Bill Dupre flies high in a town that was once the centre of UFO spotting in the UK, Warminster

PUBLISHED: 11:35 26 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:05 20 February 2013

Bill Dupre flies high in a town that  was once the centre of UFO spotting in  the UK, Warminster

Bill Dupre flies high in a town that was once the centre of UFO spotting in the UK, Warminster

Warminster is a lively Wiltshire market town to the south-west of Salisbury Plain, at the head of the beautiful Wylye Valley. Its history dates from Saxon times, with surrounding countryside bearing witness to Iron Age settlements.

Warminster is a lively Wiltshire market town to the south-west of Salisbury Plain, at the head of the beautiful Wylye Valley. Its history dates from Saxon times, with surrounding countryside bearing witness to Iron Age settlements.
Like many Wiltshire towns, Warminster relied on the wool and cloth trade, and later the corn market. Most of the traditional trades like iron making, barley, lime burning, brick making, banana ripening and cardboard packaging have since gone. But one glove-making firm remains and one malt house still exists. Since the days of the Civil War, Warminster has had a long association with the military, and this continues today with a garrison situated on the north side of town.


Glove making is a traditional craft still carried out in the town

The towns bypass has taken much of the traffic from the main streets, allowing the surviving old buildings and architecture to retain their charm. Within easy distance of the town centre is open countryside, officially designated both as an area of outstanding natural beauty and of special scientific interest. If beautiful scenery, historic attractions, wonderful entertainment and a measure of retail therapy is the requirement, look no further, Warminster has a lot to offer.




What to do


The Blue Plaque Trail leaflet, available from the Warminster Information Centre in the town centre, allows the visitor to see at a glance the historical buildings and places of interest. The walk takes approximately two hours and can be joined at any stage. The trail passes the library, which houses The Dewey Museum and its fascinating insight to the local history, and is well worth visiting.


Warminster is central to many of the countys main attractions

Cyclists can join the Wiltshire Cycleway at Warminster, and for those who enjoy horse riding, stables at Longleat woods offer Western-style riding. Fishing (with a permit) can be enjoyed on the River Wylye, Westbury Lakes and Shear Water Lake, which is also a venue for fishing and sailing.
For those who favour the greens theres golf at West Wilts Golf Club (01985 213133), and for high-fliers of a different kind, there is hang gliding near the White Horse at Westbury; those earthbound can try kite flying.
The Lakeside Pleasure Grounds are a short walk from the town centre, providing a boating lake, a putting green, hard tennis court and a childrens playing field. The grounds lead into Smallbrook Meadow, a wildlife conservation area.



Where to stay


In the centre of town, The Old Bell (01985 216611) offers traditional hospitality in a warm and congenial atmosphere. But if mind and body are in need of restoration, Bishopstrow House Hotel (01985 212312) fits the bill perfectly, with its modern facilities and luxury spa. Three miles away, The Angel Inn (01985 213225) at Upton Scudamore, is a recently restored 16th-century coaching inn worthy of mention.
Christopher and Enid Richmond provide luxury B&B accommodation at Crockerton House (01985 216631) close to Longleat, whilst a ten-minute journey towards Salisbury, at Little Langford, is Little Langford Farmhouse (01722 790205), a working farm offering superb B&B.
For self-catering, Jonathan Corp and his wife host The Coach House (01373 832213) at nearby Corsley, which provides four-star accommodation and is near to all the attractions.
Touring caravanners and campers will find Brokerswood Country Park (01373 822238), a 20-minute journey away, offering a perfect place to stay.


Hit the downtown


For a bit of retail therapy, the Blue Plaque Trail passes along the shops and malls from the top of town in East Street, downhill to the obelisk in Silver Street. The Cornmarket mall in Market Place is a newer development, having a variety of shops, cafs and bistros. Further along, The Three Horsehoes shopping mall provides access to the main post office and library.


Like Rome, the town is built on seven hills

On the opposite side of the street is the Old Bell Hotel, which dates back to 1483, and further on is the home of the Warminster Journal. Chinns Court, further down, is a cobbled street typical of the 17th-19th century, containing a complete butchers shambles. There are also some fascinating speciality shops, including an excellent butcher. Along the High Street stands the imposing 13th-century Chapel of St Lawrence, and further down is the Athenaeum Centre. Once a literary institution, then the Palace cinema for 52 years, it now serves the community as an arts centre and theatre.
Markets play a huge part in Warminsters life. Each Friday an open market is held in the central car park and a country market is held in the library. On the first and third Friday in the month there is also a farmers market.


