Historic Wiltshire Guide
by Ben Johnson
Facts about Wiltshire
Famous for: Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Circle, Salisbury Plain
Distance from London: 2 hours
Local delicacies: Local cheeses, the Wiltshire Lardy Cake
County town: Trowbridge
Nearby Counties: Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire
Welcome to Wiltshire! If you enjoy visiting ancient sites, this is county for you. On Salisbury Plain you will find Stonehenge (pictured above) and the Avebury stone circle. At Avebury, some of the village houses – and the thatched pub! – are actually situated within the stone circle. These ancient monuments, along with others, now form the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site.
Nearby Silbury Hill is Europe’s tallest prehistoric human-made mound, although why it was built is still a mystery. This is an area rich in chambered tombs, long barrows and ancient earthworks. Wansdyke, a large defensive earthwork built sometime after the Romans left Britain, runs for 35 miles through the countryside of Wiltshire and Somerset.
The Ridgeway is an ancient pathway that has been used by travellers for over 5000 years. It starts at Overton Hill near Avebury and stretches for 85 miles to Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring, Buckinghamshire.
The cathedral city of Salisbury is dominated by its cathedral which boasts Britain’s tallest spire and also hosts one of the original copies of Magna Carta. Just outside Salisbury is Old Sarum, a massive Iron Age hill fort protected by equally huge banks and ditches.
In the north of the county, where Wiltshire meets the Cotswolds, you will find Lacock near Chippenham. This beautiful medieval village with its famous Abbey is now maintained by the National Trust. Nearby you will also find the historic towns of Malmesbury, Castle Combe (where some of the 2011 film 'War Horse' was filmed) and Royal Wooton Bassett. A popular destination for families is Longleat, the home of the Marquis of Bath, with its famous Safari Park.
Wiltshire is a county steeped in legend and folklore. 'Moonrakers' is a nickname for people from Wiltshire and refers back to the days of smuggling when the local people would hide contraband from the revenue men in the local ponds. There is also a strong tradition of mummers plays and morris dancing in Wiltshire.
And as for local food, a visit to a Wiltshire tea room would not be complete without a piece of lardy cake! Lardy cake is a form of bread pudding reputed to originate from Avebury.