Bath is in a wonderfully central position in the Southwest, laying at the foot of the Cotswolds and at the gate to the Mendips. There are fascinating prehistoric and heritage sites fanning out in all directions - most in less than an hours drive. Here are some of the highlights:
To the South West:
Information about Stonehenge at English Heritage's website
Yes it looks exactly like the Stonehenge you have seen in pictures! But it is the real thing! Thousands and thousands of years old and no one really knows what its true purpose was or who built it. Exceedingly interesting audio guides and fine gift shop as well as outside tea shop serving yummy and comforting "rock cakes". There are many tours that include Stonehenge you will find in our Tours around Bath section.
Salisbury Cathedral website
Further information on Salisbury Cathedral
On the route that will lead you to Stonehenge is the city of Salisbury, renowned for its amazing Medieval Cathedral, which is unique in Britain. Built entirely in the 13th century, between 1220 and 1256, its unity of vision is remarkable. Its beauty has inspired generations of artists, including Constable, to capture with paintbrush or camera, its famous spire, the tallest spire in England (at 404 feet), rising above the Salisbury meadows and the River Avon.
Information about Old Sarum at English Heritage's website
Just a few miles from the cathedral city of Salisbury lies Old Sarum, the original site of Salisbury. This is a massive Iron Age hill fort which was reused succeeding conquerors, including the Romans, the Saxons and the Normans, flourishing in medieval England. This dramatic site at Old Sarum contains the ruins of a castle, a Cathedral and Bishop's Palace. The Iron Age ramparts give fine views of the surrounding landscape.
Website with more information on Stourhead Gardens
Stourhead is acclaimed as one of Brittains most picturesque gardens. The garden was designed in 1741 and enhanced by new species of trees from America in the 1790s. It surrounds a peaceful lake in the middle of a 2,650 acre estate, and has many classical architectural features dotted about in strategic spots around the shores. It is a picture perfect example of landscape gardening and a fine day our in the gorgeous English countryside.
Website for Longleat House and Safari Park
This amazing home of our own Marquis of Bath is about half way between Bath and Stonehenge and makes another full days outing. It is an amazing home - more like an Elizabethan Castle than a house, and it is set alongside a lake in glorious parkland. The principal contribution to the grounds was made by the 3rd Viscount of Weymouth (1734-1796) who employed ‘Capability’ Brown to create the park as it is seen today.
Oh, and it also is home to a fantastic Wild Animal Park! In 1966, Longleat
caused a revolution in the world of zoological collections by becoming the
first location outside of Africa to open a drive through Safari Park.
Despite the understandable initial concerns of locals with regard to the introduction of lions to Wiltshire, the Safari Park concept has been a great success and Longleat’s ground-breaking innovation has been repeated at wildlife collections all over the world.
To the West:
Avebury Stone Circles:
Avebury Village website
The view of the Village surrounded by the ancient Stones
Lacock village website
This National Trust Village is a real Living Museum! Lacock is a well-preserved medieval village under the protection of the National Trust. Many movies are filmed here as it is a perfect period village setting, once you remove the automobiles. The ancient Lacock Abbey also has been used in the Harry Potter movies.
To the North:
Castle Combe and the Cotswolds:
Castle Combe and Costwolds Tourist Information website
The unbelievably pristine village of Castle Combe. Just 20 minutes from Bath!
The Cotswolds are centred on the gentle slopes of the Cotswolds Hills and are officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the largest in England and Wales, and made up from parts of 6 English Counties.
The region is famous for its ancient mellow 'honey' coloured limestone villages that blend perfectly into the countryside and its bustling market towns. Many have scarcely altered since they grew up on the prosperity of the medieval wool trade in the 15th and 16th centuries and subsequently forgotten about for more then 300 years. This sequence of events now makes the Cotswolds region one of the most treasured, toured and vacationed in England and the UK for nowhere else will you see such timeless uniqueness and heart warming preservation on such a scale.
To the East:
'About Bristol' website
Bristol is the largest city in the south west of England. It lies between the counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire. However, Bristol is historically a county in its own right and is properly entitled the City and County of Bristol. It has an esteemed University and has a lively student population and a thriving business community. Bristol suffered severe bombing in World War II and contains a wide variety of architecture, from Medieval and Elizabethan, to Georgian and Victorian, to giant boxes and baby skyscrapers and the curious new architecture of modern redevelopment, happening right now.
The Wye Valley:
Wye Valley website
In only 45 minutes from Bath, you can be in another land - the wild country of Wales. Just over the bridge and you will be in the Wye Valley and the Vale of Usk, a beautiful and varied region where Wales and England meet. Leading to the market towns of Abergavenny and Monmouth, the river Wye winds through a dramatic and verdant landscape, carving its way to the Black Mountains. This is definitely an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Tinturn Abbey website
When it became fashionable to visit wilder parts of the country in the late 18th century, the Wye valley became renowned for its picturesque qualities, and Tintern Abbey, then swathed in ivy, was rediscovered and visited by many famous seekers after the romantic and picturesque, including the painter J M W Turner and poet William Wordsworth. Since the early 20th century every effort has been made to keep standing one of the finest and most complete ruined abbey churches in Wales.
Chepstow Castle website
The castle is a magnificent and enormous ruin. Chepstow is the oldest Stone Castle in Great Britain, dating back to William the conqueror and scarcely a castle in Britain can illustrate the developing story of fortification better than Chepstow. There is much to see here, and to clamber and climb on as well as viewing. Chepstow is a huge, complex and grandiosely sited castle and deserves a lengthy visit.
To the South West:
Wells Cathedral website
Visible from miles around, Wells Cathedral is a reminder of the prestige and power of the Mediaeval church and is probably the most complete mediaeval complex surviving in Britain today. The other remaining buildings, from the Bishop's Palace to the Vicar's Close contribute to the ambience of the place and you can easily spend hours exploring all these medieval structures.
The Isle of Avalon website
Glastonbury is probably best known for the enormous music festival that takes place near by. However, Glastonbury is a town cloaked in myth and legend and it attracts seekers of King Arthur's Isle of Avalon, for his bones are said to be buried here together with those of Guinevere, said to be the Abbess of Glastonbury. With the ruined abbey dating from the 12th century, the town is certainly old, but whether there is any truth to the legends remains to be seen. The ancient village is a unique blending of many cultures, from farmer to Druid, from Hippie to new age seeker and to just plain Somerset villager. Everyone is welcome to explore the ruins and climb the Tor or experience the peace of Chalice Wells.
Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole:
Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole website
The Cheddar Gorge in Somerset is a must-see for any enthusiast of things prehistoric. The area is known for its outstanding natural beauty, walking and climbing opportunities and its variety of cheese, but it is a vast history of continuous habitation that draws the history lover. The various caves within the Gorge have been home to Cheddar's inhabitants, prehistoric and otherwise, until the end of the 19th century, since at least 11,000 B.C.E (Before Current Era, i.e., Before Christ) and probably long before, as the finding of a 100,000 year old flint axe within the nearby village can attest.
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