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The Flying Monk Brewery’s honest approach to ale

Posted on 15th February 2017

The Flying Monk is a local tale of Malmesbury after a brother Elmer, a monk at the local abbey was determined to emulate Icarus back in 1010. With his set of homemade wings, Elmer threw himself from the abbey tower and managed to glide a little before he was reunited with gravity in a somewhat painful manner. Though he survived the fall, his legs were broken, however Elmer was not deterred. He decided to try the flight again with the addition of a tail, but was swiftly halted when the Abbott put a stop to the second flight and Elmer’s aviation dreams.

Malmesbury Abbey

Though this may seem a tale of folly, it has been adopted by a local brewery along with a sardonic take on Elmer’s determined attitude in setting up their own micro-brewery. The Flying Monk Brewery was founded in 2013, with its first beer, aptly named Elmer, launched in 2014. Since then, three more beers have joined the line-up and the awards have been rolling in.

Kevin, the brewery’s managing director, has a refreshing attitude when it comes to marketing The Flying Monk products. In a recent interview, he commented: “Craft and artisan are the big words. What they actually mean by it is that it’s handmade. We’ve not changed what we’re doing in the industry, we’ve just changed how we label it. It’s not automated like the big commercial breweries. Everywhere you go it’s always the same four ingredients, nobody does it any differently. No-one is reinventing anything.”

This departure from the marketing buzz words sets The Flying Monk Brewery apart as much as the unusual name and tale it stems from. But it seems to be working in their favour, as their Birdman beer was awarded first place at Swindon’s CAMRA Beer Festival and Elmer was presented with the Highly Commended gong in the beer category of Taste of the West Awards last year.

Another first has graced their brewery as they roll out the world’s first black cider (according to The Flying Monk Brewery). Named Skorpion Black, it is set to create quite a stir. The Flying Monk Brewery is open to tours and tastings, so if you find yourself on a Wiltshire cottage holiday, be sure to spend a day enjoying everything this unique Micro-brewery has to offer.

Image Credit: Adrian Pingstone (Wikimedia Commons)

The top festivals to visit in Wiltshire in 2017

Posted on 11th January 2017

People visit Wiltshire for the scenery, the beautiful landscapes, relaxing walks and the fascinating history of this quintessential county. But Wiltshire is also something of a secret gem of culture, and each year the region plays host to some fascinating events to stimulate the intellect and imagination, both local and touring from around the world. If you’re planning your Wiltshire cottage holidays and are wondering what’s on in the area this year, you’ll be delighted to find that Wiltshire hosts countless festivals to accommodate any interest, from art to trainspotting. Here are our top picks of the best festivals in Wiltshire for 2017.



When we think of festivals, most of us immediately think of music, and luckily Wiltshire has much to offer for the music lover of every persuasion in its festivals for 2017. If you’re a connoisseur of classical and choral music, the Edington Festival of Music will enchant and inspire, as for one week the town’s fourteenth-century church is filled with some of the finest cathedral and collegiate choirs in the country taking part in the daily services. The Great British Proms also venture to Wiltshire in 2017, with a prom at Bowood House near Chippenham and Calne on the 6th August 2017. The National Symphony Orchestra will make their debut at Bowood, accompanied by the Brit-Award winning vocal ensemble, Only Men Aloud, soprano singer Philippa Healey, and a traditional piped band for an evening of classical favourites performed by only the finest musicians.

For folk music fans, the Chippenham Folk Festival is the perfect weekend of entertainment, running from the 26th until the 29th of May. This participatory festival promotes the best in English folk music with performances, street parades and workshops led by artists such as Cloudstreet and the Exmouth Shanty Men. This explosion of folkloric excitement is matched only by the Marlborough International Jazz Festival from the 14th to the 16th of July. One of the top events of its kind in the UK, the bands featured range from well-known touring artists such as Clare Teal to grassroots local artists like the Wiltshire Blues Sessions. A carnival atmosphere spreads over this corner of Wiltshire over the weekend, full of music, dance and laughter.

