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Three day weekend tour – Salisbury and the Stones

This 3 day tour covers approximately 100 miles.

This is a 3 day weekend tour starting in the Wiltshire town of Shaftesbury with an overnight stop in the medieval cathedral city of Salisbury, before heading on to Warminster on day 2, and finally back to Shaftesbury on day 3.

On this tour you will cycle through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, visit a UNESCO world heritage site, see the famous ‘Hovis hill’, travel along the picturesque Wylye river valley, pass by a world famous garden and an Elizabethan stately home, and of course stay the night in one of the most special of English cathedral cities.

Overview and highlights

We aim to be leaving the Saxon hill fort town of Shaftesbury by 09:30. Although we don’t pass it on the way out you might want to make time in Shaftesbury to see (and even walk up) Gold Hill. This is the hill made famous by the Hovis TV advert – don’t worry, we don’t ask you to cycle up it!


Gold (Hovis) Hill in Shaftesbury

Shaftesbury lies on the edge of the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and we will be cycling through this for the next 2 days. We head north out of Shaftesbury and after a couple of miles we leave Dorset and enter the Wiltshire countryside. 

We head though the villages of Donhead St Mary and then Semley, and then pass close Wardour and old Wardour castle before coming to Ansty. Here you will pass by the Ansty Maypole. At 103 ft it is the highest Maypole in England.


The Ansty Maypole

From here we cross the A30 and head over the top of the valley (great views from the top of the hill) towards Alvediston. We now travel along the valley of the River Ebble. We pass through the villages of Ebbesbourne Wake, Fifield Bavant, Broad Chalke, and Bishopstone.

Fifield Bavant

In Bishopstone the River Ebble runs through the village, dividing into smaller streams through lakes, former watercress beds, around islands and through old mills before becoming one again as it leaves the village.

From here it is only a few miles on to the medieval cathedral city of Salisbury where you say for the night. Attractions in Salisbury include the world famous cathedral (containing the original 1215 Magna Carta, one of only four in the world), the views of the cathedral from the water meadows (the subject of a famous Constable paining), and the houses in cathedral close, Salisbury museum, and lots of shops, restaurants and cafes! The finishing time on day 1 will be sometime around mid afternoon. We will take your luggage to your chosen overnight accommodation.

On day 2 we aim to be on the road by 09:15. Leaving Salisbury we pass close by the site of Old Sarum. Old Sarum is the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury. This mighty Iron Age hill fort is where the first cathedral once stood and the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their


Old Sarum

Today it’s all about picturesque river valleys. Heading North from Salisbury we initially follow the course of the Avon river valley. We pass though the hamlets of Little Durnford and Netton before crossing over the Avon at Upper Woodford.


The Avon at Upper Woodford

From here we head north towards the town of Amesbury, before heading on towards Woodhenge.

Woodhenge

Woodhenge is an atmospheric Neolithic site close to Stonehenge. Today concrete markers replace the six concentric rings of timber posts which are believed to have once supported a ring-shaped building. From Woodhenge it is only a short distance onto the UNESCO world heritage site of Stonehenge. Here you can choose to view the stones without paying from the public right of way, or go to the nearby visitor centre and pay for access.

Stonehenge

From Stonehenge we retrace our steps back to Upper Woodford. We then head west to join with the Wylye river valley at Great Wishford. It’s now on to pass through a ribbon of small villages and hamlets along the Wylye valley. At Hanging Langford you can take a very small detour to visit the Langford Lakes Nature Reserve. From here it’s on through Wylye and Stockton. Just after Stockton you can look across the valley and see the Lamb Down Badge. This is the emblem of the Australian Army that was cut into the hillside in 1916 by Australian troops that were stationed in the area.


Lamb Down Badge

Its then on to Boyton, where we pass by the Grade 1 listed Boyton Manor which was once the home to Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany the youngest son of Queen Victoria. After passing through Corton and Tytheringon we reach Sutton Veny. The village is steeped in history and was a concentration area during the 1st World War for units going to and from France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a Cemetery beside St Johns Church with Australian soldiers who died mainly from the influenza epidemic in 1918.

From here it’s the home stretch. We get to Warminster from Sutton Veny via Southleigh woods and the edge of Longleat Forest. The finishing time on day 2 is going to be somewhere around late afternoon to early evening.  We will take your luggage to your chosen overnight accommodation.


Warminster

We aim to be leaving Warminster by 09:15. As with days 1 and 2 today we will be cycling through the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

From Warminster we head out South West through Longleat forest. Passing by Longleat House we move on though the villages of Horningsham and Maiden Bradley. En route from Maiden Bradley to Stourton you can take a small diversion to King Alfred's Tower (also known as The Folly of King Alfred the Great or Stourton Tower). The 49-metre-high triangular tower was completed in 1772. It  stands near the location of 'Egbert's stone', where it was said that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, rallied the Saxons in May 878 before the important Battle of Edington.


King Alfred’s Tower

Back on the road, we continue to Stourton. Here you can stop and visit the famous gardens at Stourhead, which is often claimed to be the most beautiful and magical of all the great landscape gardens in England

Stourhead gardens

We then continue south, skirting the border of Somerset before turning eastwards through Zeals and East Knoyle (the birthplace of Christopher Wren). We then continue on to Semley (which we passed through on day 1. From here we re-trace our steps from day 1 though Donhead St Mary and back to Shaftesbury. We aim to finish day 3 around mid to late afternoon.