It’s no secret that Wiltshire is positively packed to the rafters with history – from the pre-historic Stonehenge to a famous Civil War battleground and a litany of stately homes that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Downton Abbey, there’s enough material here to keep even the biggest history buffs entertained for weeks. With its miles of scenic countryside, brimming with all the old-world charm you’d expect from a county that’s home to one of the UK’s oldest settlements, Wiltshire boasts a line-up of walks worthy of their own place in the history books. Here are some of our favourites:
The Stonehenge landscape
Perhaps the most famous of all of Wiltshire’s attractions, Stonehenge has been drawing in visitors for thousands of years to marvel at its mysterious circular rock formation. While there are plenty of snap-happy patrons parking up and taking pictures from their cars, this ancient landmark is actually best seen on foot. Skip the crowds and look beyond the touristy exterior by taking to one of a handful of easy-to-follow trails. Head to the English Heritage Visitor Centre to pick up a map and start the 3.5 mile Stonehenge Landscape loop in your own time, taking in the beauty of this Neolithic World Heritage Site as you wander past restored chalk grassland, Bronze Age burial mounds and, if you’re lucky, some incredible wildlife too.
The Coombes walk
A stone’s throw from Swindon in the tiny village of Hinton Parva sits The Coombes Valley, a stunning stretch of countryside boasting one of the area’s best walking routes. With sloping grassland at either side, wildflowers blooming in every direction and easy-to-navigate terrain along the way, this walk is a breeze for all abilities. The short one-mile loop, taking around 30 minutes, makes for an ideal morning stroll whatever the weather. After working up an appetite, potter back to the village and straight into a cafe for a well-earned cup of tea.
The Battle of Roundway Down was fought in the first English Civil War back in 1643, and to this day, the infamous battlefield has retained all of the allure you’d expect from such a historic event. Today, you won’t see any Royalist cavalry, but visitors can take in large areas of the archaeological site on Roundway Hill, via a seven-mile trail starting in the market town of Devizes. From here, follow the Wessex Ridgeway for around two miles before joining the circular trail that takes you past stretches of the picturesque Kennet and Avon canal and the iron-age landmark Oliver’s castle. If the weather’s playing ball, take a detour through Roundway Hill Covert, a 68-acre area of woodland dotted with ash trees and grassy knolls perfect for picnicking.
Cherhill downland walk
If you’re looking for some of the best views in the entire county, Cherhill download walk is the trail for you. This three-mile hike begins on the edge of the village of Cherhill and follows the path up to Bronze-Age Lansdowne Monument, with views stretching right across the valley from the hill’s summit. From here, continue on your journey past acres of chalk grassland until you reach the ramparts of Oldbury Castle hill fort, an Iron Age icon with a trademark earthwork entrance. Pause for a well-earned water or snack break before making your way back to town along the tree-lined downhill bridleway.
The hilltop market town of Malmesbury is reminiscent of a bygone era, with its chocolate-box houses, gothic-style 12th-century abbey and postcard-worthy Abbey House and Gardens, said to be the burial ground of the first King of England. Soak up your iconic surroundings along with a healthy dose of nature via The Malemsbury River Trail. Kick-start your stroll in the town centre, meandering out to the riverside path where you’ll continue along the River Avon for around three miles as you wind your way along the waterway, passing everything from a silk mill and an old courthouse to a disused railway as you go. With so many sights to take in, this walk is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, exploring a hidden slice of the English countryside.