Whether you’re a cold weather lover or not, there’s a magical quality about wintertime in Wiltshire that you just can’t deny. Medieval villages shrouded in snow, tranquil countryside glittering with frost and crisp daytime walks perfectly punctuated by a country inn dinner by a roaring log fire. This is winter in Wiltshire… and we love it!
above: Lacock village by Karen Roe
As the evenings draw in and we start to feel the winter’s chill, it can be all too easy to retreat to our homes, pull the curtains and enter hibernation until the spring rolls around. But by doing this, you’ll be missing out on all the beauty, majesty and fun that’s around all through the chilly season. Here are some of our favourite things to do in Wiltshire during winter, which we hope will tempt you out of your cosy homes and into the glorious countryside of our county.
Christmas Festivals and Markets
The highlight of anyone’s winter calendar is, of course, Christmas. And Wiltshire does Christmas like no other! From the extensive festive market in Salisbury’s historic Guildhall Square to the festival and lantern parade in Devizes, there’s plenty of events to get you in the mood for Christmas this year.
The little ones can meet Santa at a variety of locations around the county, including Stourhead Gardens and at the courtyard of Fisherton Mill in Salisbury. If you want to give them a real treat, book them a seat on the Santa Express at the Swindon and Cricklade Railway, or on a Santa cruise on the Kenavon Venture.
There’s Christmas carols and services aplenty, and if you’re only going to one, make it in the majestic surroundings of Salisbury Cathedral. Wilton Shopping Village is getting in on the action too, with their first ever ice skating rink on the courtyard to entertain shoppers.
Longleat Festival of Lights
As part of the Christmas celebrations, Longleat House will be hosting Europe’s largest ever display of giant Chinese Lanterns. From pagodas to dragons, the estate will be lighting up to the tune of 30 acres of illuminations around the stunning Longleat house and its landscaped gardens. With some up to 20 metres in height, the festival of lights promises to be a spectacular event both during the day and at night. For more information visit Longleat Festival of Lights.
above: Longleat Safari Park
There’s lots more to do at Longleat too. From cruising on the Santa Express with the big man himself through to ice skating under the watchful eye of the house, visitors young and old can’t fail to be captivated by the glory of a winter at Longleat. With so much to do you’ll struggle to see it all in a day, but with plenty of accommodation near Longleat you could make a fun weekend of it!
Wonderful winter walks
Winter is one of the best times of the year to wrap up warm and go for a stomp in the glorious countryside of Wiltshire. With almost half of the county designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and more than 8,000 paths and trails to choose from, you’ll never get bored of exploring this stunning part of the south.
For history and incredible views, the Ridgeway walk is a pathway which has been used since prehistoric times, and one which takes in downland, woodland and secluded valleys. It leads intrepid explorers through the North Wessex Downs AONB and to the stone circle at Avebury, the largest one in the known world.
The new routes located at Nadder Valley at Cranborne Chase offers opportunities to discover pubs, tearooms and community shops on route. Another walk worth mentioning is along the tow path of the Kennet and Avon canal, which runs for an amazing 87 miles across the county and passes both Devizes and Bradford on Avon. Follow this link for more information on walks in Wiltshire.
above: Among the Footprints, Stourhead by Nicola Jones
Winter also brings the return of our four legged friends to the National Trust properties across the counties. A hugely popular choice is the stunning Lacock Abbey not far from Chippenham or the world-famous landscape garden at Stourhead, where dogs and their owners can enjoy the gorgeous grounds and gardens of these lovely properties.
So, as you can see, during the winter Wiltshire does anything but go into hibernation. We urge you to come out of your nest and to see what this magical season has to offer when you choose to visit the wonders of Wiltshire in winter.
Featured photograph: Salisbury Christmas Market by Anguskirk