Wiltshire Tourist Guide

Rich in History - Wiltshire

Rich in History is something Wiltshire is famous for, particularly Salisbury Plain, the large area of chalk downland within Wiltshire.

Salisbury Plain is steeped in history, both ancient and modern and can justifiably claim to be the cradle of English civilisation. In prehistory, tribes from Europe migrated north and settled on Salisbury Plain.

Remains of defence earthworks, burial and ceremonial grounds are scattered throughout Wiltshire. Many of these sites have public access. The most world renown is Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site, north of Salisbury and close to Amesbury. Also a World Heritage Site are the Avebury stone circles (both an outer and a smaller inner circle), not so famous as Stonehenge but equally impressive. Avebury is a few miles west of Marlborough in the north of Wiltshire.

From Overton Hill, near Avebury, the famous Ridgeway begins. This is thought to be Britain’s oldest road, used by prehistoric man, herdsmen and soldiers, and follows the northern escarpment of Salisbury Plain north-eastwards through the ancient landscapes of Wiltshire into the Chiltern Hills of Berkshire. The Ridgeway is 85miles (139km) in length, accessible to the public, and has National Trail status.

As well as the more ‘modern’ Roman Roads that criss-cross the Wiltshire countryside, Roman and Norman settlements continue very much in evidence, often developed on earlier Iron Age hill fort sites such as Old Sarum. This location was the original Salisbury site, a hill fort occupied by the Romans then latterly by Normans following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The exposed nature of the Old Sarum site and disagreements between the clergy and the military led to the building of the new Salisbury cathedral in 1220 A.D. to the south. The townspeople soon followed and medieval Salisbury grew to the city it is today. Old Sarum, rich in history, with its ruined fortifications is open to the public throughout the year.

The Middle Ages were a time of great prosperity for Wiltshire with sheep grazing the chalk downlands and the handwoven woollen cloth in great demand. Many famous buildings, villages and even towns were built from the proceeds. The Industrial Revolution changed everything as mechanical production took over and the weaving industry moved north into the West Riding of Yorkshire.

In more recent times much of Wiltshires rich prosperity has come from the many military establishments scattered over the Plain. Wiltshire airfields and army garrisons have trained and deployed troops and aircraft across the world on both fighting and peace-keeping operations and played pivotal roles in the great military campaigns of both World War I and II.



Rich in History