriff and the Salisbury bishop finally led to the removal of the church into the nearby plain. As New Salisbury grew up around the construction site for the new cathedral in the early 13th century, the buildings of Old Sarum were dismantled for stone and the old town dwindled.

Although the settlement was effectively uninhabited, its landowners continued to send two MPs into the 19th century, making it the most notorious of the rotten boroughs that existed before the Reform Act of 1832.

Old Sarum is an English Heritage property and open to the public. A visit is worth- while at any time for the stunning views over the Wiltshire plains alone, but encounter any of the events and activities throughout the year and this magnificent site is brought alive. Reenactments, entertainments including music and plays, or archaeology weekends are fun for all the family. Find out more at sarum

Leave Salisbury on the A36 westward and within a few miles you arrive at the town of Wilton, offering a surprising amount to the visitor. Wilton House is one of the Treasure Houses of England and you can be sure the 460-year-old house, its art treasures, 21 acres of gardens and parkland will provide an exciting and memorable day out.

The house stands on the site of a ninth century nunnery founded by King Alfred. Take time to uncover its secrets as you wander through the magnificent rooms, marvel at the architecture, soak in its fine paintings or be swept off your feet by its spectacular gardens.


Close-by is the Wilton Shopping Village, a unique shopping experience situated within the historic 18th century carpet factory buildings. Here you will find an interesting mixture of retailers, from a specialist Whiskey shop and a selection of artists’ studios to a wide array of clothing. Parking is free and you will find a relaxed atmosphere in which to spend a stress free hour or two.

Wilton Carpets were created by a French carpet weaver brought to England by the Earl of Pembroke in the early part of the 18th Century to teach the local weavers his skills. By the end of the century Wilton and its carpets were famous, and still produced today.

Continue west using the B3089 and where it joins the A303 you will find signs to Stourhead, a truly great National Trust garden. An outstanding example of the English landscape style, this splendid garden was designed by Henry Hoare II and laid out between 1741 and 1780.

Classical temples, including the Pantheon and Temple of Apollo, are set around the central lake at the end of a series of vistas, which change as the visitor moves around the paths and through the magnificent mature woodland with its extensive collection of exotic trees.

From Stourhead, travel back along the same route and you will soon pick up signs northward for Warminster, which is a fine example of a Wiltshire market town - fine old buildings reflecting the wealth of the area - and wonderful open downland close-by, since it lies on the edge of Salisbury Plain.To the west of the town you will see the brown tourist signs to Longleat. Whatever the tastes of your family this is a place that you should definitely visit - allow a full day for there is so much to see.

Longleat House is widely regarded as the best example of high Elizabethan architecture in Britain and one of the most beautiful stately homes open to the public. The magnificence of the House itself is matched by the splendour of its surroundings; a spectacular mixture of landscaped parkland, lakes and formal gardens.

Stonehenge 28 The Tourist Handbook Wessex 2018-19

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