With Spring just around the corner and summer's inevitable hordes of tourists still a few months off, now's a great time for a British countryside weekend escape. For those looking to take in some wonderful local art, food, heritage, history and culture — all within a couple of hour's drive of London — Wiltshire provides a delightful short break destination.
Although there's a multitude of cosy and comfortable hotel and bed and breakfast options available, a family cottage holiday in Wiltshire can offer the holidaymaker a real slice of country life.
Many visitors to Wiltshire choose to base themselves in the medieval 'city in the countryside', Salisbury and with good reason. Apart from providing the perfect base for exploring the nearby must-visit attractions of the Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles, Salisbury has a fine selection of dining choices ranging from Spanish Tapas and Italian through to Thai, Mexican and Japanese options.
If you're looking for some seriously good pub grub or a traditional English Sunday Carvery (complete with roast potatoes and Yorkshire pud') you could do a lot worse than making tracks for The Cloisters — centrally located, only two minutes walk from the Cathedral at 83 Catherine Street. Housed in a Grade II listed building, dating back to roughly 1350 AD, The Cloisters is also a great place to grab a pint of the good stuff, take in the atmosphere and relax by an open fire after a long day of sightseeing.
At Salisbury's heart is her magnificent Gothic cathedral. Topped by the tallest spire in England and home to the best preserved of the four original Magna Carta manuscripts dating from 1215 A.D., Salisbury Cathedral has been wowing visitors for centuries. Those with a head for heights and the legs to get you there (there's 332 steps to be climbed) can take the 'Tower Tour' where the interior of the Cathedral's hollow spire, with its ancient wood scaffolding, can be viewed up close.
Strolling the streets of Salisbury is like stepping back in time as you take in her medieval and timbered Tudor townhouses, Georgian mansions and Victorian villas. There's plenty of green spaces too, where you can lay out a blanket and partake in a picnic, so make sure you pack the hamper.
About eight miles north of Salisbury and probably the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe, Stonehenge is without doubt Wiltshire's biggest drawcard. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the ancient landscape with its enthralling stone circles and take in the fascinating exhibition where you can discover the story of Stonehenge. Learn about the stones, the landscape and the people, through a combination of cutting-edge audio-visual experiences and over 250 archaeological objects, ranging from jewellery, pottery and tools to ancient human remains.
For those looking for a little more of an adrenaline rush, head to Castle Combe Circuit in the north west of Wiltshire where you can don the helmet and take to the track with the Castle Combe Racing School. After receiving tuition from qualified, race experienced instructors, you can put the pedal to the metal and burn rubber on a real race circuit.
For a family holiday destination a short drive from London, Wiltshire is sure to surprise and provide memories that will last a lifetime.