Out and About


Warminster, in common with Rome and Bath, has seven hills. Cley Hill is the highest at 800 feet, Arn Hill is a nature reserve and golf course, and Cophead is a Second World War Memorial. Battlesbury is an Iron Age fort, as is Scratchbury. Cradle Hill and Middle Hill are now famous for UFO spotting. All are accessible by public footpath and worth the climb. The views are fantastic.
A family day out must surely include Longleat House and Safari Park, home of the Marquis of Bath and his wifelets and the famous lions, tigers, wolves, gorillas and giraffes, to name but a few.
At The Bison Centre (01747 830263) at Bush Farm, at nearby West Knoyle, visitors can see herds of bison, elk and red deer roaming free in meadowland, and at the farm, a variety of animals including prairie dogs, racoons and chipmunks.


The hills around Warminster are still renowned for UFO sightings

For peace and quiet, Langford Lakes Nature Reserve (01722 792010) at Steeple Langford, a site owned by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, allows the visitor to watch for water voles, otters and kingfishers, amongst other birds and wildlife, or discover the beauty of Stourhead at Stourton. Its classical temples, wonderful landscaped gardens, trees and lake, are truly breathtaking. Once the home of the Hoare family, Stourhead is now owned by The National Trust.
A visit to Bath is within easy travelling distance via the scenic route through Bradford on Avon and the Limpley Stoke Valley. The beautiful Georgian city, famous for the abbey and Roman baths was also the home of Jane Austen and the workplace of Charles Dickens. The American Museum at Claverton is along the route and well worth a visit.


Eating out


There are several tea shops, coffee shops and bistros within the town centre, one being Jacquelines (01985 217373) in High Street, which offers a variety of snacks and meals, as well as traditional cream teas. The Bath Arms (01985 212262) at Crockerton is first and foremost a country pub, which serves delicious food, but it also has two new accommodation suites. At nearby Shear Water, there is Bargate Thatch Restaurant and Tea Rooms (01985 213255) serving traditional teas and gourmet meals in the restaurant, whilst the Fishermans Rest Caf serves early morning breakfasts, lunches and snacks, throughout the day. Picnic lunches can also be provided for the outdoor enthusiast.
In High Street, The Old Bell (01985 216611) serves food during the day and evenings. Out of town, at Steeple Langford, is The Rainbow on The Lake (01722 790251), serving real ales and home-cooked food, with panoramic views of the Wylye Valley and Langford Lakes.



Out and About


Warminster, in common with Rome and Bath, has seven hills. Cley Hill is the highest at 800 feet, Arn Hill is a nature reserve and golf course, and Cophead is a Second World War Memorial. Battlesbury is an Iron Age fort, as is Scratchbury. Cradle Hill and Middle Hill are now famous for UFO spotting. All are accessible by public footpath and worth the climb. The views are fantastic.
A family day out must surely include Longleat House and Safari Park, home of the Marquis of Bath and his wifelets and the famous lions, tigers, wolves, gorillas and giraffes, to name but a few.
At The Bison Centre (01747 830263) at Bush Farm, at nearby West Knoyle, visitors can see herds of bison, elk and red deer roaming free in meadowland, and at the farm, a variety of animals including prairie dogs, racoons and chipmunks.
For peace and quiet, Langford Lakes Nature Reserve (01722 792010) at Steeple Langford, a site owned by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, allows the visitor to watch for water voles, otters and kingfishers, amongst other birds and wildlife, or discover the beauty of Stourhead at Stourton. Its classical temples, wonderful landscaped gardens, trees and lake, are truly breathtaking. Once the home of the Hoare family, Stourhead is now owned by The National Trust.
A visit to Bath is within easy travelling distance via the scenic route through Bradford on Avon and the Limpley Stoke Valley. The beautiful Georgian city, famous for the abbey and Roman baths was also the home of Jane Austen and the workplace of Charles Dickens. The American Museum at Claverton is along the route and well worth a visit.


Three things to take home


Dents (01985 217367) have played an important part in the life of Warminster since 1777. Their gloving skill and craftsmanship is known worldwide. Visit the factory shop in Fairfield Road where, hand on heart, youll come out hand in glove! Its an experience unique to Warminster.
Half a mile south of town on the A350 Shaftesbury Road is The Wylye Valley Vineyard (01985 211337), with its award-winning wines named after fishing flies. The shop is open six days a week selling products that complement the superb tasting wine.
For local crafts there is no better place to visit than The Black Barn Gallery (07504 090515) at Boyton, a 15-minute drive away through the beautiful Wylye Valley.



Fact file


Warminster Information Centre, Central Car Park 01985 218548
Train Services: Operated by South West Trains 0845 6000650, and First Great Western 0800 1971329
Bus Services: Local services operated by Bodmans 01380 722393 and Bee Line 01985 21912; county services operated by First 0871 2002233
Coach Service: Operated by National Express 08717 818181
Parking: Central car park off Market Place, and George Street car park (both free for first two hours)

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