Erected over 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge is one of the wonders of the world, as it continues to amaze and inspire its thousands of visitors, even today. Located in an open grassland plain in Salisbury, Wiltshire (approximately an hour drive away from Pulteney House), the prehistoric monument is one of Britain’s great archaeological mysteries.
Over the years, Stonehenge has been subject to countless theories regarding the site’s purposes. Some believe that the circle and its banks were part of a huge astronomical calendar; while others have speculated that the stones were erected by the Devil, which is where the “Giant’s Dance” name originates from.
In truth, no one knows for sure what drove prehistoric Britons to spend so much time and effort on its construction. However, one thing is for certain; Stonehenge has withstood the test of times and, no matter what your beliefs, there is something particularly sacred about it. What we do know is that the building of Stonehenge began in approximately 3000 BC, when the outer circular bank and ditch were erected.
An inner circle of granite stones (known as bluestones) were added a thousand years later. It is thought that these 4-tonne blocks were hauled from the Preseli Mountains in South Wales, located 250 miles away – an almost incomprehensible feat for Stone Age builders equipped with only the most basic of tool. Around 1500 BC, the main stones were dragged to the site, where they were erected in a circle and crowned by huge lintels to make the trilithons (two vertical stones topped by a horizontal one) – an iconic structure that is still standing in all its glory.
Nowadays, Stonehenge has a transformed visitor experience, which includes a world-class visitor centre housing museum-quality exhibitions, as well as five Neolithic Houses, a shop and a cafe. For further information about Stonehenge, visit the English Heritage website. (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/)
Situated in Wiltshire, Longleat is best known for its Elizabethan country house, hedge maze and safari & adventure park.
Longleat Country House
Widely regarded as one of the best examples of high Elizabethan architecture in Britain, Longleat Country House is one of the most beautiful stately home opens to the public. Set within 900 acres of stunning parkland, construction of the Longleat Country House was completed in 1580 and is now home to the 7th Marquess of Bath.
The extensive tour of the Longleat Country House visits rooms including the Elizabethan Great Hall, the Red Library, the Breakfast Room and the Banqueting suite. To arrange a tour, book online through the Longleat website. (http://www.longleat.co.uk/explore/longleat-house)
Longleat Hedge Maze
Situated in the historic grounds of the stately home, Longleat Hedge Maze is the longest hedge maze in the world. The maze is constructed of more than 16,000 English yews, covering 1.48 acres and 1.69 miles of pathway, and takes anywhere between 20 to 90 minutes to find your way to the middle.
The full-scale maze has several dead ends and multiple paths punctuated by six raised bridges, all of which surround a central tower. You can find out more about the Longleat Hedge Maze by visiting the Longleat website. (http://www.longleat.co.uk/explore/adventure-park/hedge-maze)
Longleat Safari & Adventure Park
Longleat Safari & Adventure Park first opened its gates to the public in April 1966 – the first of its kind outside of Africa. The safari and adventure park, which is home to BBC’s “Animal Park” and CBBC’s “Roar”, contains over 20 attractions, including Penguin Island, Stingray Bay, The Jungle Cruise and Monkey Temple.
Discounts are available for group bookings. Please note that some animals in the Safari Park may not be available if the weather is inclement in the “shoulder months” (at the beginning of the season). Further information about Longleat Safari & Adventure Park can be found here. (http://www.longleat.co.uk/)
Famous for its quaint streets and historic buildings, Lacock is a National Trust village set in rural Wiltshire – approximately half an hour from Pulteney House. Located at the heart of the village is Lacock Abbey – a quirky country house that features various architectural styles built upon the foundations of a former nunnery. Originally founded in 1232, the abbey contains fine medieval cloisters, sacristies, a chapter house and monastic rooms, all of which have remained largely intact over the years.
Lacock Abbey’s cloisters were transformed into the classrooms at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry during filming for the “Harry Potter” film series. The location was also used for Harry’s discovery of the Mirror of Erised.
Lacock is also home to the Fox Talbot Museum, which celebrates the achievements of former Lacock resident, William Henry Fox Talbot, who is best known for his contributions to the invention of photography.
For over a century, Castle Combe has been a charming location for visitors to enjoy the picturesque surroundings.
