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Best off-the-beaten-paths in Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, and Hampshire?

We're off to England in a couple of weeks, staying in Salisbury for a week. We have tickets for a sunrise tour of Stonehenge, so that's our major attraction sorted. We've been to the UK a handful of times and know our way around the big tourist attractions. This time we're looking for a more low-key exploration of smaller towns that aren't normally on our tourist radar. Places we've been before and don't need to see again this time: Bath, Avebury, Wells, Oxford, Warwick, the "major" Cotswolds towns (Stow, Bourton, Moreton, Slaughters). We're not setting foot in London this time.

Any suggestions for charming small/medium towns or small cities that have some pleasant sights and a welcoming pub or two that would be good to visit? We'll have a car and I'm reasonably comfortable driving in the UK. Would like to not drive more than 2 hours each way to/from Salisbury for any sights.

Posted by
6113 posts

You could easily spend 2 days in the New Forest. Beaulieu, Bucklers Hard and Exbury Gardens are all worth a visit, plus visit the villages such as Lymington and Lyndhurst.

Drive to Milford on Sea, park and walk out to Hurst Castle and take the water taxi back.

Day on the beach at Bournemouth.

Cerne Abbas Giant and the Jurassic Coast

Posted by
8050 posts

Lyme Regis. Walk along the Cobb. Coffee and a nosh at the Aroma Cafe. Visit the Lyme Regis Museum. Pug and Puffin pet store. Rolly’s handmade fudge. Rummage about the Sanctuary Bookshop. Have a pint at the Royal Lion on the main drag or at the Cobb Arms. Stayed two nights in Lyme Regis last November. Loved it!

Posted by
2277 posts

This is not off the beaten track but weill worth seeing. Drive SW from Salisbury and head for Lulworth Cove and then walk the path along the cliffs to Durdle Dor - see map:>,-2.276198,11960m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x4872ffcd10373e71:0xff8b5f1149c4acf0!8m2!3d50.6182125!4d-2.2470177!5m1!1e1

You might also like to visit the National Trust property - Mottisfont - which lies E of Salisbury. If time allows - continue to Winchester.,-1.7020435,17857m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x4872ffcd10373e71:0xff8b5f1149c4acf0!8m2!3d50.6182125!4d-2.2470177!5m1!1e1

Posted by
392 posts

Salisbury is about 45 minutes from Marlborough which was a big hit with my American friends last year. Lots of charming buildings, side alleys, stroll down by the river, but not touristy at all.

Posted by
5029 posts

I've copied in a reply to a request for suggestions based in West Sussex and Hampshire. I know you haven't included West Sussex in your itinerary so parts of if may not interest you but it's a rough guide:

I would start my visit in Chichester, It's a very attractive City and very historic. There's much to do and see in the city and surrounding area plus there's a good choice of accommodation.

I would include Petworth House in your visit, It's not far from Chichester and ticks some of your boxes.

Petersfield is another nearby old market town with Queen Elizabeth Country Park for some gentle hiking.

There's a hike I enjoy (and the kids do too) and that's up Old Winchester Hill It's not too strenuous although depending on what side you approach there is quite a steep incline for 100 metres or so as you reach the top. I always like to coincide this walk with a visit to The Shoe Inn in Exton for a well deserved lunch after

Winchester should definitely be on your list. England's ancient capital A wonderful city with much to see and do, I just love the fact that King Arthur's Round Table is hanging in The Great Hall

Your drive between these places will take in many fantastic small villages full of thatched cottages, meandering streams, cosy old pubs, village halls and a variety of markets. In fact the whole area that covers the places I've outlined is so full of such villages that it is impossible to list them all or recommend any in particular.

If you do have any extra time I would add in a visit to the New Forest National Park is a website that is full of useful information likewise