Salisbury to Cheddar
Soak up Britain’s ancient history with this West Wessex tour
Salisbury to Cheddar itinerary
Old Sarum to Stonehenge and Woodhenge
Stonehenge and Woodhenge to Warminster
Follow the route - Salisbury to Cheddar
Salisbury to Old Sarum
> Leave Salisbury on the A345 signed Amesbury and in 1 mile (1.6km) reach Old Sarum.
Visiting Old Sarum
Iron Age people, Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans in turn chose this windy hilltop for their settlements. Within a huge circular mound are the foundations of the Norman cathedral and castle that once stood here. Bishops Osmund and Roger built the cathedral, but cathedral life wasn’t easy, and castle and clergy did not get on. In 1220 the bishop chose a new site in the valley, known today as Salisbury, and materials from the demolished cathedral were then used for Salisbury’s new glory.
Places to stay near Old Sarum
Old Sarum to Stonehenge and Woodhenge
> Continue on the A345, then take the first left on to unclassified roads for the Woodfords. In 5 miles (8km) reach Amesbury and 1 mile (1.6km) further north on the A345 is Woodhenge. Return to the A303 and head west signed Honiton, then right on to the A360 to Stonehenge.
Visiting Stonehenge and Woodhenge
A henge is a prehistoric monument, usually of religious significance. Woodhenge, the neolithic precursor of Stonehenge, had six concentric rings of timber posts, surrounded by a ditch. The holes marking the site are now marked by concrete posts.
At Stonehenge huge stones 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6m) high have been the subject of enormous speculation. Was it a temple for Romans or Druids? How were 26-ton stones brought here? One thing is certain – the axis is aligned with the mid-winter and midsummer sun; perhaps this revered monument is a giant calendar.
Places to stay near Stonehenge
Stonehenge Campsite & Glamping Pods
Stonehenge to Warminster
> From Stonehenge continue on the A360, turning left on to the B390 just past Shrewton. On reaching the A36 turn right, then right again after 1 mile (1.6km) on to the B3414 to Warminster.
Warminster was formerly a wool town and corn market; today it is the home of several specialist Army training schools, Waterloo Lines. Four miles (6.5km) to the west is Longleat, seat of the Marquess of Bath and nationally famous as a wildlife park.
Places to stay in Warminster
Warminster to Frome
> Take the A350 for Westbury. Leave by the A3098 for 7 miles (11km) to Frome.
‘Friendly Frome’ (pronounced Froom), on the River Frome, is an attractive market town which grew rich on trade in woollen cloth. Its steep narrow streets are scattered with medieval and Tudor buildings. Cheap Street, with its ancient shops and leat gutter is a must, as are the 1726 Blue House, the bridge with its integral shops, and St John’s Church.
Three miles (5km) away, on the A361, is Nunney, with its fine moated 14th-century castle.
Places to stay in Frome
Seven Acres Caravan & Camping Site
Frome to Wells
> Leave Frome to join the A361 for Shepton Mallet, 11 miles (18km), then by the A371 to Wells (6 miles/10km).
Wells is England’s smallest city, lying in the shadow of the Mendip Hills, and gets its name from the springs that bubble in to a pool in the bishop’s garden. The splendid cathedral was begun in the 12th century and finished in the 15th, and its astronomical clock in the north transept is one of the oldest cathedral clock-faces in Britain. South of the cathedral is the moated Bishop’s Palace, where the swans used to ring the bell by the bridge for food.
St Cuthbert’s Parish Church in High Street is the largest in Somerset, with a 122-foot (37m) tower.
Places to stay in Wells
Wells to Cheddar
> Leave Wells on an unclassified road to Wookey Hole, and shortly after the Wookey Hole Caves fork right for Priddy, then left on the B3135 for Cheddar (5 miles/8km).
The rugged grandeur of the Cheddar Gorge unfolds slowly and magically as you descend a meandering road. Cliffs tower to a height of 450 feet (137m) here, and the ‘Beware of falling rocks’ sign is no idle warning. Climb the 274 steps of Jacob’s Ladder at the south end for the best views, or rest in the Garden of Fragrance, especially created for the blind. At the bottom of the gorge, Gough’s and Cox’s Caves offer a chance to go subterranean in search of the lost River Yeo.
Cheddar would not be Cheddar without its cheese, but the product outgrew the place and has largely gone elsewhere. A 1990 replica of a 1920s factory shows how it used to be made.