Whilst Larmer Tree Festival is taking a year off in 2017, there is no shortage of popular music festivals to explore this year. The globally renowned WOMAD Festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is back to Charlton Park for another year of what the Daily Telegraph calls an “annual unearthing of global gems”. Although the line-up is yet to be announced, big things can be expected of WOMAD, with 2016’s artists including George Clinton, Baaba Maal and Roots Manuva. Expect music from around the world over seven stages, along with poetry readings, comedy, interactive workshops, fairground rides and art installations. For something a little more low-key, Fieldview Festival from the 3rd to the 6th of August is the perfect choice. The festival describes itself as a “beautiful combination of top-notch, fun-filled, cutting edge music, locally sourced cuisine and delicious local brews”, and also offers interactive workshops and games, making it the perfect family festival.


Ponten Pie’s Copacabana

Image Credit: Ponten Pie (Salisbury Festival)

If you’re looking for an experience that fuses the senses and comprises multiple art forms in one, Wiltshire’s many art festivals are set to inspire. Although there are several arts festivals in the area, the most notable of them all is Salisbury International Arts Festival. Running from the 26th of May to the 10th of June 2017, this is not one to be missed, as it is the final of their series of festivals that have been inspired by the points of the compass. In 2017, for Festival Director Toby Smith’s final year, the event looks towards the West and particularly the culture of French-Canadian province, Québec. The festival will feature an eclectic mixture of art exhibitions, classical music, folk, jazz, circus skills and dance performances, featuring artists as diverse as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, dance troupe Ballet Black and Québecois folk group Lu Vent du Nord. Everything from the performances to the food and décor will make you feel as though you have been transported across the Atlantic into this bustling urban centre.



Home to such notable wordsmiths as poet Thomas Moore, Ian Fleming, William Golding and Sir Terry Pratchett, Wiltshire has been a hub of literary activity throughout history. It’s no surprise, then, that the area is home to one of the UK’s most notable annual literature festivals: Swindon Festival of Literature. For two weeks from the 2nd to 14th of May, the twenty-third Swindon Festival of Literature will bring together novelists, poets, philosophers, naturalists, adventurers and more, all speaking and reading on several topics to interest readers of every enthusiasm. The festival offers both guided walks and traditional lectures to create a dynamic event that draws visitors from around the world. It also features names such as Brian Blessed, Joanne Harris, Ken Livingstone and Yasmin Khan.

Food and drink

Wiltshire Food Festival

Image Credit: Gentlebird (Flickr)

If you’re a self-professed foodie, Wiltshire is set to wow with its extensive programme of festivals celebrating the food and drink from both global and local sources. After dry January, treat yourself to a tipple at the Devizes Festival of Winter Ales on the 24th and 25th of February, where you can sample bespoke local ales whilst enjoying live acoustic music and hot pies at this charming event. Around the 13th of May, Devizes takes a more culinary focus in the Devizes Food and Drink Festival. Although in the early stages of planning, past years suggest that visitors can expect street food from around the world, curries, antipasti and baked goods. Last year also saw some fun food-based activities such as the Devizes Food Festival Bake Off, the Chilli Chuckin’ Challenge and Crumpet Frisbee, so prepare for the unexpected!

In Swindon, one of the county’s favourite festivals is hosted at Blunsdon Station. The Real Ale and Cider Festival allows visitors to drink local ales and home-brewed ciders, as well as enjoying steam train rides aboard Wiltshire’s only standard gauge heritage railway. For something a little more niche, visit the Cheese and Chilli Festival, which tours several towns in Wiltshire on weekends from the 10th of June until the 20th of August. Here, enthusiasts can try out unique cheeses and fiery chillies from across the globe, whilst also participating in live demonstrations and enjoying bike stunt shows, crafts and live music. For a decidedly more traditional fare, visit the Melksham Food and River Festival from the 2nd to the 3rd of September for excellent local food and drink, plus some amazing aquatic activities and on the river such as canoeing and zip wires.


