The Great West Way is a famous touring route which snakes its way through 125-miles of stunning countryside between London and Bristol.
It is based upon one of the first Great Roads commissioned by the medieval Kings of England, which themselves followed well-established trading routes between the key centres of commerce and power.
Our luxury hotel and spa, located on the breath-taking 2000-acre Bowood Estate, sits on the ancient route, between Marlborough and Chippenham, so provides a perfect base from which to explore large swathes of the Great West Way.
Passing through Berkshire, Wiltshire and Somerset, taking in some of the UK’s most iconic sights and beauty spots, the Great West Way offers a winning combination of history, culture and rural splendor.
Here, we take a look at just some of the highlights of this amazing ancient route between our capital city and Atlantic coastline, starting from London and working our way westwards.
One of the Queen’s three official residences, Windsor Castle gives visitors an insight into royal life through the centuries. It is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world with a history stretching back more than 900 years to William the Conqueror. Windsor has now been home to 39 British monarchs. You can marvel at the grandeur of the state apartments, walk up the aisle of St George’s Chapel where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wed in 2018 and take a tour of the extensive grounds
The centre of British rowing, this charming market town straddling the River Thames overlooked by the luscious greenery of the Chiltern Hills, makes a wonderful day out. First mentioned in the 12th century, Henley boasts an extensive range of historic buildings and with a broad range of independent shops and great restaurants and cafés, it is a great place to meander aimlessly. It is famous for its Henley Royal Regatta which sees the best rowers from across the globe compete on the river. You can head to the River and Rowing Museum to find out more about the annual boating event or take a tranquil walk along the river.
Best known around the world as setting for Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle is actually home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose family have lived there since 1679. The current castle was extensively rebuilt during the 18th and 19th centuries and now stands as one of the most impressive examples of Victorian architectural grandeur. Visitors can go behind the scenes of the ‘real Downton Abbey’ with a look at the opulent state rooms and living quarters, learn about the stately home’s links with Tutankhamun or wander the gardens and 1000-acres of stunning parkland which is dotted with follies and woodland.
With a Neolithic stone circle dating back almost 6000 years which encircles much of the village, Avebury is part of the same World Heritage Site as Stonehenge. As well as walking among the ancient standing stones which make up the biggest stone circle in the world, you can visit the 16th century manor house with rooms decorated to reflect different periods through which the residents lived – Tudor, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian and 20th century. You can also head to the Alexander Keiller Museum to learn more about the archaeology and history of this prehistoric sacred landscape.
A slight detour south onto the Salisbury Plain is worth it to marvel at one of the most iconic historic monuments in the world, Stonehenge. The giant standing stones dating back five millennia that make up the mysterious and ancient circle at Stonehenge are awe-inspiring when viewed in person. A grand new exhibition and visitor centre presents 250 ancient artefacts and a model of a 5,500 year-old man, representing the builders of Stonehenge. You can also explore the replica Neolithic houses and examine the tools and everyday objects of our ancient ancestors.
This will be easy if you’re staying with us. Right on your doorstep is one of the most beautiful and fascinating estates in the west of England. Bowood House, a fine example of Georgian architecture, sits surrounded by 100-acres of ‘Capability Brown’ landscaped parkland. Still home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, Bowood House offers lots to interest and entertain visitors with lavish interiors rich in art and antiques, extensive formal gardens, rambling parkland and an adventure playground to keep the little ones happy.
Step back in time with a visit to the perfectly preserved historic village of Lacock. A popular filming spot which has provided the backdrop to many movies including Harry Potter. Lacock is like an architectural time capsule with no buildings younger than 200 years old while the oldest building dates back to the 13th century. Lacock Abbey sits at the heart of the village in its own grounds and visitors can explore its medieval rooms and cloisters. A nearby museum celebrates the achievements of its most famous resident, William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the fathers of modern photography. Once you’ve done your sightseeing grab a bite to eat in one of the rustic pubs or twee tearooms.
A bustling city of wonderful Georgian architecture on the banks of the River Avon, with some of the best preserved Roman remains in Britain, all ringed by the green Somerset hills, Bath is a joy for any visitor. Named a World Heritage Site in 1987 in recognition of its vast array of Regency properties including the Royal Crescent and the Circus, the city is perhaps best known for the Roman-built thermal baths after which it is named. It is also a favourite with Jane Austen fans as the setting for three of the author’s books. With museums, galleries, tours, shops and restaurants a plenty, Bath really does have something for everyone.
