One of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has continued to enrapture people over time. You can stroll around the stone circle and admire the great columns. Don’t forget to check out the exhibition at the visitor centre, showcasing over 250 archaeological objects including jewellery, pottery and even human remains. On the site you’ll also find several Neolithic houses which have been recreated and furnished with artefacts like axes and pottery. They’re based on the remains of houses which were excavated here, giving you a glimpse of what a typical home looked like when Stonehenge was built. Talk to one of the friendly volunteer guides to find out more about what life was like four and a half thousand years ago. They’ll also demonstrate what common daily activities were like, including grinding grain and making rope out of rushes.
Stourhead is an estate covering 1,072 hectares and includes a Palladian mansion, landscape gardens, farmland and woodland. It’s one of the best examples of gardens inspired by famous landscape painters from the 17th century. The lake is central to the garden, and is surrounded by classical temples, charming grottos and exotic trees. There are different walks that you can take to explore the estate, including the King Alfred’s Tower walk, Park Hill Camp walk and the Whitesheet Hill walk. Visit the house and discover the history of the Hoare family who lived here for over 200 years. Check out the unique Regency library and the vast collection of Chippendale furniture and paintings.
Head to the medieval city of Salisbury and visit the famous cathedral. Salisbury Cathedral has over 800 years of history to explore. On a visit to the cathedral, you can see intricately carved monuments and tombs, art exhibitions and the world’s oldest working mechanical clock. The cathedral is also home to Britain’s tallest spire and largest cathedral close and cloisters. Salisbury Cathedral has the best preserved of four surviving Magna Cartas, displayed in an interactive exhibition. Guides are on hand to help you understand more about the document and its significance to the world. A must-do is a Tower Tour, where you can climb 332 steps to explore the ancient roof spaces and admire views over Salisbury and surrounding countryside.
Museum of the Great Western Railway
For train enthusiasts, a trip to the Museum of Great Western Railway is one of the most exciting May bank holiday events in Wiltshire. Housed in a restored Grade II listed railway building in the centre of Swindon railway works, the STEAM museum tells the story of the people who worked and travelled on the Great Western Railway. The museum has a collection of over 40,000 objects, including locomotives and rolling stock, photographs and archives, and fine art and textiles. Have a go at being a signalman in the GWR interactive signal box and drive the steam train simulator.
Old Sarum is the earliest settlement of Salisbury. This Iron Age hill fort is where the original cathedral once stood, where the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark. Explore the ruins of what was once a bustling medieval castle, built in 1070 by William the Conqueror. You can also stand in the foundations of the original Salisbury Cathedral, which was badly damaged by a thunderstorm just five days after its consecration in 1092. Many of the building’s stones were used in the new Salisbury Cathedral as we know it today. Bring a picnic and enjoy the 29 acres of rare chalk grassland and extensive views across the Wiltshire countryside.
Cotswold Water Park
Lying on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border, the Cotswold Water Park has 140 lakes and tranquil wetlands covering 40 square miles. Whatever your favourite outdoor activities are, you’re bound to find them here – water sports, cycling, fishing, riding, camping, caravanning, walking and wildlife watching. The main attraction is the Country Park and Beach, the largest inland beach in the UK. There are tons of exciting adventure attractions to choose from, including the popular Aquaventure inflatable course. The Cotswold Water Park has excellent facilities, including various watersports schools, cycle hires, a sculpture park, picnic sites and pubs, restaurants and cafes. If you fancy exploring the local area, there are thirteen villages and market towns around the water park, and each has something different to offer.