Stretching between Bristol and London, the Great West Way® is an exciting touring route that meanders through quintessential England. This route is all about choices; where will you stay? There are plush hotels, rural retreats, unique treehouses or cosy B&Bs. How will you travel? You can cycle, walk or drive – or hop on a train using the Great West Way® Discoverer Pass. What will you do? You’re never more than ten minutes away from somewhere exciting to visit. To stop you from being overwhelmed by so much choice, here are 9 unmissable things to do during your Great West Way® adventure.
With restrictions easing across England, please continue to follow government guidance and remember to plan ahead and check attraction websites before travelling. Take a look at our top tips on how to escape the everyday responsibly to see how you can make the most out of your day trips and breaks.
Explore atmospheric ancient standing stones
Discover the World Heritage site of Avebury and Stonehenge on your journey along the Great West Way®. Avebury is a quaint English village with a difference; it is home to the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle. Take an early walk amongst the Avebury stones on a misty morning to experience the full force of their ancient atmosphere. Stonehenge, just a short detour to the south of the main route, needs no introduction. This mysterious monument is one England’s most iconic sites and an unmissable part of your Great West Way® journey.
Discover the Tranquillity of the Waterways on a Canal Boat
Kennet & Avon Canal
Meandering through the landscape between Bath and Reading, the Kennet & Avon Canal was once a key industrial route and is now a haven for both people and nature. Take a leisurely journey along the canal aboard a narrowboat to enjoy a slower pace of life. Let the weight of day-to-day responsibilities lift from your shoulders as you float past peaceful Wiltshire landscapes, through charming market towns, and over grand aqueducts. Look out for the bright blue flash of a kingfisher darting past, or a solemn heron fishing in the shadows.
Windsor Castle has been the family home of the British monarchy for almost 1,000 years, and is where the Queen likes to spend her free weekends. There is plenty to see at this incredible store of England’s history. Look around the magnificent State Apartments and see the artwork on display. Visit St George's Chapel, where HRH Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle were married in 2018. Watch the colourful spectacle of the 'Changing of the Guard'.
Add some free-wheeling adventure to your Great West Way® trip with a bicycle made for two. Hire a high-spec, easy to ride tandem bike from Bristol Tandem Hire and take a self-guided tour of an exceptionally vibrant city. Located at the very Western end of the Great West Way® route, Bristol is home to independent pubs and restaurants, stunning street art and maritime history. This is the city of bridges, balloons, boats, Brunel, Banksy - and, of course, bikes!
A great way to experience the hundreds of years of English history embedded in the landscapes of the Great West Way® is to visit one of the many National Trust properties scattered along the route. At Tyntesfield in Somerset, explore an unusual example of a near-complete Victorian Gothic country house and estate. At Newark Park in Gloucestershire, admire spectacular views over unspoilt Cotswold countryside. At Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, explore a quirky country house built upon the foundations of a former nunnery, find out about the history of photography and spot views from your favourite films and TV shows.
For an unmissable, elegant and truly English experience, head to the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa in Bath. You may recognise the grand sweep of the Royal Crescent from films like The Duchess and TV shows like Bridgerton; it is one of Bath’s most famous streets and brings to mind the city’s Regency past. Here you can indulge in a decadent afternoon tea featuring sandwiches galore and freshly baked scones within the perfect English gardens of the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa.
Follow enticing country roads past thatched cottages, pristine cricket greens and rural pubs. Hire a classic car from Vintage Classics and explore the Great West Way® at your own pace, stopping whenever you fancy to look around the route’s most picture-perfect villages – like welcoming Steeple Ashton in Wiltshire, the National Trust village of Lacock or any of the lovely small towns alongside the River Thames. Here you will find historic houses, Instagram-worthy cottages and top-notch country pubs.
Appreciate nature at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum
Located around 20 miles north of Bath and surrounded by glorious Cotswolds countryside is one of the most extraordinary arboretums in the world. Around 15,000 trees from all over the globe come together at Westonbirt to form a stunning tree garden. This is the ideal setting to relax and escape from the everyday. Wander amongst the trees, breathe in the fresh air and appreciate the joyful tranquillity of nature.
Treat yourself to a Sumptuous Spa Day at Whatley Manor
Relax, unwind and enjoy a proper pamper in the heart of the Cotswolds. Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa offer a range of lovely spa experiences as well as an indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool. Located just outside Malmesbury, luxurious Whatley Manor is an easy stop on your Great West Way® adventure - you'll come away feeling refreshed, energised and revitalised.