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Rural Life Guide

Rural Life Guide

Escape to the country for farmers’ markets, shepherd huts and cosy pubs. 
 

The Great West Way provides wonderful opportunities for experiencing England’s rich and varied rural life. However you choose to travel the route, whether on a scenic road trip or a cross-country hike, you’re sure to pass through green and pleasant land. In fact you’ll be surprised how little you have to travel outside London to encounter lush green fields and friendly village chit-chat. Here’s some attractions, farm stays, markets and more that you might like to visit on your travels:

Country attractions 

The Museum of English Rural Life in Reading is a must if you want to learn more about the English countryside, and indeed understand the story of the country itself. Although you might expect it to be in the middle of nowhere, given the subject matter, it’s only 30 minutes by train from London. Meanwhile Cogges Manor Farm, a short detour from the Great West Way in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, has been around for centuries and offers an enchanting glimpse at farming through the ages. 

There’s plenty of rural attractions for the kids, too. Take them to one of the many family-friendly farms along the route where they can meet horses, cows, pigs and sheep and enjoy tractor rides, goat feeding and egg collecting. Try Cotswold Farm Park, Odds Farm Park, Fantastic Animal Farm or Roves Farm. Top tip: In spring - lambing season - many farms hold open days so tots can see fuzzy newborn lambs up close. 

Stay on a farm 

To get an authentic feel for life on the land, wake up to the sound of cockerels at one of the fabulous farms along the Great West Way.

Depending on what sort of experience you want, you could stay at a lovely luxurious farmhouse B&B like Marshwood Farm near Salisbury or Great Ashley Farm in Bradford-on-Avon. You could try glamping, and get back to nature in a snuggly shepherd hut on rolling farmland (Rushall Organics Farm is one of many along the touring route offering such rustic romance). Or you could get stuck in with a full-on farm stay. Mill Farm in Devizes offers lots of farm-based experiences alongside its accommodation, from badger watching to donkey rides. 

There’s also a burgeoning selection of rural craft courses available - try making your own traditional wooden rake in the woods at Warminster with Explore the Great Outdoors. Top tip: If you’re interested in organic farming and happy to volunteer, WWOOF can connect you with local smallholdings where you can learn new skills helping out around the farm. 

Did you know? A short drive north of the Great West Way you’ll find the celebs’ favourite farm stay: Soho Farmhouse. Non-members can stay at this posh Cotswolds retreat, which is excellent news if you’re a city dweller through-and-through but like the idea of taking in countryside views alongside the likes of the Clooneys and the Beckhams.

Farmers markets & country shows

Yes, many market towns along the touring route do still hold markets! As do cities and even some villages too. Check out the Thames Valley Farmers’ Market Co-operative for upcoming markets featuring the best produce from the surrounding area, from eggs, cheese and meat to fresh heritage veg, honeys and jams. Regular locations include Ascot, Newbury, Reading and Windsor. 

Country shows are also a great way to get to grips with rural life, showcasing everything from flower arrangements to prize livestock. There’s usually a huge array of local produce to sample, too. And stalls selling rural fashions (including wax jackets, feathered hats and equestrian boots) and homespun crafts. Royal Bath and West Show at the end of May/beginning of June is one of the biggest. Then there’s the Cotswolds Show and Food Festival in July and Wiltshire Game & Country Show at Bowood House in September.

Country walks, pubs & rural traditions 

On Sundays, many Brits love a gentle walk in the countryside followed by a Sunday roast and a pint in a country pub. Due to this you’ll find rural pubs are usually understanding if you plod in wearing walking boots with a muddy pup by your side. Take a look at our 10 best short walks and 10 long distance walking trails for some pawsibilities. 

Even if you don’t go for a walk, you should visit the local pub in whichever picturesque village you’re staying in as they’re often the focal point of the community. Some exceptional pubs along the touring route include The Three Tuns Freehouse at Great Bedwyn, The Wild Duck at Ewen, The Sign of the Angel at Lacock and The Methuen Arms, Corsham. But you’ll find pubs a-plenty - just look for inviting wood fires and local ales on tap. 