Bristol is a city of many parts, steeped in history but a hotbed of diverse contemporary culture and creativity, from its street art and great music scene to its many culinary delights. There is a huge amount to see and do: explore the city’s heritage at sights like the incredible SS Great Britain or M Shed, meander the golden streets of Clifton to admire Brunel’s suspension bridge across the Avon gorge, head to Bedminster to admire some of the world’s most incredible street art, grab a coffee or drink in achingly trendy Stokes Croft or take a walk around the harbourside. Bristol rivals many far bigger cities for fun and excitement.
There are of course countless other wonderful places to visit along the Great West Way – this is just a taster to help you start planning. Once you start investigating the many wonders of the route west from London, you will find yourself spoilt for choice.
Gardens really do come to life in spring. And, during this season, gardens have a rejuvenating effect on all who visit them. When people visit our beautiful gardens at Bowood, we see them becoming more mindful.
After all, there is something magical and even grounding about wandering through a garden during the spring season. It immediately brings you into the present moment. Hear the birds singing, see a range of flowers blooming and feel the wind on your cheeks.
Bowood Gardens offer you a true escape from fast-paced city life.
We have almost every period of English garden design in our glorious grounds. This means that our gardens offer an educational experience, as well as an opportunity to discover new plants and trees.
With the growing season in full swing—our gardeners have been working hard, building on the successes of last year, creating even more picturesque floral displays within the Bowood grounds.
This means that spending time in Bowood Gardens is nothing short of enchanting.
Not only do our gardens offer you the chance to enjoy beautiful sights, the following points of inspiration are perfect for your spring garden.
Discover over 700 species of trees in Bowood’s Arboretum.
Although it was designed back in 1762 by “Capability” Brown, many of the Arboretum’s original features are still present now. And, this season, it is truly flourishing.
There has been much work carried out on the Arboretum over winter to keep it in top condition for spring. While the trees are still planted in order of their country of origin, some of the tree variations, you’ll have never seen before.
Can you spot the old favourite cedar tree? It’s the largest in Europe.
A fascinating visit.
It’s not every day you get to enjoy the pleasant surroundings of a private garden.
The walled garden is closed to walk ins, but open to groups and individuals booking an exclusive tour. There are various tour dates available this year. The first one takes place towards the end of April and will run until early October.
From spring onwards, you can expect the private garden to look magnificent. After last year’s wonderful achievements, our gardeners have been focusing on the senses of sight and smell. So, on first stepping into the garden, you should expect to be hit with a picturesque display of beautiful colours and notice a refreshing fragrance too.
We hope it encourages your own garden creativity.
This year’s tour options include:
Whichever package you go for, the private walled garden will look equally magnificent. We’re sure you’ll have plenty of questions answered on your visit too
The Woodland Gardens open on 19th April this year and close early June. The gardens are already blooming in time for the flowering season. Make the most of them this spring—they’re in excellent form.
Bowood’s “Walk of the Week” will continue this year, with new clearly signposted routes to be explored. On your wander, discover the 30 original hardy hybrids that were planted in 1854. They might be old, but they’re looking spectacular.
Parking will continue to be convenient, making sure the gardens are accessible. We look forward to welcoming you to a hot drink and delicious homemade cake here too.
Victoria sponge is always a favourite.
Keen gardeners will be inspired by our herbaceous border this season. In fact, you don’t have to be an avid gardener to be impressed with this 70ft long and 8ft deep herbaceous border. All the family will enjoy looking at this lovely sight.
This spring, the border is extremely colourful and bound to capture your imagination as you journey around our grounds.
You’ll notice that our gardeners have also been working hard on maintaining the border throughout winter.
Bowood Terrace Gardens continue to bring a taste of Italy to Bowood’s very English gardens.
Although a summer visit would promise blooming roses, a spring visit to the Terrace Gardens this year promises an equally tranquil experience.
They’re particularly fragrant this season and you’ll, no doubt, be able to spot the Terrace Gardens’ cherished ornaments.
Why not take some time out on the upper terrace, look at the views…breathe…and relax?
There is no better time to stay in our luxury hotel than in spring, when evenings are light, and flowers are blooming.
What’s more, our Glorious Garden Get-Away can leave you feeling inspired for the gardening season ahead.
The Bowood Garden get-away includes a stay in our luxury overnight accommodation, breakfast, a three-course meal, and two-course lunch in the Shelbourne Restaurant, a tour of the Private Walled Garden, use of our spa facilities, as well as complimentary access to Bowood House, Terrace Gardens, Arboretum, and Woodland Gardens.
If you are looking for garden inspiration, you’ll find it at Bowood this spring.