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Wiltshire

Main attractions

Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire
Salisbury Cathedral / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Wiltshire is known worldwide due to its archaeological monuments, especially Stonehenge. This fame is deserved but there is much more than this.

Highlights of Wiltshire are:

  • Archaeological landscape - Wiltshire is home to the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in Europe. Several of these monuments are unique in the world. New, exciting and often enigmatic monuments still are found here.
  • Churches - Salisbury Cathedral is architecture monument of world importance, but in Wiltshire are located numerous other very old medieval churches.
  • Country houses - county is very rich with diverse interesting country houses built by once important and influential people. Several country houses have rich art collections.

Natural landmarks

  • Cricklade North Meadow - large meadow (24.6 ha), where some 500 000 Snake’s Head Fritillaries are flowering each spring.
  • Savernake Big Belly Oak - enormous oak tree on the edge of ancient forest. Girth of the tree is 11.15 m. This tree is a hybrid of sessile and English oak.

Archaeological monuments

Henges

In Wiltshire are located some of the most expressive henges of United Kingdom. Henges are earthworks of Neolithic Age, consisting of bank with a ditch inside. Very often there are more structures, e.g. rings of standing stones associated with henges.

Avebury, standing stones
Avebury, standing stones / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Avebury - well known megalithic site, consists of henge, several stone circles, stone avenues, barrows. Developed sometimes around 3300 – 2630 BC. Contains one of the largest stone circles in Europe, with diameter 331.6 m and with 98 stones (originally). Contains also West Kennet Avenue made of paired standing stones and Beckhampton Avenue.
  • Durrington Walls - remnants of large Neolithic settlement near Stonehenge. Enclosed with henge – earthwork ring with 500 m diameter – originally this was some 5.5 m deep and 18 m wide ditch. Development of this monument started sometimes around 2600 BC.
  • Figsbury Ring - enormous late Neolithic henge – a ring structure with concentric ditches and ridges.
  • Marden Henge - largest Atone Age henge in United Kingdom, area 15 ha. Most values destroyed by ploughing.
  • Stonehenge - one of the best known archaeological monuments worldwide. Consists of a group of large standing stones in a circular setting, erected around 2500 BC. Located in the middle of dense complex of archaeological monuments.
  • Woodhenge - Neolithic monument – a henge and a circle or timber logs. Diameter of outer bank – 85 m. In the centre was found a burial of child. Nowadays the locations of former wooden postholes are marked with concrete pillars. The purpose of this site is unclear.

Ancient settlements

  • Old Sarum - earliest settlement of Salisbury, inhabited since 3000 BC. Nowadays seen massive earthworks of Iron Age hillfort (around 500 BC) and ruins of royal castle from 11th century.
  • Sidbury Hill - impressive Iron Age hillfort, surrounded by well preserved earthen fortifications – double ditch and ramparts.
  • Windmill Hill - remnants of Neolithic settlement, first occupied sometimes around 3800 BC, in 3300 BC there were built three concentric ditches around it. The diameter of the outermost ditch is 365 metres.
Silbury Hill
Silbury Hill / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other archaeological monuments

  • East Wansdyke - early medieval (the 5th – 6th century AD) earthworks – 14 km long linear rampart. In Wiltshire is located the better preserved eastern part of these earthworks with bank up to 4 m high and ditch up to 2.5 m deep. Possibly built by Celts to defend from Saxons.
  • Normanton Down Barrows - Neolithic and Bronze Age cemetery near Stonehenge – group of round barrows. Includes Bush Barrow – a barrow which was very rich with artefacts, when excavated in 1808.
  • Silbury Hill - artificial, 37 m tall mound, tallest prehistoric human-made mound in Europe. Built sometimes around 2750 BC with unclear purpose.
  • West Kennet Long Barrow - Neolithic tomb, megalithic monument. Chambered long barrow, the longest in Britain – roughly 100 m long. Built in 3600 BC and used until 2500 BC. Ghost stories.

Architecture monuments

Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Castle Combe / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Urban planning monuments

  • Castle Combe - unique, well preserved medieval village with most houses from the 15th century (many – earlier). Contains numerous valuable features, like early clock, market cross.
  • Historical centre of Salisbury - medieval market city, established in 1220, moving over from the nearby ancient Old Sarum. Historical centre of Salisbury is centred around Salisbury Cathedral and contains numerous historical buildings, including parts of medieval city wall with gates. Markets are held here since 1227.
  • Lacock - village with almost unspoilt appearance from the 18th century. Most of the buildings in the village are built in the 18th century or earlier. Village has unusual planning – with large block of buildings in the centre.

Churches

  • Aldbourne St Michael church - medieval church, with parts built in Norman times, extended in Perpendicular Gothic style in the 15th century.
  • Bradford-on-Avon St Laurence’s church - one of the few Anglo-Saxon churches, built in the 10th or 11th century, significant monument of architecture.
  • Cricklade St Sampson’s church - medieval church, built on the remains of Saxon church from 890 AD. Main part built between 1240 – 1280. Beautiful belltower with four spires.
  • Idmison All Saints church - medieval church, built in the 12th century. Contains a collection of medieval carvings including a set of fearsome gargoyles.
  • Inglesham St John the Baptist church - well preserved medieval church, built in Anglo-Saxon remains. Constructed sometimes around 1205 and largely unchanged since then. Contains Anglo-Saxon art, medieval paintings in up to 7 layers.
  • Salisbury Cathedral - one of the most impressive representatives of Early English architecture (Early Gothic style), built in 1220 – 1258. Spire of the church is 123 m tall. Contains the oldest working clock in the world, from 1386 and many valuable works of art.

