The North Wessex Downs is like a jewel set between Reading and Swindon; with Andover, Basingstoke and Newbury to its South, and Didcot to its North.
The North Wessex Downs is the mystical home of the Avebury stone circle, the Uffington White Horse and Watership Down.
These full and frank independent North Wessex Downs holidays reviews are from travellers who have booked directly through our-land.co.uk. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travellers below.
You can trust our-land.co.uk reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays. In addition, we don't run these holidays ourselves - our only interest is giving you the best independent advice.
We’ve compiled a list of 5 of the best things to see and do in the North Wessex Downs AONB this Spring. From journeying across prehistoric sites to riverboat holidays!
1. Visit Avebury Stone Circle and experience the historical intrigue
Spring time means longer, brighter and hopefully dryer days are on the horizon, and it’d be hard work to put a dampener on a visit to Avebury Stone Circle. This prehistoric landmark recently trumped Macchu Pichu and the Taj Mahal, coming second in Which? magazine’s list of best World Heritage sites. Mystery and intrigue shrouds the Avebury stone circle, many saying that the sheer size and arrangement of the stones stretches beyond what prehistoric humans could have been capable of. Visit and decide for yourself whether this was human handy-work or a creation by other-worldly creatures, and stay right in the action at this Avebury grade II listed B&B.
2. Wake up on the water with a canal boat holiday
When the sun is out everyone flocks to be near the water. By staying on the canal, you’ll wake up there! You can stay on this Wiltshire Houseboat that sleeps 12 for £700-£950 per week. Take in all the sights of beautiful Wiltshire as you coast along the Kennet and Avon canal, and the freedom of a canal boat holiday means whenever you see a pretty picnic spot (or maybe a nice pub!) that takes your fancy, you can moor up and hop off whenever you like.
3. See the White Horses that have been a part of our land for thousands of years
One of the most sought after sights of the North Wessex Downs are the White Horses. These incredible shapes have been a part of our land as far back as the Bronze Age. There are 8 in total and all of these magnificent carvings are a must see during your visit to the North Wessex Downs, whether you do your research and locate the horses yourself, or book onto a guided walk. This Our Land walking holiday provides bed and breakfast, and guides you around some magnificent historic sites, the Uffington white horse included.
4. Fun on the farm
Experience the daily sights and sounds of a North Wessex Downs farm by booking a stay in this self catering farm stay. Enjoy fresh eggs and milk with your breakfast and take a tour around the farm by the owners. This accommodation is also perfectly situated for exploring the landscape, with the aforementioned Uffington white horse nearby, along with plenty of other historic sights to make your visit one to remember.
5. On your bike! Waterside paths and flat routes across the North Wessex Downs
The North Wessex Downs is the perfect place to visit if you want to get on your bike. With wonderful waterside routes to enjoy and lots of flat ground, your time is spent taking in the beautiful landscape that surrounds you- rather than partaking in an uphill struggle! Head back to this Devizes B&B when you need a cup of tea and a comfy bed to sink into. They are approved by Visit England for welcoming walkers and cyclists and have great facilities on site for your cycling holiday, including a storage area for your kit- and they’ll also prepare you a packed lunch if you’re heading out for a long ride!
You can book your Spring and Summer holidays in the North Wessex Downs here: our-land.co.uk/holidays/the-north-wessex-downs
The post North Wessex Downs- Top 5 things to do this Spring appeared first on Our Land.
Ho ho ho it’s Christmas time on Our Land
Meet a herd of reindeer in the High Weald, go on a brewery tour in the Chilterns, spot ancient trees or deer in the New Forest, visit a Victorian market in the North Wessex Downs, walk over the wintry white cliffs in the Kent Downs, and stay in a treehouse on the Isle of Wight
Our Land’s local experts in the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty recommend some of their favourite Christmas things to do and places to stay on Our Land - and every recommendation for your Christmas Holidays 2012 will help conserve and enhance the stunning landscapes.
Click here for their: Christmas Holidays 2012 recommendations
The post Christmas Holidays 2012 on Our Land’s UK National Parks and AONBs appeared first on Our Land.
Distinctive features: white horses carved into the hillside, the winding Avon & Kennet canal, bustling market towns and magical Neolithic standing stones.
Wonderful Walks spotting the White Horses
One of the most incredible aspects of your North Wessex Downs holidays are the White Horses that have been cut into the land over the ages and looked after by locals ever since. The Uffington white horse is from the bronze age, while the one in Devizes was created for the millennium celebrations. There are 8 of them in total on the 90 mile White Horse Trail (of course you don’t have to walk all 90 miles in one go!) you can walk the trail, have breakfast and get great recommendations for local pubs to try for dinner with this North Wessex Downs walking holiday. The North Wessex Downs is ancient territory, walk to find magical Neolithic standing stones, have a stroll in the traditional market towns, take an amble and a picnic down to the Avon & Kennet canal.
