Live like you’re the lord of the manor

Bowood Hotel and Spa in Chippenham, Wiltshire
Bowood Hotel and Spa in Chippenham, Wiltshire
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Elphinstone Hotel.

Travel: Enjoy a hotel stay steeped in 400 years of history at Elphinstone

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Just like turkey at Christmas and rain at Wimbledon, stories of people being arrested for minor drugs offences are, for me, synonymous with the summer solstice and Stonehenge.

So when I got the chance to travel to this area, I knew it was an opportunity to gain a bit more of an insight.

We stayed at the Bowood Hotel and Spa, near Calne in Wiltshire and it would have been easy to have just remained there and not done any exploring.

The hotel, which opened in 2009 with 43 bedrooms, sits in the heart of the Bowood Estate, surrounded by beautiful scenery.

On our first day I found myself sat in a Jacuzzi, looking out of the huge floor-to-ceiling windows and seeing a deer grazing nearby.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

But if you can drag yourself away, the surrounding area is well worth exploring with the famous ancient sites of Stonehenge and Avebury nearby.

While the meaning of Stonehenge may been unclear, it remains an impressive place to visit.

The stone circle at Avebury is less well-known than Stonehenge, but it’s still fascinating and, personally, I prefer it.

This may have something to do with its proximity to the Red Lion pub, which is always busy with visitors, particularly passing motorcyclists – although these are more the sunny Sunday biker kind and less the gangs of large, bearded men.

The pub’s also supposed to be haunted, but I’m more of an ale man than spirits.

The nearby museum also houses the archaeological collections of the marmalade heir Alexander Keiller, who excavated and re-erected many stones during the 1930s.

If after that, you still crave a bit of history the largest man-made mound in Europe, Silbury Hill, is not far away.

The striking hill compares in height to the Egyptian pyramids, but its purpose and significance remain unknown.

Closer to the hotel, which has its own golf course, there’s the parkland, designed by landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, to explore.

Hop on a golf buggy and you’re just a mile’s ride away from the stately Bowood House and Gardens – home to the descendants of the 1st Earl of Shelburne and the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne since 1754.

It even has an adventure playground for the kids, although I think that’s a more recent addition.

The present Marquis of Lansdowne opened the house and gardens to the public in 1975.

At this time of year, until November, more than half the house is open to the public as well as over 100 acres of gardens and grounds.

Back at the hotel there’s also a spa, complete with swimming pool, hot pool, crystal steam room, rock sauna, aromatherapy showers and a gym which I’d strongly recommend.

My partner enjoyed a facial while I went for a relaxing hot stone massage. The treatments were fantastic and the therapist clearly knew her stuff.

In the evening the hotel’s Shelburne Restaurant, which boasts two AA Rosettes, was a superb way to end the day.

We had sautéed scallop for starter and a pigeon terrine with spiced carrot purée.

For mains I had roast loin of venison with celeriac gratin and red cabbage while my girlfriend went for the sautéed fillet of sea bass, with asparagus and lobster risotto.

The food, like the hotel itself, was pure indulgence.


Gareth stayed at the Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf resort. Summer breaks start at £135 a night. The hotel currently offers a second night for half price based on two adults sharing a room. If you stay for two nights during August you get a third night free. Call 0845 2600 409, email or visit

Spa breaks are from £225 per night and include two 25 minute treatments or a one hour treatment as well as use of the spa facilities.

The Red Lion pub is in Avebury High Street. To book call 01672 539266.

Avebury’s stone circle is free to visit. Call 01672 539 250 or go to for more information.

Stonehenge. Open 9am to 7pm throughout August. Prices: Adults: £7.50; children: £4.50; concessions: £6.80. A family ticket costs £19.50.