Date Posted: 05/02/2015
Discover why you should head south-west this summer to experience the county’s unique charm.
A county renowned for its gently rolling hills, wide valleys, ancient forests and Roman roads, Wiltshire has more to offer its visitors than just the Neolithic sites of Stonehenge and Averbury.
Spires and sightseeing at Salisbury
The Medieval city of Salisbury, voted among the top 10 cities in the world by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, has a great deal to offer at any time of year, with its shops, galleries and restaurants calmly juxtaposed alongside the city’s ancient alleyways and traditional taverns.
But for March this year the city will be transformed by its celebrations for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
In addition to a trail of locally-sponsored and designed statues running through the city’s cobbled streets, Salisbury’s Medieval cathedral will also host four of the finest preserved original documents of 1215 Magna Carta in a special exhibition.
A series of Magna-Carta-themed activities and events will continue to run throughout the year, including a Magna Carta gala in July and Magna Flora Flower festival in September.
Salisbury will also see extensive refurbishments to its 15th century Old Mill Hotel, and welcome the opening of The Stones Hotel later this year. This barn conversion is situated on the city’s outskirts.
The market town of Warminster is perhaps best known for its independent shops, restaurants, cafés, historic attractions and nature trails - but it is also said to be the UFO capital of England.
With the local and unofficial ‘observatory’ sites of Cradle Hill and Cley Hill, the town has served for almost 50 years as a meeting place for UFO spotters.
Talk of unexplainable lights in the night sky, flying objects and unidentifiable oddities have led to the creation of a UFO-themed treasure trail.
These popular self-guided trails take visitors on a clue-solving mystery tour around local villages and towns, with the new addition ‘Warminster Alien Portal Destruction’ offering homage to the 50th anniversary of the Warminster Thing – a series of unexplained sightings dating back to 1965-1977.
Sci-fi events in and around Warminster this year include a sci-fi family fun day on 25th April in Corsham and the Warminster 2015 UFO conference on 29th August.
Earn your wings
Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Wiltshire will pay homage to its history of Spitfire production from 14th to 20th September with Salisbury Wings Week.
In a week of commemorative and educational events, visitors will learn more of Salisbury’s history, heritage and role in the creation of one of Britain’s most iconic airships.
Wiltshire will also host a new military visitor attraction, museum and exhibition centre by the Royal Artillery Museum, to be opened in spring 2019. The interactive attraction will offer vast military collections, and be situated upon Salisbury Plain.
Hosting an array of Michelin starred restaurants, Wiltshire offers visitors award-winning cuisine, with opportunities to taste or try fine cooking for themselves.
The quintessential pub The Red Lion Freehouse, in East Chisenbury, is renowned for offering far more than standard ‘pub-grub’ with their fine food.
Meanwhile, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, near Marlborough, has been recognised for its award winning Michelin starred food for over nine years.
There is also the option to take the taste of Wiltshire away with you, with a more hands on experience.
Wiltshire plays hosts to a number of cookery schools that offer weekend cookery courses, with Vaughan's Kitchen Cookery School in Devizes teaching proficiency in everything from Mexican street food to masterclasses in great British food.
There is also Lucknam Park Hotel Cookery School in Colerne, which boasts state of the art facilities and is run by award winning chef Hrishikesh Desai.
‘That’ time of year
It’s never too early to think about Christmas, and with Salisbury’s Christmas market rated by the Daily Telegraph as one of the top five Christmas markets in the UK, there is no reason not to plan ahead.
Not only is the fairy-lit market pleasing to the eye, but its fine exhibitors, sourcing primarily British-made goods, will offer all manner of crafts and produce that will be pleasing under the tree as well.
If shopping is your forte but you want to move away from the beaten-track, Wiltshire has a string of market towns and Medieval hamlets all offering independent stores and unique wares.
Fairfax Antiques near Chippenham is set within the picturesque grounds of a working farm, while Salisbury’s Fisherton Mill will celebrate its 21st anniversary with a series of special exhibitions and events.
Festivals and theatre
Wiltshire presents a selection of festivals over the year, showcasing art, literature, theatre, music and comedy.
Running from 22nd May to 6th June, the Agaes Salisbury International Arts Festival will return this year with a new theme: celebrating the arts and culture of the Middle East.
A new production, Israel in Egypt, will be performed by one of the UK’s leading Baroque ensembles La Nuova Musica, and will feature a compelling musical score on the Arabic lute or oud by the Palestinian brothers Trio Joubran.
Other festival highlights will include a new routine by Circa, Australia’s leading Circus Company and a performance of Shakespeare’s King John, brought to life in Salisbury’s atmospheric Medieval cathedral.
For more information on Wiltshire and its upcoming events visit www.visitwiltshire.co.uk.