Cheddar to Salisbury
A marvellous journey through Wiltshire’s valleys and Somerset’s wetlands
Follow the route - Cheddar to Salisbury
Cheddar to Glastonbury
> Leave Cheddar on the B3151 for Glastonbury (12 miles/19km).
Said to be the ‘cradle of English Christianity’, Glastonbury is a town steeped in Christian and Arthurian legends. The focal point is the ruined abbey, which may have originated in the 1st century, but was sacked at the Dissolution in 1539. Joseph of Arimathea is reputed to have come here as a missionary in AD 63, and a thorn in the Abbot’s kitchen is said to derive from his wooden staff, which turned into a thorn bush. The chapel on the Tor dates from AD 179. Through the ages, writers have speculated that this is the site of Avalon, King Arthur’s final resting place.
The chalice which Christ used at the Last Supper is said to be beneath the Chalice Spring on the Tor. Of particular note in the town are the Abbey Barn, now housing the Somerset Rural Life Museum, the fine 14th-century George and Pilgrims Hotel, and The Tribunal, once a courthouse and now a museum.
Places to stay in Glastonbury
> Leave Glastonbury on the A361 and in 7 miles (12km) turn left on to the A37, then right on to the A371 signposted Castle Cary. Shortly, fork left on to the B3081 for Bruton, (4 miles/6.5km).
Bruton, on the River Brue, has a charm of its own. Be sure to explore The Bartons, narrow alleys leading down to the river, which is crossed by an unusual packhorse bridge. St Mary’s Church, with its twin towers, is particularly fine, and prominent in the town is King’s School, established in the 16th century. The tall building on the hill as you leave is the Bruton Dovecote, formerly belonging to the abbey which once existed here.
Places to stay near Bruton
> Leave Bruton by the B3081, signposted Wincanton. In Redlynch turn left at the crossroads and in 3 miles (5km) right, and shortly right again to join the B3092 to Stourhead (0.5mile/1km).
Henry Hoare, an eminent banker, decided to landscape his Palladian Wiltshire home, Stourhead, in the grand manner. He began in 1740 by damming springs of the Stour to create a sweeping lake with wooded islands. This is one of the finest gardens in the world, now in the care of the National Trust. An unmistakable landmark on the border of the Stourhead estate is Alfred’s Tower, a triangular brick structure 160 feet (49m) high, built in 1772. It marks the spot where King Alfred rallied his troops to fight the Danes in AD 879.
Places to stay near Stourhead
> Leave Stourhead on the B3092 for Mere (2 miles/3km). Pass under the A303 and turn left to continue on the B3092 to Gillingham (2.5 miles/4km), then to Shaftesbury (3 miles/5km) via the B3081.
Perched on a hill 700 feet (213m) above sea-level, the pretty town of Shaftesbury commands marvellous views across Dorset’s Blackmoor Vale. The local history museum near St Peter’s Church contains the Byzant, a strange ornamental relic, formerly carried by townsfolk in a ceremony confirming their rights to draw water from wells at the foot of the hill.
Places to stay in Shaftesbury
> Leave Shaftesbury on the A30 signposted Salisbury. In 6 miles (10km) turn left for Ansty and Tisbury. Continue north, then turn right on the B3089 at Fonthill Bishop. In 2 miles (3km) turn right at Chilmark to Fovant (3 miles/5km). Go left on the A30 to Wilton.
In Saxon times, Wilton was capital of Wessex. Thousands now flock here each year to visit Wilton House, built in the 1540s and remodelled by Inigo Jones in the 17th century. The Double Cube Room, now restored, is especially ornate. There is a world-famous collection of paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck and Tintoretto, among others.
Places to stay in Wilton
> Leave Wilton by the A36 for Salisbury (4 miles/6.5km).
Salisbury feels comparatively spacious and regular – it was planned and built on a grid structure, beside the River Avon. Many old streets are named after the goods that were sold there – Fish Row, Butchers Row, and so on. Some have been pedestrianised, and highlights to look for include the 16th-centrury façade of Joiner’s Hall on St Ann Street and the 18th-century Guildhall. The Poultry Cross in Silver Street dates from the 15th century.