Castle Combe Circuit

Image Credit: Matt Buck (Wikimedia Commons)

With miles of stunning countryside, Wiltshire is the perfect location for sports and outdoor activities-based events, and there are plenty for visitors to enjoy. Both the Bradford on Avon Walking Festival from the 1st to the 3rd of September, and the Corsham Walking Festival, from the 9th to the 11th of June, are ideal for avid ramblers. Enjoy jaunts through beautiful landscapes with a group, from easy to demanding routes discovering the local wildlife and history with local experts.

For the more adventurous sports enthusiast, the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race makes for exhilarating viewing, with several competitions running from the 14th to the 17th of April, from singles to doubles, where records are challenged each year. Alternatively, for motorsports fans, the renowned Castle Combe Circuit is running its Summer Action Festival on the 22nd of July, where car owners are invited to participate in races, whether performance, classic, kit, modified or original. With club displays, drift demos, parades and more, car lovers will enjoy every second of this fantastic event.


 Film festival

Image Credit: Laura Lee Moreau (Visualhunt)

Film and TV buffs may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are several festivals in Wiltshire that celebrate all things screen. Two of the more unique events are the Banff Mountain Film Festival UK tour leg and Melksham Comic Con. The Banff Mountain Film Festival will appear in various locations including Bath, Swindon and Salisbury during February and March, showing some of the best adventure films from this internationally-renowned festival. Discover skydiving, extreme climbing, dog sledging and even a band of musicians playing in mid-air in these exhilarating screen showings. Aiming to “bring the fun, madness and intrigue of city-style conventions to a small-town, rural setting”, this festival was voted the third best UK convention by Conic Conventions in 2012, and will feature artists and writers such as Jack ‘Jackademus’ Lawrence and John-Paul Bove. Perfect for any comic book or superhero film fan.

Guide to shopping local for Christmas in Wiltshire

Posted on 13th December 2016

In recent years, many people have recognised the significant value of shopping local. Whether to support local businesses, boycott large corporations or simply fund more ethical, sustainable products, buying from independent shops has many benefits. If you live in the area or are planning a Wiltshire cottage holiday and fancy fitting a bit of Christmas shopping into your schedule, here are some of the best independent shops in Wiltshire to find unique, thoughtful gifts for all of your friends and family.

Stocking fillers

Jacks of Bath

If you’re looking to share some of the magic from your recent cottage holiday in Wiltshire with friends and family, why not consider giving them a Christmas stocking filler that reflects the county’s rich heritage? The Henge Shop in Avebury is situated at Stonehenge itself, and is the only independent shop to operate at the site. They offer jewellery, books and gifts ranging from beautifully-painted instruments to souvenir maps, local honey and ornaments. If you’re looking for slightly more playful additions to a Christmas stocking, c’s snow globes feature the landscapes of Bath and Stonehenge for a unique twist.

Image credit: Diego Delso (Wikimedia Commons)

Food and drink

Food and Drink Hamper

A delicious hamper of food and drink is a failsafe Christmas present for parents, siblings and friends alike. Luckily, there are an endless array of local home-grown produce shops and artisan food outlets in Wiltshire to choose from. Lick the Spoon Chocolate Factory in Corsham sells delectable boxes of chocolates, Christmas specials and even ‘chocolate salami’ in flavours such as fruit and nut and peanut caramel. For something more savoury, Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham offers over three generations of award-winning recipes such as pies, cheeses and hampers. Edington Farm Shop is not only full of fresh fruit and vegetables seasonally grown on their own farm, but is also a delightful place to spend an afternoon. To finish it all off, why not add some hand-selected loose-leaf tea from the Tea House Emporium in Bath, or a bottle of fine wine from Great Western Wine, which for thirty years has provided customers with distinctive, independent wines. For more local food stores in Wiltshire, search this local food map by Big Barn.

