Leave Bath heading towards Chippenham along the A4. Here you have the option of visiting either Castle Combe or Lacock or both. Both locations are famous as movie locations, Castle Combe for Doctor Doolittle with Rex Harrison and Lacock more recently for Harry Potter. Castle Combe has a unique setting. Nestling in the valley cut by the ByBrook stream, and with wooded hills on all sides, the village of Castle Combe has retained a charm unique to itself. The village is in Wiltshire at the southern edge of the Cotswolds is conveniently located for Bath and Avebury. Reaching Castle combe one also passes through Biddestone, a typical english village with its village green. local pubs and village pond. At castle combe you can either park at the top of the village and walk down or take a chance and hope to find one of those rare parking places in the village. From castle combe you can drive back towards Chippenham and take the road south to Lacock.
Lacock Abbey Founded in 1232 and converted into a country house c.1540, the fine medieval cloisters, sacristy, chapter house and monastic rooms of the Abbey have survived largely intact. Used as a location in the TV and film productions of Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders and Emma. The Abbey has also featured in the recent Harry Potter films. But the abbey is not all there is to see at Lacock, you can also take a stroll around the village, once a thoroughfare for the main traffic between London and Bristol but now a sleepy village.
We now turn our attention to the ancient sites on our way to Marlborough. Retracing our steps back to Chippenham we now take the A4 through Calne and as we pass through Cherhill we see a White horse on the left hand side. One of five horses that lay within a five mile radius of Avebury. All may be visited by road or via track-ways, the old lines of communication in this area.
The Cherhill white horse is the second oldest of the Wiltshire horses and well placed, high on a steep slope, the horse is easily visible from below and from a distance. As one continues to drive along the A4 you come to Silbury Hill on your lefthand side. Silbury Hill forms the largest prehistoric mound in Britain – its very size defying comparison. It is the tallest man-made mound in Europe.
Driving on from Silbury you reach Avebury. One of the most important megalithic monuments in Europe and spread over a vast area. This World Heritage site comprises an enormous circular earthwork, 400m wide, with deep external ditch whose circumference is over 1200 metres. Inside is a 400-metre diameter circle of immense standing stones, and inside that there are two more stone circles each 100 metres in diameter. Additional placed stones increase the complexity and world-wide appeal of this complex monument. From Avebury there run two stone avenues, each of which had about 100 megaliths. Altogether there were some 600 megaliths including those of the Sanctuary.
Time for lunch and we are just outside Marlborough. Marlborough has one of the widest high streets in England with many Georgian buildings and architectural styles which span over 300 years. At each end of the High Street is a fine church. At the west end, the 15th-century St Peter’s and to the east behind the town hall, St Mary’s. Among the buildings in the street is the splendid Merchant’s House, built in 1656 during the Cromwellian period, and now being restored to a museum of 17th-century town life. Walk along the street, feel the atmosphere and select a coffee shop or small restaurant for lunch.
After lunch take the A346 heading towards Salisbury. Before reaching Salisbury take the A303 and head west for Stonehenge. Just as you pass Amesbury you will reach the top of a brow of a hill and have probably the best view to appreciate the size of Stonehenge. Stonehenge is probably the most recognisable and enigmatic stone circle in Britain. The structure has fascinated people for centuries, and there are many theories as to what purpose it was put to by ancient man.
As with the beginning of your trip your have a choice, either Ancient Sarum or Salisbury Cathedral. If you want to continue along the path of ancient history Sarum is your next or final visit. For both Salisbury and Old sarum head back along the A303 to Amesbury where you take the A345 to Salisbury. High above Salisbury Plain stands Old Sarum, the site of the ancient city of Salisbury. In the Iron Age a massive hillfort was created here, named Sorviadum by the Celts, meaning ‘the fortress by the gentle river’. This was later occupied by the Romans, several Roman roads converge on the site. In Saxon times a town grew up within the prehistoric ramparts, which defended the local people against attack from marauding Vikings.. If time is pressing, continue into Salisbury to view the magnificent cathedral. The Cathedral forms a backdrop for one of Constables most famous paintings, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows.
It is now time to return to Bath taking the A36 out of Salisbury passing through the wylie valley, through Warminster and along the Avon valley and into Bath.