We reckon one of England’s least touristy counties is full of great days out!
Wiltshire’s most famous attraction is, of course, the world famous megalithic monument of Stonehenge, but that’s not all that lies in this unique patch of classic Englishness. There are incredible restaurants, stunning villages, some of the finest stately homes and gardens and a bustling city (complete with top rated museums and a cathedral) that might surprise you.
With so many great attractions to choose from to keep both kids and adults entertained, we have pulled together our top 10 things to do in Wiltshire – some of the best known and some of the secret highlights too!
1 Avebury Manor and Garden (National Trust)
Where: Avebury SN8 1RF
Details: This 16th-century manor house was the subject of a unique collaboration with the BBC, when nine of its rooms and part of the garden were redecorated and redesigned in five different styles, each telling a story about the people who lived here during those periods. The result is a unique experience where you can move from room to room, picking up objects as you wish for a closer look. Do the washing up in the Victorian kitchen, play snooker in the Billiard Room, sniff at marmalade magnate Alexander Keiller’s tobacco in the 1930s sitting room, and even bounce on Queen Anne’s bed – if you must. As well as the ancient manor itself, you can explore the delightful gardens, a perfect spot to relax with a book or enjoy a picnic.
2 Avebury Stone Circle (National Trust)
Where: near Marlborough SN8 1RF
Details: Enjoy a day of mystery at Avebury, the site of an immense stone circle which has stood for around 4,500 years. This World Heritage Site consists of a deep ditch and a huge circular embankment enclosing three stone circles, making it the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world! It adds to the experience that the pretty village seeps into the middle of the circle, and that you can wander freely among the stones and touch them. Visit the on-site museum too, which documents the archaeologist Alexander Keiller, who rediscovered the stones in the 1930s, and pop into the café for refreshments.
3 Boscombe Down Aviation Collection
Where: Hangar 1, Old Sarum Airfield, Old Sarum SP4 6DZ
Details: The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection boasts a fascinating selection of aircraft, cockpits, weapons and model aircraft historically associated with the Boscombe Down site. Based across two World War I hangars, it tells the history of flight and flight-testing with guided tours, plenty of interaction and the chance to actually get in the cockpits and experience the thrill of being a pilot of some of the world’s fastest jets. There is also a café and shop stocked with aviation gifts. This unique indoor experience is ideal for a rainy day and engaging for kids and adults alike.
4 Bowood House and Gardens
Where: Bowood, Calne SN11 0LZ
Details: Children are guaranteed the time of their lives at Bowood! Home to one of the UK’s most extensive adventure playgrounds, it features a magnificent pirate ship, aerial walkways, scramble nets and giant slides while younger children will enjoy meeting the friendly farm animals and the undercover fun in the soft play area. If they’re still bursting with energy, there’s 100 acres of beautiful ‘Capability’ Brown parkland to explore. Complete with tranquil lake and arboretum, it’s a special place for a picnic or just to stroll, with stunning Rhododendron Walks during the spring. Visit Bowood House too, which hosts a wealth of unique items from Queen Victoria’s wedding chair to Napoleon’s death mask as well as an extensive art collection.
5 Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village (National Trust)
Where: Lacock SN15 2LG
Details: Let beautiful Lacock village work its magic with its ancient streets, cottages and cafés. If it looks familiar, it’s probably because it has featured in numerous films and screenplays, from Harry Potter to Cranford and Pride and Prejudice. Revel in the hushed atmosphere of the medieval abbey with its stone cloisters and Tudor courtyard, and visit the museum dedicated to Lacock resident William Henry Fox Talbot, founder of modern photography. Afterwards, grab a family trail and explore the abbey grounds set in the water meadows of the River Avon. Check out the play area including a rope swing in the woodland garden, play Pooh Sticks at the Packhorse Bridge and pop into the Stables tea room for a well-earned breather.
6 Old Sarum (English Heritage)
Where: Castle Road, Salisbury SP1 3SD
Details: Climb the mighty ramparts and imagine the once thriving town of Old Sarum, the original Salisbury, just two miles north of where the city stands today. Stand in the footprint of Salisbury’s original cathedral, conquer the royal castle which stood high on the motte, and discover the awe-inspiring Iron Age hill fort where it all began. Unearth over 2,000 years of history and find out how the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark on this impressive landscape through graphic panels throughout the site. It’s a great value day out for families, heritage lovers and walkers and the perfect setting for a picturesque family picnic. With lots of events and open all year around, what are you waiting for?
7 Salisbury Cathedral
Where: The Close, Salisbury SP1 2EJ
Details: There are many high rises in the world, but none so inspiringly beautiful as Salisbury Cathedral. One of the finest medieval buildings in England, this spectacular cathedral is home to the tallest spire in the country at more than 400ft. Conducted tours are offered to the base of the spire for one of the most exciting views in Britain (Sir Christopher Wren was alarmed by a 27in tilt in the top, but it hasn’t budged since his day!) Besides its breathtaking architecture, Salisbury Cathedral is the guardian of one of only four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta dating from 1215, as well as the world’s oldest working clock. Standing magnificently in the centre of this lively riverside city, it’s a must for all history nuts.
8 Salisbury Escape Rooms – Murder at the Museum!
Where: 11A Fisherton Street, Salisbury SP2 7SU
Details: Practice your analytical thinking skills on a visit to Salisbury Escape Rooms. Police call for help from expert code breakers to crack a complex case. Murder at the Museum! You will be met and briefed by a detective, led into the Salisbury Smithsonian Museum and confronted by an array of clues and puzzles which will continue through phases until you uncover the missing evidence. Time is limited – you have one hour. The brainchild of four retired police detectives, it’s a great place to discover your family’s hidden depths. An excellent cross-generational activity, the recommended age group is teenage upwards though younger children are fine in mixed age groups.
9 Stonehenge (English Heritage)
Where: Amesbury SP4 7DE
Details: Dating back to 3100 BC, this mysterious stone circle is a World Heritage Site and considered the most significant prehistoric monument in Europe. As well as the giant, awe-inspiring stones, isolated on the vast Salisbury Plain, visitors can wander around the Neolithic Houses and state-of-the-art visitor centre and exhibition space. Using the latest technology, this includes a 360 degree virtual experience, making your visit even more interesting and informative. And, when you’ve had enough history, there’s a picnic area and café, where you can relax in the delightful surroundings.
10 The Kennet & Avon Canal
Details: Enjoy a walk, cycle ride or boat trip along one of Britain’s historic waterways crossing the heart of Wiltshire. As well as the wealth of wildlife the canal offers, there are pretty towns and villages and must-see landmarks en route. These include the longest continuous flight of locks in the country at Caen Hill and Crofton Pumping Station at Wilton, home to the oldest working steam engines in the world. You’ll find plenty of perfect picnic spots and refreshments stops en route too, including canal side pubs and tea rooms.
We hope we’ve inspired you with our top 10 things to do in Wiltshire. Why not take a look at our luxury cottages in Wiltshire and, for more attractions and experiences, browse our ‘Things to Do & Events’ section for each property listing … you’ll leave with more memories than just a visit to the stones.