Image credit: Poppet with a Camera (Flickr) 

Kids’ presents

Wooden Childrens Toys

With so much of the Christmas hype aimed towards the latest big kids’ toy franchises, much of the classic charm of children’s presents has been lost. If you’re looking for a gift for a son, daughter or grandchild that avoids the mass-produced fanfare and will provide endless hours of fun, along with a keepsake to cherish, why not head to one of Wiltshire’s many independent toyshops? My Small World in Bath sells a huge range of handcrafted wooden toys, from outdoor activities to dolls houses, train sets and even musical instruments. Ducklings Toy Shop in Marlborough is another traditional toy shop that specialises in “quality toys with excellent play and educational value from birth to adult”.

Image credit: Pintoy WeLove (Flickr)



One thing that many of us wish for at Christmas is the chance to relax, and you can give a loved one just that with the many beauty shops in Wiltshire. No 8. Shop in Bath takes the exclusive experience of Thermae Bath Spa into the home, with bath and massage oils from their own range. For ethical indulgence, Goodfayre in Salisbury hosts a wide range of ethically-sourced pampering treats such as bathtub tea and bath bombs to unwind with, plus cruelty-free skincare and makeup products for the full luxury experience. Hive Originals is one of Wiltshire’s most famous independent skincare brands, offering creams, essential oils and many more natural and organic products, all using raw honey and beeswax harvested from their own hives. Who could say no to their key lime pie lip balm?


Fashion Boutique

Wiltshire is home to many stylish boutiques, Chas H Baker in Salisbury has provided evening wear since 1902, whereas Spirit Fashion is one of the best independent designer boutiques in the country, featuring contemporary fashion, footwear and accessories brands from across the UK and Europe. If you’re looking for something extra special for a loved one this Christmas, the Gold & Platinum Studio in Bath is the perfect place to find a precious piece. Founded in 1970, this independent jeweller offers a fine range of exquisite jewellery designed and handmade on the premises. In Salisbury, HR Tribbeck and Son offers unusual, bold rings, whereas in Devizes you can find Tundra Jewellers, which create unique pieces such as an acorn necklace with squirrels on the chain.


Ceramics Potter

For many, there is no greater gift than art. Unique, expressive and thoughtful, this is the perfect gift for someone special, and in Wiltshire there is a plethora of talented artists who are sure to speak to your creative side. One Two Five Gallery in central Bath sells the exclusive painted clothing of Carole Walker’s No Walking Canvas line, and stunning stoneware by Cary Wood, alongside various pieces of jewellery by Annie Beardsley. The striking shapes and textures of their products is sure to inspire. Alternatively, for the interior designer in your life, Verve, also in Bath, sells thought-provoking sculptures, unusual repurposed blow torch lamps, stylish ceramics and luxurious homewares. Stuart Wiltshire Glass provides a unique collection of handmade above glassware, from bespoke lighting to their sentimental baby hand casts, which are the perfect gift for a grandparent.


Book Shop

Books are a classic choice for Christmas presents, but you don’t have to buy the latest bestseller to give the gift of a world of words. Bookbarn in Bath is one of the largest sellers of used books in the UK, with academic monographs, fiction, coffee-table books and more, all with a recycled twist. The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough opened in 1943, and offers over 25,000 titles in-store and a further 200,000 on their independent online store. Offering all the biggest titles, small-publisher novels and rare and collectable volumes, all at discounted prices.

Image credit: Gpoo (Visualhunt) 



For the creative souls in your life, why not give them a gift that they can enjoy for years to come, perhaps even gaining or developing a skill? The Makery in Bath is the perfect alternative to chain supplies stores, and offers everything from crafty stocking fillers to beads, fabrics and patterns. For knitting buffs, Born to Knit in Fisherton Mill offers yarns in every colour, style and texture to spark the imagination of a loved one who is a whizz with the needles, as well as kits for beginners.


