There’s outstanding countryside of international importance and a heritage that makes Britain great
Things To Do
Salisbury Cathedral, a magnificent specimen of Gothic architecture, has Britain’s tallest spire. Not for the faint-hearted is a tour, climbing 332 spiral steps, to the foot of the spire, offering stunning views across Wiltshire. Also on display is the best preserved of just four original 1215 Magna Carta copies, with 2015 marking the 800th anniversary of the document.
Wiltshire’s significant ‘other’ is Stonehenge. Visiting the Stones, through the new visitor centre that opened in December 2013, is now by timed ticket only so advance booking is the only way to guarantee entry on the day of your choice.
A caravan holiday in Somerset is not complete without a trip to Bath. Visit the Roman Baths and the Royal Crescent, discover Jane Austen’s haunts at the Assembly Rooms, enjoy sumptuous afternoon tea in the Pump Room and soak up the atmosphere in the Thermae Bath Spa.
Discover Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s engineering skills by crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge, where there is also a visitor centre, and visiting SS Great Britain, the world’s first iron ocean liner powered by steam, docked in the centre of Bristol. But remember that there’s a four-ton (about 3600kg) weight limit on the bridge. If the combined weight of your tow car and caravan is under that, you can cross for the standard charge – if over, you’ll have to enjoy it without your caravan or on foot.
Walk sections or all of the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile National Trail that runs between Chipping Campden in north Gloucestershire and Bath, taking in some of the best views of the Cotswolds and the Vale of Berkeley below.
When To Visit
Wiltshire’s proposals include the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) Festival, which takes place in Malmesbury in July but, for a real treat, the Iford Arts Music Festival takes place in a fabulous theatrical setting within a gorgeous private garden just outside Bradford-on-Avon. For lovers of steam, head to the Swindon Railway Festival in September. And don’t forget that Stonehenge gets rather busy around the Summer Solstice.
Of course we all know of Somerset’s June offering in the form of Glastonbury, the world’s largest green-field music and performing arts festival. But did you know that Somerset goes to town during November with a major series of Guy Fawkes Carnivals across the county?
Also in Somerset is the Royal Bath and West Show during May, and the Sand Sculpture Festival in Weston-super-Mare throughout the summer. And during winter, look out across the Somerset Levels for one of the most amazing natural phenomenon, the starling murmurations. This area is one of the best places in Britain to see these birds swirl together in a huge ball.
The Cotswolds has many quirky events to attract visitors – try the annual Cheese-Rolling event at Cooper’s Hill in May (broken bones a distinct possibility), Football in the River in Bourton-on-the-Water in August or the Bibury Duck Race every Boxing Day.
And what about the cities? August welcomes the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Europe’s largest balloon event with over 150 hot air balloons taking to the skies. September announces the Jane Austen Festival – dig out your bonnets, empire dresses and top hats, and visit Bath.
Caravanners will have no problems getting to any of the areas in the south west. The M4 junctions 14 to 18 serve Wiltshire well, with good, wide and relatively straight A-roads crossing the county. The A346/A338 and the A350 run north to south at either edge of Wiltshire, the latter filled with roundabouts every few miles, but with plenty of stopping-off points if required.
Somerset and Gloucestershire can be accessed by both the M4 and M5, with the occasional congested spot where the two motorways converge at Filton, just outside Bristol. From the east, the A303 crosses through Wiltshire into Somerset, the road’s reputation as being both beautiful yet frustratingly slow at times completely true!
Watch out on the A39 Bridgewater to Minehead/Porlock road. It’s twisty and narrow in places, though it’s beauty west of Minehead, through Exmoor National Park, provides one of Somerset’s best views.
Gloucestershire’s Forest of Dean can be accessed either via the M4 and a very pretty but windy route following the River Wye, or via Gloucester and the A40/A48.
Bristol is well served with the M5 and M4 acting as part of a ring road and the M32 spur taking you to the city centre off the M4. There are centrally located campsites – the Caravan Club runs a site in the dockland area, close to SS Great Britain, with a cycle path direct to the city centre. There’s a toll on the Clifton Suspension Bridge – it’s only a few pence, but they won’t accept 5p or copper coins.