Wiltshire is an area of outstanding beauty, full of idyllic countryside and cultural sites. It is this varied landscape and history that has sparked much interest in the county with visitors and, in turn, seen many great attractions established there over time.
Wiltshire has attracted many families on English country cottage breaks and visitors looking to experience more of this varied and interesting county, and with so many great attractions to choose from to keep both kids and adults entertained, it is often hard to force yourself to return home. Here we list some of the best attractions that will keep you in Wiltshire.
There are so many things to do in Wiltshire but perhaps the most famous is a visit to Stonehenge. Owned by English Heritage, the site has been well maintained and is considered the most significant prehistoric monument in Europe. Now you can do more than just walk around this historic symbol, as the transformed visitor centre and Neolithic Houses make for an even more interesting and informative experience.
For more information on Stonehenge see this previous article on the monument and its secrets.
2. Lydiard Park
When looking for things to do in Swindon, few activities are as tranquil or offer such incredible views as a visit to Lydiard Park. As a family you can enjoy a woodland walk in the grounds or learn more about the area’s history during one of their Spotlight Talks that cover the people, objects, architecture and anecdotes of Lydiard House and Park.
‘Lydiard Park is a beautiful historic estate on the western edge of Swindon, with the Palladian House, Church and Walled Garden, set in 260 acres of parkland. The children's play area, Cafe & Tea Rooms, events and education programmes make Lydiard Park a great destination for a family day out.’
- Lydiard Park
3. Boscombe Down Aviation Collection
This next attraction is one to really keep the kids and adults entertained on a rainy day. The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection boasts an incredible selection of aircraft, vehicles and artefacts historically associated with the Boscombe Down site and makes for an engaging and interesting experience to appeal to all.
‘The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection tells the history of flight and flight-testing. Based across two World War 1 Hangars, it is steeped in history with a fascinating collection of aircraft, cockpits, weapons and models.
With guided tours, interaction and the ability to actually get in the cockpits and experience the thrill of being a pilot of some of the world’s fastest jets Boscombe Down Aviation Collection offers a unique family attraction.’
- Boscombe Down Aviation Collection
4. Atwell-Wilson Museum
From planes to cars as we visit the Atwell-Wilson Motor Museum. This intimate car museum is one of the best things to do in Wiltshire, boasting a stunning collection of classic cars to peruse and admire. The majority of their exhibits cover vehicles from the 1920s onwards and range from motorcycles and mopeds to push bikes and memorabilia, as well as their cherished cars.
What better way is there to see all the things to do in Wiltshire than from the sky? GoSkydive is the UK’s premier ‘first-timer’ Tandem Skydiving Centre offering experiences for novices and the experienced adrenaline junkie.
‘Tandem skydiving is an amazing experience and one which has been shared by tens of thousands of people across the UK. Whether you’re skydiving to celebrate a birthday, jumping for charity or, like most of our guests, skydiving just because you’ve always wanted to – it will be the experience of a lifetime and one that you will never forget. The excitement and exhilaration of the jump together with the sense of achievement as you land is unrivalled.
GoSkydive is the UK’s leading tandem skydiving centre and over 14,000 have jumped with us. We are fully regulated by and affiliated with the British Parachute Association. We specialise in customer focussed skydiving days – ensuring our guests have a full, fun and safe day out. It is our aim to make sure everyone has the time of their life when they jump with us.’
6. Aerosaurus Balloons
For those who can’t quite stomach the speed of hurtling to the ground skydiving, then Aerosaurus Balloons offer another way to see Wiltshire with a bird’s eye view. Capture the most amazing views and photographs in one of their fantastic hot air balloons and make it a holiday to remember.
‘For over 25 years Aerosaurus Balloons have flown passengers ranging from 7–100 years of age celebrating Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, retirement, holidays and much more, plus of course ‘just for me!’. Their Champagne Hot Air Balloon Flights take place over the most awe-inspiring areas of Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon & Cornwall.
Aerosaurus also organise the tremendously successful Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival which attracts 50 Hot Air Balloon teams, 50 bands and over 10,000 visitors to Mid Devon. 2015 Festival dates are 10th – 12 July. Visit www.tivertonballoonfestival.co.uk’
- Aerosaurus Balloons
7. Wyvern Theatre
If you have booked a Christmas Wiltshire holiday cottage this year then you had better check out the panto selection at the great Wyvern Theatre and Swindon Arts Centre. Perfect for a rainy day and as a way to keep the kids entertained, this great theatre hosts fantastic performances throughout the year.
8. Cranborne Chase
Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a nationally designated area and its stunning landscape makes for a great setting for walks, picnics and bike rides. Full of ancient woodland, chalk escarpments and rolling chalk grassland, its 380 square miles of countryside offer a great contrast to the city.
‘Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is the perfect place to explore a quintessential English countryside in southern central England. Enjoy this nationally protected landscape steeped in history, offering a wealth of wildlife, huge dark night skies, tranquillity and an extensive network of rights of way to explore. This deeply rural 380 square miles is heaven for those seeking relaxation.’
- Cranborne Chase AONB
9. Abbey House Gardens
Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury is a stunning example of the English countryside and makes for a fantastic attraction for those visiting the area. Though be sure to check their calendar – as you wouldn’t want to show up on their ‘Clothes Optional Days’ unaware!
“The WOW factor is here in abundance!”
- Alan Titchmarsh
‘Where the Cotswold meets the West Country, featured on many TV programmes this truly spectacular 5 acre garden beside the 12th century Abbey Church in the centre of Medieval Malmesbury and straddling the River Avon has brought praise from around the world.’
- Abbey House Gardens
10. Wilton House
Whether you choose to peruse the stunning art collection, let the kids run around the adventure playground or have a peaceful stroll through the grounds, Wilton House in Salisbury offers the perfect countryside day out. With its film and TV credits including Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, The Young Victoria, Blackadder and Antiques Roadshow, you might even get the chance to do a bit of celebrity spotting during your visit!
‘Wilton House has been the Earl of Pembroke’s ancestral home for over four and a half centuries. Rebuilt in the Palladian style in 1647 by Inigo Jones & John Webb, with further alterations made by James Wyatt in 1801, the chief architectural features are the 17th Century state apartments (Single and Double Cube Rooms) and the 19th Cloisters. The House contains one of the finest art collections in Europe and is set in magnificent landscaped parkland featuring the Palladian Bridge.’
- Wilton House
11. Wiltshire Museum
For things to do in Wiltshire it doesn’t get much better than the Wiltshire Museum as a way of finding out about the local area. Having won the 2014 Attraction of the Year Award from Wiltshire Life Magazine, its reputation surely precedes it. The Bush Barrow Chieftain display illustrated below is probably the most iconic item held in the museum and its collection of archaeological artefacts is among the finest in Britain.
Luckily there are some fantastic holiday cottages suitable for families and couples in the Wiltshire area, meaning that you can take a couple of trips to see the many great things to do in Wiltshire!
Image Credits: Aerosaurus Balloons, English Heritage, Lydiard Park - Jane Gifford, Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, Atwell-Wilson Motor Museum (flickr.com), Go Skydive, Aerosaurus Balloons, Wyvern Theatre and Swindon Arts Centre, Cranborne Chase AONB (flickr.com), Abbey House Gardens, Wilton House, Wiltshire Museum