Wiltshire’s top five most charming Christmas markets

Posted on 18th October 2016

Christmas is one of the most magical times to visit Wiltshire, as the ancient landscape becomes dusted in a smattering of frost and visitors flock to the county to experience the blissful retreat the countryside offers. You’ll feel like a character in a Dickensian novel spending the festive period in Wiltshire, from the cosy fireside of a Wiltshire holiday cottage to the bustling streets of historic Salisbury, lit with glowing lanterns. For many people, there is nothing more festive than a Christmas market. Given the rich history of local traditions in the area, Wiltshire is one of the best places to find captivating Christmas markets, and here are five of its best.

 Christmas Market

Wealth of Wiltshire Christmas Fayre

One of the largest Christmas events in the entire county each year is the Wealth of Wiltshire Christmas Fayre. Organised by the county council, the fayre is usually part of the A Legacy for Wiltshire programme, seeking to support local economy and businesses. This year’s Wealth of Wiltshire Christmas Fayre will be held on Thursday 1st of December 2016 in the Atrium, County Hall, Trowbridge. It will include everything from local craft and gift stalls to magic shows, local choirs and even Frozen princesses Elsa and Anna to keep the kids entertained.

Devizes market town lights up

Another popular Christmas event in Wiltshire is the Devizes Christmas Festival and Lantern Parade on the 25th of November 2016. This occasion attracts crowds of up to 3,000 people to the market town, where onlookers stare in wonder at a river of hundreds of stunning lanterns created by members of the local community. Everything from classic shapes to elephants, dragons and birds will grace the streets in gorgeous colours. Expect captivating street theatre masterpieces, handmade gifts, delicious dishes and live music topped off with an explosive fireworks display finale. And, of course, Father Christmas switches on the seasonal Christmas lights.

Salisbury Christmas market

From the 24th of November to the 18th of December, the breath-taking gothic location of the Guildhall Square in Salisbury will be home to one of the county’s biggest markets. The Salisbury Christmas Market offers an array of locally-made delicacies and foods to sample, all accompanied by delightful festive music played live around the site. The architecture of the area adds to the sense of grandiosity, in stunning contrast to over 100 decorated wooden chalets inspired by the finest traditions of European Christmas markets. Expect Gluhwein – or mulled wine, Bratwurst, Stollen and Lebkuchen (gingerbread) alongside many British specialities supporting the local economy.

Made in Bradford on Avon Christmas Market

If you’re looking for local handcrafts and creations, the Made in Bradford on Avon Christmas Market is the perfect choice. On the 12th of November in St. Margaret’s Hall, local artists will showcase their finest work, selling all manner of gifts and crafts. The event is run by the Bradford on Avon Community Arts Centre, which is home to over a hundred local creatives. Exquisite paintings, chic ceramics, woodwork, handmade jewellery, cakes and much more will be on offer. There’s even a raffle to get that lucky Christmas spirit spreading through the air!

Christmas Country Fair in aid of The Soldiers’ Charity

There really is something for everyone at the Lavington Community Hall’s Christmas Country Fair. On the 12th of November, hundreds of people will make the most of the free entry to this fantastic event and peruse stalls selling local crafts and produce: jewellery, textiles, glass crafts, Christmas decorations, cards, skincare, cakes, hats, bags, handmade wooden toys and much more. Some new stallholders this year along with many of your old favourites. A brilliant atmosphere plus delicious soup lunches, a raffle and tombola will make this a very fun event for all the family. Best of all, profits and donations all go to The Soldiers’ Charity, which offers valuable lifelong support to British Army veterans and their families.
There will also be Sunday markets hosted in Salisbury throughout November and December, and the weekly markets in towns such as Melksham and Corsham on Tuesdays, Trowbridge and Amesbury on Wednesdays, Devizes on Thursdays, Calne on Fridays, Chippenham and Marlborough on Saturdays. All of these local stalls are sure to get into the Christmas spirit throughout November and December. So wherever you are in Wiltshire this Christmas season, you’re sure to have a very merry time!


Make your cottage holiday delightful in Cranborne Chase

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.

Ivinghoe Beacon

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.

Wardour Castle

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.

Gore Clump

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.

Field in 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.

Fox and Hounds Pub East Knoyle

Image Credit: Phil Williams