The distant past is perhaps more tangible in Hampshire and Wiltshire than in any other part of England. Predominantly rural, these counties overlap substantially with the ancient kingdom of Wessex, whose most famous ruler, Alfred, repulsed the Danes in the ninth century and came close to establishing the first unified state in England. And even before Wessex came into being, many earlier civilisations had left their stamp on the region. The chalky uplands of Wiltshire boast several of Europe’s greatest Neolithic sites, including Stonehenge and Avebury.
The countryside is consistently seductive and the towns are also generally modest and slow-paced. The two great cathedral cities in these parts, Salisbury and Winchester are worth a day each, but you don’t have to wander far off the beaten track to encounter medieval churches, manor houses and unspoilt country inns.
May be subject to change.
Arrive at Farthing Corner after 4pm to check in and enjoy a welcome pot of tea and fresh, home-made cake or scones. Try the local pub, the Black Horse in the village centre for supper.
Day 2 56 miles
Today’s route encompasses the ancient cathedral city of Salisbury, which is home to the magnificent cathedral and the largest cathedral close (80 acres). There are quite a few attractions within the close and the medieval city is also well worth the exploration. Then continue on to Wilton House, home of the Earl of Pembroke, where you can visit both the house and beautiful grounds. Wilton House is also become well known for the Classic & Super Car event held each August. Drive north to Stonehenge, where there is now a fabulous new exhibition centre and much-improved facilities. Return to Farthing Corner via Middle Wallop and the Army Air Corps Museum.
Day 3 66 miles
Explore the New Forest with a choice of two routes (or do both if you wish to stay for longer).
The first route takes you to the 200-acre grounds of the captivating Exbury Gardens, renowned for the azaleas and rhododendrons, as well as the beautiful autumn colours. Drive on to the beautiful village of Beaulieu, famed for its Abbey and the National Motor Museum. Continue on to Bucklers Hard, on the banks of the Beaulieu River and discover its distinguished ship-building history. Drive along the coast to the pretty yachting town of Lymington. Head north on the back lanes to Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst and then drive through some lovely villages as you wind your way back to West Tytherley.
The second route heads south to Brockenhurst and then along the ornamental drive past Rhinefield House and onto Linwood and Mockbeggar. Head north on small, out-of-the-way lanes to Fordingbridge. Visit the Roman Villa at Rockbourne and then onto Breamore House. This fascinating Elizabethan Manor also has an excellent countryside museum. This part of the Forest is always pretty quiet and secluded. Drive through Lover and Hamptworth back to Farthing Corner.
Day 4 41 miles
Drive across the the lovely National Trust property of Mottisfont Abbey, once a medieval priory and later the home to Maud Russell, who made it a retreat for her artistic friends in the 1930s. Peruse the extensive art collection, be amazed by Rex Whistler’s trompe l’oeil and enjoy a stroll around the magnificent walled gardens, home to the National Collection of Old Fashioned Roses. Drive through some pretty villages to Winchester, once the capital of the Kingdom of Wessex. This lovely city is a great place to wander for a few hours. A visit to the Norman cathedral is a must. Anthony Gormley’s haunting statue in the crypt is unmissable, so are the Great Screen and the captivating weight of English history.
Leave Winchester and drive to picturesque Stockbridge – ideal for a stroll and a cup of tea, or if it’s late enough stay for dinner in one of the superb pubs or restaurants.
Stay at an idyllic early 15th century thatched cottage bed & Breakfast, located between Salisbury & Winchester. Farthing Corner is a beautiful thatched house set in private gardens and woodland, in the small village of West Tytherley in Hampshire’s Test Valley. There is plenty of suitable parking for your classic, although not under cover.
The house is attractively decorated with the warmth and comfort of a true home. Cross the threshold under a metre-thick thatch into the beamed entrance hall, with large brick inglenook fireplace, and an antique table adorned with fresh flowers. Farrow & Ball colours, Wilton carpet, antique rugs and furnishings, big comfortable beds, crisp, pretty, cotton bed linens, and feather duvets and pillows make for a wonderfully relaxing stay. The home-cooked breakfasts are simply perfect.