Wiltshire-based landscape designer Elizabeth Tyler shares her favorite places to walk, eat and hunt for antiques in the historic English county - from Italian-style gardens to ancient landforms and charming pubs.
Wiltshire, with its rolling hills, picturesque villages, prehistoric landmarks and storied forests, is a wonderful choice for a wholesome weekend break. Landscape designer and former Londoner, Elizabeth Tyler, moved to Wiltshire in 2019, where she lives in a dovecote house with her husband, George, an agroecologist, and their two lurchers. Elizabeth has spent the last four years exploring, and often designing, many of the county's loveliest and greenest spaces. She shares her insider's guide.
Where to Stay
The Beckford Arms: Friends have loved staying at The Beckford Arms in Salisbury, which is within walking distance of the Fonthill Estate - another excellent walking location - and serves delicious food.
Henge Estate: Also near Salisbury, the beautiful Henge Estate, is perfect if you're a larger party - my whole family stayed there for our wedding last year. It feels like a family home, with gorgeous views over paddocks and woodland.
Kin House: For celebrations, special occasions and large family holidays, look no further than the newly-opened Kin House in the village of Kington Langley near Chippenham. The 12-bed Georgian manor has walled gardens, his and hers beauty salons and interiors by Barlow & Barlow (pictured below).
What to See & Do
Stourhead House & Gardens: One of my favorite places to walk and take visitors is the Stourhead estate. Predominantly famous for its 18th century landscaped park, complete with the Temple of Flora, a Pantheon and bridge (with a starring role in the 1975 film, Barry Lyndon), Stourhead also has a stunning and easily accessible wider estate. There’s a big loop I love to walk, which takes in King Alfred’s Tower - thought to mark the spot where King Alfred the Great rallied his Wessex troops in the 9th century.
Pewsey Vale: I love to walk in the Pewsey Vale, with its rolling chalk escarpments and ancient landforms. Standing at the top of formations, like the ‘Giant’s Grave’ Long Barrow, it’s easy to see how so many myths and legends are associated with this area, why ancient people were drawn to the dramatic landscape and why it continues to inspire; a recent exhibition at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, showed the influence of the landscape on Eric Ravilious.
Iford Manor Estate: Iford Manor is a lovely garden to visit, especially in early summer when the wisteria is out. The garden - designed by Harold Peto in the early 20th century - reminds me of some of my favorite Italian gardens with colonnades, terracing and sculpture. The recently restored cloisters - also designed by Peto - plays host to concerts in the summer.
Stonehenge: We live within walking distance of Stonehenge, which is a popular outing when we have guests. Research continues to evolve into the ancient settlements around Stonehenge, but it’s true to say that some of our very earliest ancestors were settled here; always good to remember when you’re having a rough day. Friends and I have started a tradition of walking to the winter solstice, packing coffee and breakfast and watching the sun come up - to herald longer days ahead.
Savernake Forest: I love to walk our two lurchers in the Savernake Forest, avoiding too many deer and taking in the seasonal colors. A hunting forest since the 12th century (although much reduced in size), the area has been protected for centuries and is home to oak trees over one thousand years old. Owned by the Seymour family, the forest was a hunting location favored by Henry VIII, who first met his third wife, Jane Seymour, here; I like to think of the King meeting his future queen under one of these trees.
Where to Eat
Pythhouse Kitchen Garden: A real favorite of mine, Pythhouse Kitchen Garden is set in a beautiful walled garden and serves seasonal, locally sourced food. The garden is not only a gorgeous setting but provides most of the fruit and vegetables served in the restaurant. Winter or summer, it's just as lovely.
The Compasses Inn: The Compasses Inn near Tisbury is one of my favorite places for a cosy pub supper and a pint from one of the brilliant local breweries. The building dates from the 14th century and the atmosphere is instantly cheering as you step through the door. There are also rooms above the pub if you fancy staying a little longer or making a weekend of it.
The Red Lion: The Michelin-starred pub, The Red Lion, in the village of East Chisenbury is our favorite place to celebrate. Their home-brewed negronis are especially good and their food is delicious, although I do miss the weekend bakery they ran over lockdown: the best canelles this side of Paris.
Messums Wiltshire: Messums - a multi-purpose gallery and arts centre - has recently reopened its restaurant and is a great choice for lunch, with a frequently changing seasonal menu and lots of excitement cooked up by its chef director, Anna Ortiz. Do visit the gallery and arts center for a browse too.
Where to Shop
Antiques, Hungerford: 'I love popping up to Hungerford (on the border with Berkshire) to browse the lovely antique shops there, and I always stop in at Garden Art which has a brilliant selection of outdoor antiques.
Antiques & Vintage, Devizes: There is a little vintage shop in Devizes, Elm Tree Antiques, which has some great pieces if you’re up for rooting around. I once bought an Edwardian boy's waistcoat; my favorite thing to sling over an otherwise plain outfit. There is a resident wolfhound called Mabel who observes you as you browse.
Food & Wine, Tisbury: The pretty village of Tisbury is a great stop for stocking or replenishing the larder, or cellar, with both Provenance and the Tisbury Deli for food, and Gardner & Beedle for wine.
Books, Marlborough: The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough is a great place to stock up on new reads. The staff are so knowledgeable and always have time for a chat.