Wiltshire

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Close to the Cotswolds is Wiltshire, a mainly rural county bisected by the M4 motorway and the Great Western Main Line from London to South Wales. It includes the historic city of Salisbury, Longleat Safari Park, Stonehenge, and the one-time railway town of Swindon. It is only a short distance from London and Bristol.

Swindon is in the north east of Wiltshire. It has benefited from extensive development since the 1950s, leading to service industries spearheading the town's recent rise in fortunes. Before 1986, it was famous first and foremost as a railway town, being the very centre of the Great Western Railway's operations. Locomotives were built from 1841 to 1960, since the opening of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Swindon Works. Today, it also benefits from the M4 motorway as well as the Great Western Main Line. Honda cars instead of steam engines are made in Swindon.

Whereas Swindon is a place of pilgrimage for railway enthusiasts, Stonehenge is another. Dating from 3000 BC, it is the most complete prehistoric monument, in the midst of a complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments. By the 1970s, it became a place of pilgrimage for Neo-Druids. Today it has a visitor centre, and given the great demand, entry is permissable through timed tickets and advance bookings.

A short distance south is the city of Salisbury. Its cathedral has the tallest spire, and the oldest working mechanical clock in the United Kingdom. The Hall of John Halle is the oldest building in the UK to contain a cinema. Attractions include a twice weekly market and the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, housed in the King's House near the cathedral. It also has a number of conference venues, with venues including the Playhouse theatre, Salisbury Racecourse and the City Hall.

Two miles to the north of the city is Old Sarum. This was the original settlement of Salisbury, originally an Iron Age hill fort. Before the 1832 Reform Act, it had its own parliamentary constituency two seats, in spite of being sparsely populated. It was one of the most infamous 'Rotten Boroughs'.

Close to Warminster and Trowbridge is Longleat. The Elizabethan house and gardens owned by the Marquesses of Bath is known for its parkland landscaped by Capability Brown as well as its lions. It was the first stately home to open to the public and, in 1966, had another first: the first safari park outside Africa. Its inspiring house and nearby hotels are available for hire as conference venues.

Near Longleat, the county town of Trowbridge has remnants of its textile industry. At one time, it was comparable to Rochdale in terms of spindleage, with 20 woollen mills. Woollen cloth was produced in the town till 1982. Its mills have been refurbished as commercial developments with one mill, Clark's Mill, home to its County Court. Nearby is Warminster, a small garrison town noted on the edge of Salisbury Plain. It is noted for the Lake Pleasure Grounds, involvement in the English Civil War, its churches and - in more recent times - UFO sightings.

Further north from Trowbridge is Chippenham, a town which was boosted by the arrival of the Great Western Railway. It has a twice weekly street market and a fortnightly farmers' market. Though originally a market town, it has increasingly become a place for Bristol, Swindon and London bound commuters. There is an annual folk festival and - owing to Chippenham being his last resting place along with Gene Vincent - an Eddie Cochrane festival.

Other principal towns in Wiltshire include Malmesbury, famed for its abbey and James Dyson's bagless vacuum cleaners. Marlborough is famed for its Saturday street market; this is held on High Street, the second widest street in England (32 metres at its widest). Bradford-on-Avon is often described as a 'mini Bath' with Westbury famed for its White Horse.

Wiltshire's transport links are dominated by the M4, A4 and the Great Western Main Line. The A303 which skirts to southern edges of the county continues to Somerset and Devon in the west, with Basingstoke its most easterly point. The A419 links Swindon with the M4 motorway, as does the A346 with Marlborough.

There are regular train services along the Great Western Main Line to Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington railway stations. Swindon and Westbury are among its most important stations. The Wessex Main Line offers an alternative route to Bristol, with services to continuing to Southampton Central at its most easterly point.

Whether it's the county's mainly rural setting, or the connectivity of Swindon which wins you over, Wiltshire is a great place to host an event, with a host of conference venue in inspirational settings.