The best places to visit in Wiltshire include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stonehenge, gorgeous Cotswold villages like Castle Combe, the bustling towns of Malborough and Malmesbury and fascinating white horses. This often-overlooked county has a lot to offer!
The uber-rural county of Wiltshire is one that a lot of people drive through when venturing further southwest or perhaps driving from Cornwall to London.
However, if you stop for a while, you’ll realise that there’s actually a lot going on in Wiltshire.
From one of the most famous ancient sites in the world (AKA Stonehenge) to adorable little Cotswold towns that aren’t as teeming with tourists as other sites, to the rolling English countryside, there’s a lot to love in the region.
Plus, Wiltshire isn’t too far from London (Swindon is a two hour drive or a one hour train ride) and is in proximity to Bath and Bristol – so it’s an easy county to explore if you’re based in any of these Southern British cities!
So, let’s delve into the best places to visit in Wiltshire!
Best places to visit in Wiltshire
This HAS to come up first on my list because, in reality, there’s nowhere like Stonehenge.
This ancient stone circle is one of the UK’s most famous attractions and is usually the top of traveller’s bucket lists; particularly those who are looking for easy day trips out of the capital.
However, not that many people know that it’s in the heart of Wiltshire!
Sitting in the middle of the windswept Salisbury Plain, this ancient stone circle consists of a ring of standing stones that are believed to be around 5,000 years old.
It’s unknown exactly why they were placed here, but it’s believed to be for spiritual or religious purposes.
The arrangement of stones has been carefully studied over the centuries to try and determine their exact purpose and meaning, but unfortunately, it remains a mystery!
The other big mystery surrounding Stonehenge is how exactly these stones got here in the first place. Geologists have discerned that the stones in fact came from South Wales, some 160 miles/ 257 kilometres from its current site on Salisbury plain.
A popular place during summer and winter solstice, Stonehenge has plenty of mythical connections; but it pulls in tourists from near and far on a daily basis.
If you’re a member of the English Heritage or National Trust (see my comparison of the two here), you can get free entry at Stonehenge. The land belongs to the National Trust but the monument itself is owned by the English Heritage!
Another Neolithic/ Bronze age site, Avebury stone circle is located in the rolling hills of Wiltshire.
It’s a set of memorial sites, containing concentric rings, a bank and ditch and a processional avenue.
It is thought to have been constructed over 4,500 years ago by prehistoric people, using tools made of antler and stone.
The complex actually includes the largest prehistoric stone circle in Europe (which most people aren’t aware of – they think that Stonehenge is bigger!).
Similar to Stonehenge, you can enter for free if you’re either a National Trust or English Heritage member. If you’re visiting a few different sites in Wiltshire, it’s definitely worth becoming a member of one of these organisations!
When it comes to the West Country’s cities, Salisbury is quite underrated – but it’s well worth the trip!
Visit the historic Salisbury Cathedral, which dates back to 1258 AD and is home to a copy of the Magna Carta.
Other sites in Salisbury city include Fisherton Mill with an art gallery and studios, the picturesque Langford Lakes and the nearby Bluestone Vineyards.
An ancient prehistoric chalk hill, Sibury is the largest artificial mound in Europe; it’s part of the Stonehenge and Avebury complex (and you can easily visit them both ath the same time!).
The 173-foot high hill has been occupied since Neolithic times, with evident artifacts showing Bronze age occupation too.
Silbury Hill is a Scheduled Ancient Monument protected by law as part of a complex yet spectacularly rich archaeological landscape.
It’s roughly the same size as the Pyramids of Giza, although you’ll be with a fraction of other visitors than if you were visiting Egypt and seeing its ancient monuments!
You can visit it for free any reasonable time in daylight hours; there’s just a £2 charge for car parking if you aren’t an English Heritage member.
Castle Combe is among the prettiest Cotswold villages, and definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Wiltshire!
Castle Combe’s beautiful scenery has been featured in many films (like War Horse) and television shows (such as Downton Abbey) due to its breathtaking Medieval architecture and old-world charm.
The whole village has remained almost unchanged since the 14th century and features cobbled streets, thatched roofs and an abundance of lush greenery.
There’s not a huge amount to do in Castle Combe, but it’s an unmissable place to amble around and enjoy the scenery, especially if you want to check out gorgeous British country villages!
Bradford Upon Avon
A small Cotswold town, Bradford Upon Avon is known for its beautiful buildings, “cafe that looks like it’s falling down (a quote from the owner when I visited!) and the beautiful River Avon (as the name suggests) snaking through.
It’s home to many independent shops and eateries, along with regular farmer’s markets.
Bradford Upon Avon also holds cultural festivals throughout the year, such as the yearly literature festival held in July.
Don’t miss the Bradford on Avon Museum, which is home to a few exhibitions about the history of the town.
