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Trace your Ancestors Back in Time - Wiltshire Itinerary Days 2 and 3
Stourhead, Salisbury, Magna Carta and a Grand Finale in Stonehenge
Our discovery of enigmatic Wiltshire began with a day touring its many ancient sites and monuments – see my earlier post.
Extending your stay another couple of days will enable you to explore deeper. On days 2 and 3, visit a world famous landscaped garden, the magnificence of Salisbury Cathedral (Magna Carta) , Salisbury Museum and finish with a grand finale at Stonehenge.
Day 2 - Stourhead, Salisbury Cathedral, Magna Carta, Salisbury Museum
Stourhead - Palladian House and World Famous Landscape Garden
When Stourhead first opened in the 1740s, it was described as ‘a living work of art’. It is a world famous landscape garden offering beautiful, peaceful vistas and surprises around every corner. It is lovely to visit all year round, but it looked particularly stunning in Autumn. If you want to capture the classic “front of the brochure” shot, be sure to get there as soon as it opens.
The house opens at 11am and is interesting to wander around – although the highlight for me was the beautiful gardens. The final of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year was used here in 2015.
One of the most interesting exhibits in the house is the Pope’s Cabinet. Follow the link to find out a bit more about it. Maddeningly for me though – I still haven’t found out exactly what was INSIDE all those intricate little drawers and they cannot be opened!
We left Stourhead at 12.20 and headed for Salisbury. Parking in the centre of the centre was a bit of a challenge and you may well be better to take the Park & Ride. Make sure you allow plenty of time if you have pre-booked your visit time (advisable).
What is there to see at Salisbury Cathedral? A LOT more than you would think!
There is so much more to see at Salisbury Cathedral than you might think, so allow plenty of time. We started our visit at 2pm and spent two and a half hours there, including a pre visit lunch stop at the beautifully located cafe in the cloisters
Salisbury Cathedral - Must Dos
For me, the highlights of the visit/Must Dos were:
The magnificent Font.
Magna Carta – 1 of 4 surviving & the only one on permanent public display. Find out more about the role of this document in the birth of democracy on Neil Olver’s podcast. The exhibition at the cathedral really makes you think about the fundamental questions that are raised by restriction of freedoms during the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
The world’s oldest working Medieval Clock, carefully restored in 1956.
The Cathedral is built on water. Discover how the level is continuously measured through a secret tile in the floor.
Threads Through Creation – Embroidery Exhibition
The World's Oldest Working Medieval Clock
The Cathedral Built on Water
Threads through Creation - Creating the World in Eight Million Stitches
As if there wasn’t enough to entertain you at Salisbury Cathedral already, a fascinating embroidery exhibition has recently been unveiled there, which is a real bonus.
Threads through Creation – created by textile artist Jacqui Parkinson – is a collection of 12 embroidered panels that tell the story of The Creation in 8 million stitches. It is a stunning piece of work.
Salisbury Cathedral - Fascinating Facts
Salisbury Cathedral is the Cathedral that Moved. It was originally built at Old Sarum 2 miles away. The story of the long and delicate operation to move it is fascinating,
It costs £14.000 a day to run. A 45 year maintenance program is just coming to an end. It sets the entrance fee into valuable context.
Salisbury Museum is just a short walk from the Cathedral and a visit can be easily combined in an afternoon.
For me, the most interesting exhibit was the remains of the Amesbury Archer 2400 – 2200 BC. This was one of the earliest bell beaker graves in Britain. The grave and its five beakers tells us this man’s whole life story:
- He died aged 35-45
- He started out as an archer, but became a metalworker – a new skill which bringing to a Britain would have made him a wealthy man.
- He was buried with ample food for the after life in one of his beakers and a spear for protection
- He still has a nice set of teeth even though his remains are 4300 years old – chalk is a good preserver.
Day 3 - A Grand Finale - Stonehenge
On the last day of our 2 day trip to Wiltshire, we visited Stonehenge and took the first trip of the morning out to the monument on the bus from the car park. It is a good time to visit – the site is quiet and you can meander to your heart’s content listening to the informative audio guide which you can download onto your ‘phone at the visitor centre.
The current consensus is that Stonehenge is a form of prehistoric temple – the stones are intriguingly carefully aligned with the movements of the sun. They were probably dragged into position using sledges, pulled by a group of people.
You can’t actually touch the shoes any more. The visitor centre has a fascinating photography exhibition “Your Stonehenge” showing family photos of trips to Stonehenge going back through several generations. Photos show families picnicking on the stones back in the 1950s – it is hard to imagine that now.
Tips for Future Travellers
If you want to see Stonehenge at its best, the trip to book is probably the £47 per person Stone Circle Experience Tour where numbers are limited to a maximum of 30 people you are allowed to walk amongst the stones inside the circle.
Time your visit for sunrise/sunset to capture instagram worthy photos.
There is an interesting perspective on Stonehenge if you follow the invitations on strategically placed notice boards all around it to photograph yourself holding Stonehenge in your hand, kicking it over etc. We certainly had some fun trying these out.
Naturally, you just have to finish your grand finale trip to “Your Stonehenge” with the obligatory selfie – don’t you?
The overwhelming question that played on my mind as my action packed visit to enigmatic Wiltshire drew to a close was:
“What will be left of our today’s generation in 6000 years time and what our descendants will make of it?