A landlocked county, Wiltshire represents rural England at its very best, offering unsurpassed countryside - great swathes of rolling downland, country parks, forests and gardens. The landscape of the extreme north of Wiltshire is one of reflective solitude, peaceful water meadows interspersed with winding streams that lazily flow into the upper reaches of the River Thames. From medieval times to the Industrial Revolution north-west Wiltshire created wealth from the craft of weaving - many fine houses bedecked in rich cream-coloured Bath limestone recall this affluent period. Indeed, the special charm of this area today lies in the character of its towns and villages. Low-lying agricultural land, watered by the Lower Avon, provides a stretch of unspoilt rustic beauty as it feels its way southward from Malmsbury to Chippenham and Melksham, and eastward to Wootton Bassett.
Toward the western fringes, where Wiltshire rubs up against the county of Avon, the terrain alternates between high rising hillsides and steeply wooded valleys, which shelter the renowned beauty spots of Castle Cary and Bradford-upon-Avon. South of Swindon, Wiltshire's largest town, the scenery abruptly changes as the rolling Marlborough Downs, with their dramatic wooded heights, sweep southwards toward the Vale of Pewsey. The Downs offers a particularly attractive vista and provides fantastic walking country. Cutting across its crest is a prehistoric track known as the Ridge Way, while littered about its route are many ancient barrows and standing stones. Avebury stands very close to the old town of Marlborough and is regarded as one of the most important Bronze Age monuments in Europe, predating even Stonehenge.
Salisbury Plain is a vast expanse of undulating chalk downs that spreads southward from Pewsey and old Devizes, and is the keeper of those world famous prehistoric sites wreathed in mystery and legend Stonehenge, Woodhenge and Silbury Hill. The purpose of the latter still eludes archaeologists despite numerous excavations since 1776, while the explanations that surround Stonehenge are legion and its history is the most complex of any ancient monument in Europe. The numerous prehistoric sites on Salisbury Plain give evidence of civilised life in southern England more than 2000 years before the birth of Christ. Indeed, the barren wastes of both Salisbury Plain and Marlborough Downs were once the principal inhabited regions of southern England, and moreover a place of European importance. There is a rich heritage across the whole of Wiltshire where over 4500 ancient sites are scattered, some dating back as far as 4000BC. The period from the Bronze Age to the Roman occupation has bequeathed us tantalising relics that are always intriguing and often spectacular. Roughly 20 miles in length from east to west and 12 from north to south, the uplands of Salisbury Plain have changed little down the centuries. The stillness of the terrain seems always to hang heavy with the awesome presence of pre-history. The earthworks of Yambury Castle offer one of the best viewpoints across the Plain.
Ensconced at the meeting place of four rivers, nearby its predecessor Old Sarum, on the most southerly periphery of Salisbury Plain, is Wiltshire's radiant jewel, New Sarum or Salisbury. One of the most beautiful cathedral cities in Britain, the majestic cathedral spire is the graceful centrepiece of a unified city in which buildings of all styles blend harmoniously; here we are privileged to walk through centuries of living history displayed each day.
Dotted throughout the county are towns and villages where time appears to have stood still - tiny clusters of thatched or stone roofed weaver's cottages with old lock-ups on traditional village greens or old city gates still in use. Typical of these fascinating little market towns is Devizes, which received its charter in 1141 and Chippenham, the village of Cyppa the Saxon.