Inspiring Cycling next to the Avon & Kennet Canal
Travel the Avon & Kennet canal on your North Wessex Downs holidays for ideal cycling territory – flat, smooth, and incredibly pretty with pubs along the route. It’s great for the whole family. There are certain parts of the White Horse Trail that are accessible for cyclists, look our for signs to guide you to designated cycling routes.White Horse Trail is quite challenging by bike, in parts it can get hilly but if you’re not afraid of a challenge – go for it, those views over the landscape when the sun is bouncing off the downs are really worth it. When you get peckish, cycle over to the market towns of Marlborough, Pewsey, Devizes, via the North Wessex Downs many bridal ways – country lanes that give you an insight into life in the landscape – spot hares, birds of prey and deer. Our cycle-friendly B&Bs have drying rooms and lock-ups, as well as maps to guide you.
Fun Activities for all the Family
There are plenty of things to do in North Wessex Downs holidays. What better way to see the landscape than from high up on horseback? Trot down The Ridgeway – England’s oldest road – and travel the ancient tracks that have been imprinted by thousands of hooves over the years. The secret network of old paths will take you to quiet river valleys, past Neolithic remains and through enchanting woodland. When you get hungry lead your horse into one of the quaint market towns and stop off for an award-winning real ale and traditional pub lunch in a 17th British inn like The Swan Inn Hotel.
Historic Landmarks on the Ancient Downs
The ancient landscape that you will explore on your North Wessex Downs holidays is drenched in history. The pretty village of Avebury contains a world-famous stone circle on its prehistoric landscape. Plenty of people still flock to these stones to take part in Pagan festivals – feeling a connection to the ancient population who built this monument to appease the destructive powers of Mother Nature. Explore the White Horse Trail for spectacular views of the white chalk horses which were cut into the hillside over 5000 years ago. This mystical trail passes through villages and market towns, with plenty of friendly B&B owners ready to welcome you for the night.
What wildlife can I expect to see?
Best Breakfast in the North Wessex Downs
An Our Land favourite for breakfast in the North Wessex Downs is the B&B at Manor Farm in Wiltshire. You will be spoilt for choice when you sit down to eat in the 17th century dining room. To start you can choose between fresh fruit juice, organic yoghurt, home-grown seasonal fresh fruit and home-baked organic bread. But leave room for the spectacular delicious cooked breakfast with the full works – lovely crisp bacon, flavoursome free-range eggs, tasty sausages. They also have fantastic vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options to you can still enjoy a fantastic full breakfast.
Scenic Picnic Spots
Packing a picnic is essential when you are exploring the North Wessex Downs AONB landscape. There are plenty of local food shops dotted around the towns and villages, where you can pick up home-made chutneys, freshly-baked bread and locally-brewed ales. Here are a few of the best spots to stop off for a picnic:
Fantastic Food Shops
During your holiday in the North Wessex Downs you will probably want to stock up on local goodies to prepare a picnic or to cook dinner in your self-catered cottage. Our favourite North Wessex Downs food shop is the Swan Inn Hotel Farm Shop in Inkpen. The shop offers a fantastic range of items – from organic beef produced on their Inkpen Farm and sausages, burgers and cured meats which are prepared in the shop kitchen to locally-produced wines, ciders and ales.
Traditional Pubs and Restaurants in the North Wessex Downs
When you want some traditional British grub and seasonal drinks, stopping off in a North Wessex Downs pub or restaurant allows you to recharge your batteries after a day spent exploring the countryside. Here are a few of Our Land’s favourite eateries:
I am Diane White, the RSPB’s Farmland Advisor for the North Wessex Downs and I work with farmers to help ensure this landscape continues to support farmland birds and helps to boost their numbers over time.
My enthusiasm for nature and getting out into the countryside led me into a career in conservation and this job gives me a fantastic opportunity to do my bit in looking after our natural environment for generations to come.
I have been in the job for two and a half years now and one of the most exciting things about it is when I go out and meet farmers for the first time who are passionate about wildlife too. Then being able to help them find the best ways to manage the land for wildlife as part of their farm business of producing food for us all.
For several species of farmland bird this area is extra special – a hotspot, supporting populations that have disappeared from the wider countryside but which still survive in pockets throughout this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Ten species of bird which are dependent on farmland habitats to survive and which can still be found in the North Wessex Downs, have nationally dramatically declined over the past few decades, with numbers of some having fallen by over 90%.
Some need the cover of hedges and scrub for nesting, such as tree sparrow and our beautiful turtle dove, while others nest in spring-sown crops or on grassland with just the right level of grazing – for example the iconic bird of summer whose falluting song carries high into the sky, the skylark; or lapwing, with their evocative ‘peewit’ call and tumbling display flight.
The farmers in the North Wessex Downs have certainly rallied round in supporting species in decline and are helping to provide the habitats these birds need, all year round through voluntary habitat provision and Environmental Stewardship schemes.
Farmers tell me proudly about the lapwing that breed in their fields, the beautiful orchids they see in spring on their grassland, or the hares they enjoy watching in the evenings and it’s great to hear their enthusiasm.
One farmer I know has set up hides near the new ponds he has dug and giant bird feeders he hangs out, so he can watch the wildlife on his land, which is brilliant – not only is he helping to support wildlife on the farm, including birds over the trickiest time of year for them, but he has some cracking photos to show for his efforts too!
