Getting Oriented

In the south of England, Salisbury Plain, part of the inland county of Wiltshire, presents a sharp contrast to the sheltered villages of coastal Hampshire and Dorset, and the bustle of the port cities of Southampton and Portsmouth. Culturally compelling towns like Salisbury and Winchester are great places to spend the night.

Salisbury puts you within easy reach of Stonehenge and the equally ancient stone circles at Avebury. From there you can swing south to the New Forest. The southern coast of Dorset has a couple of popular vacation resorts, Bournemouth and Weymouth, and some historic sites: Corfe Castle, Maiden Castle, and the Cerne Abbas Giant. Lyme Regis is the gateway to the Jurassic Coast, a fossil-filled World Heritage Site.

  • Winchester, Portsmouth, and Southampton. One of the region's most culturally and historically significant towns, Winchester lies a short distance from the genteel village of Chawton, home to Jane Austen, and the great south-coast ports of Portsmouth and Southampton.
  • Isle of Wight. Osborne House, near Cowes, and Carisbrooke Castle, outside Newport, provide historic interest, while beach lovers and sailors head for the charming east-coast resorts of Ryde and Ventnor or the island’s iconic Needles landmark, on the western tip.
  • Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Salisbury Plain. Wiltshire’s great cathedral city of Salisbury is close to the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, as well as Wilton, a Palladian estate. Farther afield are more great estates, Stourhead and Longleat.
  • New Forest, Dorset, and the South Coast. The rustic, although not sparsely populated by U.S. standards, New Forest parkland stretches between Southampton and Bournemouth. The route west passes Wimborne Minster, dominated by its church, and ruined Corfe Castle. Also worth a stop are Sherborne, with its beautiful abbey; Dorchester, the heart of "Hardy Country"; and coastal Weymouth and Lyme Regis.

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