Described as “the prettiest village in England”, Castle Combe has an extensive history. The village began as a British hill fort, which became occupied by the Romans due to its proximity to The Fosse Way. The site was then taken over by the Normans, who built the fort up into a castle.
In the Middle Ages, Castle Combe became an important centre for the wool industry, with spinsters and weavers living in the cottages. The river (known as “By Brook”) provided the power to run the mills.
Castle Combe is also home to the Castle Combe Clock, one of the very few English medieval clocks still in use. This can be found in St. Andrew’s Church.
Over the years, Castle Combe has proved a popular filming location, having featured in a range of films including “Doctor Doolittle” (1967), “Pride and Prejudice (1995), “War Horse” (2011), “Stardust” (2007) and “The Wolf Man” (2010). The village is also a conservation area for wildlife.
Situated in Somerset, Glastonbury is a small town with a lot of history.
Since ancient times, the Glastonbury Tor, a 525 foot high peak, has been a place of Christian pilgrimage, with St. Michael’s Church tower being the last of the remains of the 14th century church. The Tor offers spectacular views across three counties.
Glastonbury is also home to one of England’s earliest abbeys. Glastonbury Abbey was first built in the 7th century by the Saxons. Since then, it has withstood the test of time, as well as fire damage.
The Somerset Rural Life Museum is housed in buildings surrounding a 14th-century barn which one belonged to Glastonbury Abbey. The museum, which was first established in the 1970s, tells the story of Victorian domestic life. The ground where the museum is located contains a traditional cider apple orchard which is home to rare breeds of sheep and chickens.
Glastonbury has also been recognised for its floral displays, as part of the South West in Bloom and Mendip in Bloom competitions.
Situated half an hour away from Pulteney House, Well is a city in the southern slopes of the Mendip Hills, which combines a wealth of historical interest with beautiful architecture.
The city, which is the smallest in England, gets its name from the springs found in the gardens of the Bishop’s Palace –which is home to the bishops of Bath and Wells. The medieval palace is surrounded by a spectacular moat, which can be crossed using the flagstone drawbridge, as well as 14 acres of beautiful gardens.
Built between 1175 and 1490, Wells Cathedral has been described as one of the most poetic of the English cathedrals thanks to its stunning inverted arches that support the central tower. The cathedral also has one of the largest collections of historic stained glass in the country.
Situated in the Mendip Hills, Cheddar Gorge is Britain’s biggest gorge.
Cheddar Gorge has dramatic cliffs rising as high as 450 feet tall. The gorge reveals the fascinating stories of our prehistoric caveman ancestors.
Also located on the Cheddar Gorge site are the following attractions:
Adventure Caving – a real caving expedition inside the Mendip Hills with climbing, crawling and squeezing.
Cliff Top Gorge Walk – a three mile walk along stunning cliff tops.
Cox’s Cave – a beautifully coloured crystalline grotto with calcite sculptures, dancing fountains and mirror pools.
Gough’s Cave – Britain’s most impressive stalactite cavern.
Rock Climbing – See how quickly you can progress up the 50 foot cliff face in the centre for climbers.
The Crystal Quest – a fantasy adventure of heroes and demons.
The Lookout Tower – climb the 322 steps to the top of the tower to witness some spectacular views.
For further information about Cheddar Gorge and its attractions, click here. (http://www.cheddargorge.co.uk/)
Wookey Hole Caves
Located two miles from the city of Wells, Wookey Hole Caves is a series of spectacular limestone caverns, which can be fully explored as part of the 35-minute long cave tour. The Wookey Hole Caves also allows visitors to explore the prehistoric valley – home of the dinosaurs and King Kong – as well as the magic fairy garden, where the infamous Witch of Wookey lives.
The site is also home to the 19th Century Paper Mill, where you can see paper being made in Britain’s only surviving handmade paper mill. Other attractions include:
Corridor of Crazy Mirrors
Magical Mirror Maze
New Wizards Play Castle
Pirate Zap Zone
Victorian Penny Arcade
Wizard’s Castle Play Area
To find out more about Wookey Hole Caves and the attractions, visit the Wookey website. (http://www.wookey.co.uk/)
The Cotswolds is famous for its hundreds of buildings made from honey-colour limestone, which has been used for everything from the stone floors in the houses to the tiles on the roof.
The Great Cotswold Outdoors
Enjoy the great Cotswold outdoors with a range of walking and cycling routes. The routes are based in local towns and villages including Bourton on the Water, Burford Snowshill, Stanway and Chipping Campden.