People are often surprised to hear how much good work many farmers are already doing in looking after the wildlife on their farms. Many also don’t know that RSPB is involved in nature conservation in this way, working alongside farmers out in the wider countryside, not just on nature reserves!
I also work closely with other organizations, such as Natural England, the AONB, Plantlife and local Wildlife Trusts, to get the best outcome for wildlife on any individual farm.
To find out more about our work with farmers take a look here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/projects/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-218988
Nick Stewart – Independent Tourism Consultant & local expert for the North Wessex Downs AONB and South Downs National Park
Nick has worked in the development and marketing of responsible travel and tourism for the past 5 years, including 3 years spent working on rural community-led tourism development as Brecon Beacons National Park’s Sustainable Tourism Officer. Nick loves exploring, and enjoys helping people plan, develop, manage & market distinctive, sustainable places to visit. He has teamed up with tourism consultant Alison Caffyn to provide product development and training support to tourism businesses in the North Wessex Downs AONB as part of the Our Land project. As well as Our Land, Nick’s other clients include rural responsible tourism charity, Hidden Britain and travel & lifestyle PR agency, Alexandra Marr & Associates.
Nick’s experience has been gained across the private and public sectors, in marketing, PR, product development & appraisal, business development, events development, stakeholder engagement and research.
Nick holds a first class degree in Environmental Science and is finishing up an MSc Responsible Tourism Management. He is also currently completing a Diploma in Event Management as he a particular interest in the power of events to shape a destination’s identity, contribute to community well-being and create local economic development and commerce for local businesses.
Henry Oliver, local expert and Director of the North Wessex Downs AONB team
A town planner by training, Henry gained experience of planning in urban, suburban and rural local authorities before moving in 1997 to the Campaign to Protect Rural England. During almost nine years at CPRE, including five as Head of Planning and Local Government, he led policy and campaigns on planning, housing and natural resources.
Henry has chaired Wildlife and Countryside Link’s planning group from 2004-2006 and the National Planning Forum in 2005/6. Moving to a more cerebral tack, he then led on regeneration and localism for the New Economics Foundation before taking up the role of Policy Advisor to the Empty Homes Agency, campaigning to highlight the waste of vacant property and the environmental advantages of re-using empty homes. He has led the North Wessex Downs AONB since 2009 as acting Director before being appointed Director in December 2010.
Oliver Cripps, local expert for the North Wessex Downs AONB
Oliver joined North Wessex Downs AONB as Management Plan Coordinator in March 2009 and is currently acting Assistant Director, with responsibility for developing partnerships that contribute to the vision for the North Wessex Downs. Raised in Marlborough, he has an important connection to the landscape and communities of the area and continues to enjoy exploring as a keen walker and cyclist.
After studying Environmental Management, Oliver has a wide range of experience in environmental and community development, notably working with deprived neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland to improve their local areas. In 2008, Oliver completed a Masters Degree in Sustainable Tourism and has assisted tourism operators and destinations here and abroad in implementation of EMS.
Meet Sarah Loftus, Our Land’s Project Co-ordinator
“A firm believer in tourism being a force for good – as long as we get it right!”
I’m Our Land’s project co-ordinator, working for the nine protected landscapes that make up Our Land. I was previously working for the Kent Downs AONB (and this is where I hale from) but before that spent 20 years in the hotel industry and then business travel sector. Through my work I’ve travelled extensively and seen the detrimental effects tourism can have when we get it totally wrong! What is so great about Our Land is its focus on landscape – putting it right at the heart of the visitor experience – usually the very reason why we are staying in that b&b, hotel or self-catering. The business owners we work with love their place and take great pride in sharing it.
Meet Diane White, the RSPB’s farmland adviser for the North Wessex Downs.
As RSPB’s Farmland Advisor for the North Wessex Downs, Diane works with farmers to help ensure this landscape continues to support farmland birds and helps to boost their numbers over time. Her enthusiasm for nature and getting out into the countryside led her into a career in conservation and this job gives her a fantastic opportunity to do her bit in looking after our natural environment for generations to come.
Diane loves going out and meeting farmers who are passionate about conserving wildlife by managing their land carefully to protect their habitats. She will be writing about the important work she is doing in partnership with the farmers as well as letting you know what farmland birds and other wildlife you can expect to see on the landscape.
Read more about Our Land’s partnership with the RSPB.
Why you should leave your car behind…
When you are tired after a long day at work - or from chasing the kids around getting them packed and ready to go – you can take the pressure off your journey by letting someone else drive for you. You can sit back and relax – enjoy the scenic journey and spend the time chatting with your loved ones, instead of worrying about rush hour traffic, road closures or motorway accidents. You can even have a cheeky drink or two to celebrate the start of your holiday!
Getting to the North Wessex Downs – By train
Getting around the North Wessex Downs
You can travel around the North Wessex Downs easily by cycling. The area is full of quiet country lanes and spectacular steep paths that will lead you past the dramatic chalk White Horses carved into the hillside to attractive villages and traditional pubs.