Pubs are also a great place to discover rural traditions, especially in the Cotswolds where if you’re lucky you’ll find skittle-like pub game Aunt Sally being played. The villages of the region are also good places to catch Morris Dancing (see The Morris Ring for more information and an events calendar) and Mummers Plays - rhyming comedic folk plays that tour pubs around Christmas time. 

Finally, don’t forget to read our list of 10 ridiculously pretty villages - pick your favourites to begin plotting your bespoke rural itinerary. 

A few more ideas… 

●    Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre 
●    Chiltern Open Air Museum 
●    Chiltern Retreat rural camping 
●    Buttle Farm charcuterie, Calne 
 

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Product Information

  1. Roves Farm Visitor Centre

    Swindon

    A Great Family Day Out, whatever the weather! Free Tractor Rides, Animal Feeding, Pets Corner, Animal Racing, Kids Craft, Indoor & Outdoor Adventure Play. Themed Events every School Holiday and ‘Toddler Fun’ activities every weekday during Term Time.

  2. Buttle Farm

    Calne

    Chalk Barn is a luxury contemporary style cottage at Buttle Farm with many original features, beautifully converted, with huge superking beds, stunning en-suites and spacious reception rooms, available as a 2, 3 or 4-bedroom option.

  3. Bradford on Avon

    Looking to visit the amazing town of Bradford on Avon?...If so, click here to get the latest Bradford on Avon tourist information direct from the official Wiltshire tourism site!

  4. Devizes

    Devizes

    Looking to visit the amazing town of Devizes?...If so, click here to get the latest Devizes tourist information direct from the official Wiltshire tourism site!

  5. What's happening in Newbury?

    Newbury

    Alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, the largest town in West Berkshire, Newbury, has a bustling high street with many interesting shops, which include unique stores such as family-run department store Camp Hopson.

  6. Reading

    Reading

    Be amazed by modern Reading – from remarkable medieval heritage and beautiful Thames countryside to award-winning shopping centres, there’s a surprise around every corner.

  7. The Three Tuns Freehouse

    Marlborough

    We are an award-winning independent Freehouse with an excellent local reputation for the quality of our food and beers.  Run by Chef Proprietor James Wilsey who spent many years cooking in some of the top pubs and bistros in London, so expect full flavour, honest, seasonal cooking.

  8. Lacock Abbey, Village and Fox Talbot Museum

    Chippenham

    Looking to visit the amazing town of Lacock?...If so, click here to get the latest Lacock tourist information direct from the official Wiltshire tourism site!

  9. Corsham

    Looking to visit the amazing town of Corsham?...If so, click here to get the latest Corsham tourist information direct from the official Wiltshire tourism site!

Itinerary Distances

FromToDistance * (metric)
Roves Farm Visitor Centre (51.59767,-1.70119)Buttle Farm (51.44469,-1.95251)21.92
Buttle Farm (51.44469,-1.95251)Bradford on Avon (51.34764,-2.25062)21.02
Bradford on Avon (51.34764,-2.25062)Devizes (51.35258,-1.99576)15.96
Devizes (51.35258,-1.99576)What's happening in Newbury? (51.40368,-1.32427)42.31
What's happening in Newbury? (51.40368,-1.32427)Reading (51.45239,-0.97383)22.43
Reading (51.45239,-0.97383)The Three Tuns Freehouse (51.38026,-1.60376)40.02
The Three Tuns Freehouse (51.38026,-1.60376)Lacock Abbey, Village and Fox Talbot Museum (51.41406,-2.11936)32.41
Lacock Abbey, Village and Fox Talbot Museum (51.41406,-2.11936)Corsham (51.43437,-2.18455)4.55
Total Distance *200.58 miles
Estimated Journey Time6.46 hours

* Approximate distance by road

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