During the winter months, the Cotswolds offers crisp walks, carpets of snowdrops, roaring log fires, cosy pubs and delicious dining. For further information about the routes, click here. (http://cotswolds.com/the-great-cotswold-outdoors/cotswolds-walking-weekends)
The Cotswold Way – National Trail
The Cotswold Way – National Trail runs along the length of the Cotswolds. At 102 miles long, the trail, which provides stunning views all year round, begins at Chipping Campden and finishes at the front of Bath Abbey. A number of circular walks are also available.
The trail winds through picturesque villages including Snowshill, Cranham and Painswick and also passes close to significant historic sites such as the Roman Heritage at Bath, the Neolithic burial chamber at Belas Knap, Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey and more.
Further details about the Cotswold Way – National Trail can be found on the official Cotswolds website. (http://cotswolds.com/the-great-cotswold-outdoors/the-cotswold-way)
Secret Cottage Tour
This six hour tour goes to hidden villages in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire that are inaccessible by public transport. The tour guide, Becky, has chosen carefully selected these unspoilt villages for their thatched cottages, clipped lawns and dusty lanes, which perfectly depict what life was like in the 16th century.
As part of the tour, guests are invited into the Secret Cottage for morning coffee and pastries, a buffet lunch and a traditional cream tea served with freshly baked scones from the Aga. To find out more about the Secret Cottage, visit the Cotswolds Tourism Tours website. (http://www.cotswoldtourismtours.co.uk/)
Pulteney House is situated a short drive away from South Wales, which is home to numerous tourist attractions.
Afan Forest Park
Set in 3,250 hectares of conifer forest, Afan Forest Park is the ideal location for walking, mountain biking, orienteering and horse riding. In the heart of the forest park is a centre where you can enjoy a meal and visit the gift shop.
Big Pit: National Coal Museum
Opened in 1983, the Big Pit: National Coal Museum in South Wales features an hour-long underground tour led by ex-miners, which takes visitors down into the pit to walk through the coalmine built by generations of mineworkers.
Built by Earl Gilbert de Clare, Caerphilly Castle is one of the greatest surviving medieval castles in the Western world. The castle, which features in the BBC television series “Merlin”, has an impressive moat and leaning tower. Interactive tours are available.
Cosmeston Lakes Country Park
The Cosmeston Lakes Country Park in South Wales covers over 100 hectares of land and water, incorporating a variety of habitats. The park is a haven for local wildlife, including large flocks of waterfowl.
Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Located in the historical town of Merthyr Tydfil, Cyfarthfa Castle has established itself as the iron capital of the world thanks to its huge ironworks complexes. The castle is surrounded by 160 acres of parkland, which contains formal gardens, a lake, children’s play area and a model railway.
Originally built in 1895, Dewstow Gardens was buried just after World War II and rediscovered in 2000. The garden contains many ponds and rills, as well as a labyrinth of underground grottoes, tunnels and sunken ferneries.
Situated in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan countryside, Dyffryn Gardens is an exceptional example of Edwardian garden design. Across its 55 acres, the grade 1 registered garden features a stunning collection of intimate garden rooms, formal lawns, season bedding and more.
For more activities and tourist attractions in South Wales, click here. (http://www.visitwales.com/explore/south-wales)
Located above the village of Batheaston in Somerset, Solsbury Hill is a small, flat-topped hill, which offers the perfect vantage point for spectacular views over Bath and the surrounding countryside.
Situated on top of Solsbury Hill is the site of an Iron Age hill fort, which was occupied between 300BC and 100BC. The remains of the fort (now owned by the National Trust) are still evident today. It is strongly suggested by Geoffrey of Monmouth that Solsbury Hill was the site of King Arthur’s victory in the Battle of Badon (circa 500).
The hill’s limestone slopes are home to a variety of specialist plants, some of which are rare species. These include bird’s foot trefoil, vetches, greater knapweed, harebells and yarrow.
The flower-rich habitats attract a range of insects such as the six-spotted burnet moth, hummingbird hawk-moth and a large number of butterflies. Other animals that have been spotted in the area include roe deer, badger and red fox.
In pop culture, Solsbury Hill was the basis of a song produced by singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel, who had a spiritual experience on top of the hill.