I’d also recommend walking down the Avon Canal to Bath, enjoying the canal boats bobbing on the water. It’s a 13 mile walk along the towpath; once you’re there you can check out the best things to do in Bath in neighbouring Somerset.
Malmesbury is a little larger than other Cotswold towns, but it boasts a rich cultural and architectural history, with buildings dating back to the 12th century, along with a famous abbey.
The Abbey dates from 1125 AD and is the burial place of King Athelstan.
Other attractions include Malmesbury Castle, Wyke Manor, St. Paul’s Church, and Westport Lake.
Along with historical buildings, there are
Situated just outside of the town of Chippenham, Lacock has a long history, with records dating back to at least the Domesday Book.
It’s most famous for the beautiful Lacock Abbey, a Harry Potter filming site and stunning historic building that was originally built as a home for an Augustinian monastery in 1232 and is now owned by the National Trust.
The village is also home to Fox Talbot Museum, which celebrates one of Lacock’s most famous residents, William Henry Fox Talbot, and his contributions to photography.
This charming little village provides tourists with an abundance of opportunities to explore its winding streets and traditional architecture, along with wildlife spotting opportunities in The Nature Reserve and Fox Talbot Woods.
Warminster is situated on the edge of Salisbury Plain and is now used as an army base, encompassing a population of around 18,000.
The history of the town dates back to at least the Iron Age – during the English Civil War, it was the site of several battles.
Today, there are many historical buildings and monuments to explore.
The recent expansion of the nearby towns means that Warminster has been transformed into a bustling community with excellent shops and businesses, as well as great leisure facilities.
Pewsey White Horse
The Pewsey White Horse is one of Wiltshire’s most impressive chalk horses, carved into the hillsides.
Believed to have been carved into the hillside around 1785, the white horse stands at an impressive 20 metres tall and 24 metres wide, making it one of the largest white horses in Britain.
It’s a Grade II listed monument, with its modern shape designed by Herbert Baldock who re-cut to reduce its slope precipitousness.
It has been suggested that the horse was first created as a symbol of local landowner William Winniett’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. Today, it stands proudly as an iconic symbol in Wiltshire!
Cherwill White Horse
Cherhill White Horse is a famous hill horse figure, measuring 40 metres/ 129 feet long and 25 metres/ 82 feet high. It was originally carved in 1780 by a local landowner named Dr. Christopher Alsop of Calne.
It’s one of eight white horse hill figures in Wiltshire and is visible from miles around!
Marlborough is a historic town sitting in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside.
The bustling market town sits in the midst of tranquil rolling hills, with a few must-visit highlights like the historic Merchant’s House.
There’s an annual Marlborough Literature Festival and you can also visit the Marlborough Open Studios which occur yearly.
Marlborough’s an ideal place to stay to enjoy some of the nature and walks in the local area, in particular Savernake Forest which is a picturesque place for bluebells in the spring months.
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) located in South West England, Cranborne Chase It has been a royal hunting ground since the time of William I, stretching from Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire to the borders of Dorset and Hampshire.
This stunning landscape is full of ancient woodlands, rolling chalk hills, archaeology sites and heathlands. While walking around you’ll also find animal life such as red kite birds, deer and buzzards.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful countryside walk or a full day of exploring, Cranborne Chase is the perfect destination!
Longleat Safari Park
Longleat is a stunning stately home located in Wiltshire, England.
The impressive building was originally a medieval castle which the Thynne family turned into a luxurious country house centuries later.
Longleat is widely known for its stunning landscapes, incredible safari park and beautiful gardens where visitors can soak up the serenity of the grounds.
Longleat boasts plenty for any visitor to enjoy, from its house and gardens tours to its Adventure Park – there is something for everyone to explore!
Iford Manor Gardens
Ilford Manor Gardens is a stunning five-acre garden located near Bradford on Avon.
They’re a unique blend of formal Italianate gardens, woodland and smaller areas of naturalistic planting.
With an impressive variety of plants from around the world, the gardens are particularly known for their huge collection of magnolias.
Ilford Gardens are Grade I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. They’re family-run and have been inherited for generations, but they’re open to the public throughout the year and are one of the most beautiful landscape destinations in the country.
Swindon is a busy town in southwest England. With a variety of museums including the STEAM – Museum of Great Western Railway, The Museum of Computing, Lydiard House Museum and the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery which focuses on the history and culture of the town.
The town centre of Swindon boasts a wide variety of bars and restaurants catering to all tastes as well as bustling shopping malls, like the one situated in Regent Circus.
With easy access to London and South Wales along the M4 corridor, the town is ideal for anyone who wants to stop off while travelling between east and west!
From Longleat House to some of the prettiest villages in the South West, Wiltshire is one of the most beautiful counties in England.
Are you ready to check out Wiltshire?
Whether you want to check out the medieval village of Lacock, explore the ancient county by visiting Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site and explore the formal gardens of Ilford Manor, there are so many places to visit in Wiltshire!