Monasteries

  • Edington Priory - constructed in the 14th century. Represents a transition from decorative to perpendicular Gothic style.
  • Malmesbury Abbey - monastery developed since 676 AD, around the 11th century – one of the leading centres of learning in Europe. Currently in ruins, originally built by 1180. There was also 131 m tall tower, it collapsed in 1500.
Longleat, Wiltshire
Longleat / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Country houses

  • Bowood House - large country house, first built around 1725 and extended in the 1750s and 1770s. Although large part of this country house was demolished in the 1950s, the remaining structure still represents an impressive sight. Contains valuable collection of paintings. Beautiful gardens.
  • Corsham Court - manor house in the site where important manor houses have existed since Saxon times. Current building is from 1582, redesigned and rebuilt in 1761 – 1764 and in 1796, in 1844 – 1849. Contains important art collections.
  • Great Chalfield Manor - late medieval manor house with moat. Built in 1465 – 1480, rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries. Beautiful garden.
  • Lacock Abbey - monastery, established in the early 13th century. Construction started in 1232. In 1539 converted to house, church was destroyed. Around 1550 was added Renaissance style tower. Beautiful Gothic cloister. In the 1750s altered in Neo-Gothic style. Here was taken the earliest known photographic negative in 1835 by William Talbot – it shows window of the palace.
  • Littlecote House - Elizabethan country house, built of brick in 1592. Includes walled garden from the 17th and 18th centuries. Reportedly haunted.
  • Longford Castle - late medieval castle with triangular planning, constructed in the late 16th century over a former structure. Rebuilt in the early 19th century. Unusual, adorned facade.
  • Longleat - impressive country house from the late 16th century, one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture.
  • Lydiard House - stately house, built in the early 17th century, rebuilt in Palladian style.
  • New Wardour Castle - country house in Palladian style, built in 1769 – 1776. Well preserved interiors with painted ceilings and ornate fireplaces. Especially impressive is rotunda staircase.
  • Philipps House - impressive Neo-Classical country house, built 1813 – 1816.
  • Ruins of Fonthill Abbey - once one of the most impressive Neo-Gothic structures, this country house was built in the early 19th century for eccentric plantation owner William Beckford. This was giant structure, built in haste, with 90 m tall tower. Soon it collapsed. Now only parts of the original structure remain.
  • Sheldon Manor - manor house built mostly in the 17th century, but parts of it date even to Saxon times. Porch built in the 13th century. Contains collections of art values, furniture, valuable paintings.
  • South Wraxall Manor - country house from the early 15th century.
  • Stourhead mansion - one of important examples of early English Palladian style. This manor house was built in 1720 – 1724. Contains rich library and art collection.
  • Tottenham House - large country house with more than 100 rooms. Mostly built in the 1820s, includes older parts.
  • Trafalgar House - large country house, associated with the family of Admiral Lord Nelson.
  • Wilton House - impressive and beautiful country house built in the middle 16th – middle 17th century. The architecture of building represents Mannerist – early Neo-Classicism style.

Bridges and tunnels

  • Box Tunnel - early railway tunnel, built in 1836 – 1841 after the design of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This 2,937 m long tunnel is high achievement of engineering.
  • Bradford-On-Avon Town Bridge - old bridge over Avon, built in Norman times and still standing. The older side has pointed arches, newer part – round arches. Originally a packhorse bridge, widened in the 17th century. Small building on the bridge – a chapel, later used as a lockup.
  • Dundas Aqueduct - impressive aqueduct over Avon. Built in 1797 – 1805.
  • Palladian Bridge in Wilton Gardens - impressive bridge built over the River Nadder in 1737. Bridge is built in Palladian style and has been copied in many other locations in United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Geoglyphs

The white chalk below the green grass of Wiltshire hills is well suited to make large and long lasting drawings. It has been well used in the past:

  • Cherhill White Horse - hill figure, made in 1780. Originally the figure was 50 by 67 m large. There were 13 such horse figures in Wiltshire, now eight are seen.
  • Westbury White Horse - large hill figure of horse, made in the middle of the 18th century, restored in 2006.
Stourhead Pantheon and gardens
Stourhead Pantheon and gardens / , / CC BY 2.0

Parks

  • Ilford Manor Gardens - Italian style gardens around the late medieval – Neo-Classical Ilford Manor. Gardens developed in the early 20th century.
  • Stourhead Gardens - early representative of English landscape gardens, developed in 1741 – 1780 around artificial lake. Contains interesting examples of landscape architecture – The Pantheon, Temple of Apollo, bridge and notably – the 49 m tall King Alfred’s Tower. Gardens contain large collection of trees and shrubs from the whole world.

Various other man made monuments

  • King Alfred’s Tower - unusual monument – 49 m tall tower of red brick, resembling a medieval fortification. Constructed in 1772 to commemorate Alfred The Great who defeated Danish army in 878.
  • Malmesbury Market Cross - beautiful market shelter, built around 1490. Octagonal structure.
  • The Old Bell Hotel and Restaurant - possibly the oldest existing hotel in England, existing since 1220. Luxurious interior with valuable details from the 13th century. Reportedly haunted.
  • Science Laboratory of Marlborough College - expressive functionalism style building, constructed in 1933 from shuttered concrete.
  • Wardour Old Castle Ruins - ruins of impressive, large castle, built in the 14th century. Castle in unique due to hexagonal planning. Partly blown up in 1644.
  • Wilton windmill - impressive five-floor windmill, built in 1821. Restored and in working condition.
  • Wiltshire Heritage Museum - museum of archaeology, art, history and nature of Wiltshire. Contains valuable archaeological artefacts.

List of described attractions

ArrowStonehengeMegaliths, Ancient burials

Map of Wiltshire

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