One of our favourite places to visit when we are staying with my in-laws in Salisbury is Wilton House – or more specifically the Gardens since I have never once crossed the threshold of the house. It was, therefore, a “must do” on our return trip to the UK.
Wilton House is the country estate of the Earls of Pembroke going back centuries and, as such, it has been developed and evolved over very many years and epochs of taste. This is true of the gardens as well as the architecture. As far as my kids are concerned, however, it is all about the contemporary tree house adventure playground. There are scramble nets, above ground walkways, ladders galore, tire swings, all manner of slides of different heights, trampolines, a zip-line, and boat swings. My boys love the place and I love that they can burn off their abundant energy, return at last to their preferred semi-feral state, and roam free within the safe boundaries of the estate’s walls.
Once the kids had had enough of running wild, it was time to explore the gardens. I absolutely love the gardens at Wilton because there is something interesting to encounter at every turn, the planting and man-made structures are superb, and they offer beautiful vistas across the estate and towards the house. I take photographs incessantly when wandering around the gardens. Step, head turn, click. There is an oriental style garden with bright red bridges offsetting the green foliage and flower fringed ponds. There is a maze path in the middle of a little copse. There is a fun whispering seat too: someone can sit at one end of the stone semi-circle and whisper into the corner and their words will only be heard by the person sitting at the other edge and not by anyone outside the semi-circle. There are aromatic lavender lined paths that buzz with bees and butterflies. There are foliage tunnels. There is a boat house and statues galore. There are fountains spouting and bubbling with water.
It was a very hot day indeed – bizarrely hot for Britain – so when we reached the River Nadder, no more than a stream really which bubbles and tumbles its way through the grounds, the boys could not resist the temptation to dip their toes in the water. Inevitably, once their toes were in, their feet were in; and once their feet were in, they had to start wading through the water. They were happy as clams and the ducks were unperturbed so we decided to let them have their rebellion and keep wading. The little river is spanned by a wonderful Palladian bridge, which is one of Wilton’s most famous features. You might recognise it from the end credits of the second series of ‘Blackadder’.
A bit of history, a smattering of striking architecture, some glorious landscaping and a great outdoor playground makes Wilton a great, relaxing family day out.