Posted on 14th September 2016
Locals in Wiltshire describe Cranborne Chase as a bit of a time portal. Maintained as a Royal hunting ground since the time of the Plantagenets, these woodlands are now an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The area is home to ancient churches, burial grounds, quiet country pubs and some of the best scenery in the UK. Perfect for hours, if not days of exploration, it is the ideal destination for those enjoying a cottage holiday in Wiltshire.
Image Credit: Pointillist
The area covers 380 square miles and three different counties: Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire – where there are dozens of Hideaways cottages to choose from. In all sorts of weather, Cranborne Chase offers a one-of-a-kind experience. Visitors can walk or cycle, see bison and elk, and enjoy some great pub food.
Here are some tips on enjoying Cranborne Chase:
Attractions to Visit
Although the countryside is the major attraction in the area, there are a number of other attractions to tempt you as well. They are all perfect for a picnic lunch or taking some great photographs to help you remember the trip.
Bush Farm Bison Centre
This farm and animal centre celebrates some traditional American imports to the English countryside. Visitors to the Bush Farm Bison Centre can see bison, red deer, elk, raccoons, prairie dogs and chipmunks. The farm offers more than 30 acres of lakes and oak woodlands to explore. They have plenty of picnic and play areas. In the farm shop, they have a display of Native American art, as well as artefacts and historical facts about the bison.
For more information, visit their website.
Larmer Tree Gardens
These gardens were created by General Pitt Rivers in 1880 and are a perfect example of Victorian country extravagance. This attraction offers a large main lawn and laurel hedges and comes complete with an on-site café and gift shop. When in bloom, the gardens offer a visual feast of camellias, rhododendrons and woodland flowers.
Visit their website for more information and events.
Old Wardour Castle
Cranborne Chase is home to the ruins of this 14th century castle. Set on beautiful property on a lake, Old Wardour Castle is a great place for exploration and relaxation. The original castle was partially destroyed during the Civil War. It became a favourite ruin for area visitors as the landowners eventually built the New Wardour House nearby.
The site is maintained by English Heritage.
Image Credit: Chalkie
Cycling and Walking in Cranborne Chase
Cycling in the Chalke Valley is spectacular. Surrounded by amazing views, there are a number of great cycle paths and routes through Cranborne Chase.
Boyton and the Ginger Piggery to Hindon
Starting from The Ginger Piggery, this challenging cycle route includes riding through open spaces, enjoying the shade from ancient woodlands, and visiting the villages that connect the Wylye and Nadder valleys. The route ends in Hindon, a medieval village and former location for country fairs, markets and trading.
Ludwell, Win Green and Gallows Hill
This ride offers great panoramic views from the top of Win Green. A moderately difficult ride, it includes a trek through historic villages, plenty of chances to see local wildlife and more. It also has some thrilling descents through the Wiltshire countryside.
Image Credit: Eugene Birchall
The Cliff of the Swallow
This 9-mile walk can take up to six hours to complete, but it is well worth the effort. It takes walkers through steep paths, fields and lets you enjoy the truly, idyllic country lanes. On the walk, you will pass through the villages of Swallowcliffe, Sutton Mandeville and Fovant. There are ancient churches, the ruins of Iron Age forts, and the area’s many hills and downs. The walk is circular.
Burcombe and the Punch Bowl
For a slightly easier walking challenge, this 3-mile walk can be completed in a couple of hours. It covers field paths, quiet country lands and gentle hills. It starts from the small riverside village of Burcombe and takes walkers through the chalk downs. This walk lets visitors truly appreciate the Nadder Valley portion of the area.
For more information on all routes in the area, as well as a cycling and walking maps for the journeys already described, visit the AONB website for Cranborne Chase.
Image Credit: Jim Champion
Food and Drink in Cranborne Chase
No matter how you have occupied yourself in Cranborne Chase AONB, the trip is not complete without a visit to the pub for a pint and a bit of nosh. Perfect at the end of the day – or even halfway through your adventures – there is a great variety of pubs and restaurants to choose from.
The Crown Inn – Alvediston
This thatch-covered pub was built in the 1400s and is family run. With roaring fires in the winter and a giant beer garden in the summer, it is a great place to rest after your days of adventure. The Crown Inn also offers some amazing views of the Chalke Valley.
The Swan – Stoford
The Swan is a family-run coach inn in the Cranborne Chase between Salisbury and Stonehenge. It has a beer garden that overlooks the River Wylye and offers delicious traditional pub fair. With riverside seating and a welcoming bar, The Swan can be a great part of your cottage holiday.
Fox and Hounds – East Knoyle
Also dating back to the 1400s, this thatched pub is beside Blackmore Vale. They feature locally sourced food and offer lunch, dinner and a great pub business. Gluten-free meals are available as well. Visit their website for more details.
Image Credit: Phil Williams