Coolstays guide to the Cranborne Chase AONB
Travel Guides

Coolstays guide to the Cranborne Chase AONB

30th September 2022

With its diverse landscapes and picturesque villages, we think the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty might just make the perfect spot for your next staycation. Overlapping the boundaries of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset, this peaceful AONB is popular with cyclists, hill walkers, avid golfers, fishing enthusiasts, horse riders and general lovers of the great outdoors.

And with an abundance of fabulous places to stay, dotted amongst chalk river valleys and ancient woodlands, we’re sure you’ll find somewhere you love.


Where should you go?

Coolstays guide to the Cranborne Chase AONB

Five nature reserves - Take your pick!

Bokerley Ditch image courtesy of Jim Champion via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Cranborne Chase AONB is home to five charming nature reserves.

Not far from Shaftesbury, Oysters Coppice Nature Reserve is tucked away on a gentle slope and is home to an ancient woodland that features a mixture of oak, alder, ash and birch trees. The forest is also known for its array of wild flowers, including daffodils, ransoms and wood sorrel. Boggy areas, streams and swampy ponds offer a haven for wildlife, and bird watchers might want to keep an eye out for the bullfinch, song thrush and tawny owls that occupy the wood.

The Martin Down Nature Reserve might not offer up a dramatic landscape and challenging hikes, but what it does provide is a peaceful, gentle vista of open meadows, scrub and ancient hedge-lines. Ideal for a casual walk amongst nature and the perfect spot for a picnic, you can also take in the vast Bokerley Ditch (pictured). This big dyke winds its way down the western edge of Martin Down and historians believe it may have been built as a boundary in the Iron Age and fortified in the 5th or 6th centuries AD against the invading Saxons.

The remaining three nature reserves include Prescombe Down, which is tucked away far from the road and offers a peaceful, short walk across the chalk downland; Middleton Down, which curves and dips its way through a secluded reserve in the Chalke Valley and offers stunning views across the countryside; and Coombe Bissett Down, which encloses a 0.9 mile-long section of narrow, dry valley that’s home to grazing livestock and some delightful wild flowers.
Coolstays guide to the Cranborne Chase AONB

Longleat Safari Park

Longleat image courtesy of Lucy Djevdet via Flickr Creative Commons.

Ideal for groups travelling with children, Longleat Safari Park hosts a treasure trove of activities that all the family will love. Longleat sits in a beautiful slice of Wiltshire countryside and offers up a true adventure as you hop in your car and drive past tigers, lions, wolves and more amazing creatures from around the world. Or, why not set out on foot and walk with meerkats before boarding a train on the Longleat Railway to steam past lazy hippos and magnificent gorillas?

As well as the abundance of wildlife, Longleat Safari Park is also home to Longleat House, which is one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain today. You can wander the grounds and formal gardens taking in the splendour with your loved ones. The park also offers kids play areas, a fantastic maze and also plays host to a number of seasonal events throughout the year!
Coolstays guide to the Cranborne Chase AONB

Stourhead House & Gardens

Stourhead House & Gardens image courtesy of Graeme Churchard via Flickr Creative Commons.

If you are a big fan of the National Trust and love to spend your afternoons wandering around wonderfully manicured gardens then you’ll want to look no further than Stourhead House and Gardens.

Stourhead House sits up on a plateau of high ground overlooking the scenic countryside that surrounds it. You may enjoy a walk through the house itself, which was one of the first grand Palladian-style villas to be built in England, however, the real delight on offer here is the wonderful garden.

This inspiring garden, which was described as ‘a living work of art’ when first opened in the 1740s, features hills, ponds and some classical architecture as well as a lovely range of trees and shrubs. Be sure to wander the paths and you’ll be delighted at the many surprises that pop out at every turn.

If you want to venture slightly out from the house and gardens, you can explore the 2,500 acres of land that surrounds the estate. This sprawling countryside features an Iron Age hill fort, acres of ancient woodland and King Alfred's Tower - a 160ft high folly!
Coolstays guide to the Cranborne Chase AONB


Tisbury image courtesy of Philip Bragg via Flickr Creative Commons.

The charming village of Tisbury is often voted as one of the best places to live in the whole of the South West. It is steeped in over 2,000 years of history and offers an abundance of beautiful thatched cottages and winding country walks.

Lovers of classic British pubs will enjoy wandering the streets of Tisbury, bouncing from The Bennet Arms to the Boot Inn, before enjoying a delicious meal at the Mess Restaurant that offers creative, casual dining with a twist.

History lovers may also wish to visit St John’s, the 12th century parish church that sits in the centre of the village. The churchyard is home to a magnificent ancient yew tree that is over 4,000 years old!

The village is also nicely connected to the amazing network of public rights of way that can take you out into the scenic Wiltshire countryside towards a number of the area’s fantastic local attractions, including our next recommendation…
Coolstays guide to the Cranborne Chase AONB

Old Wardour Castle

Old Wardour Castle image courtesy of Michael Day via Flickr Creative Commons.

Situated not far from Tisbury, by a pretty lake in the Wiltshire countryside is Old Wardour Castle. Originally built in the 14th century, and heralded as one of the most daring and innovative homes in Britain, the castle is now a ruin that provides history lovers, couples and families with a peaceful day out.

If you want to learn about the history of the castle then be sure to take the free audio tour as you wander the ruin. You can hear about Lord Thomas Arundell who went to war during the Civil War in 1643, leaving his 60 year old wife Blanche to defend against attack!

Children will love exploring the different rooms of the ruined castle, and kids and adults alike will enjoy climbing to the top to enjoy the breathtaking views out across the countryside. And afterwards you can enjoy a picnic beneath the shade of an ancient tree in peace and tranquillity.

Top Coolstays in near the Cranborne Chase AONB

The Compasses Inn

Lower Chicksgrove - Wiltshire

Sleeps 2-4 per room

Historic 14th Century gastropub in Wiltshire with inn-style upstairs rooms and a self-catering three bedroom cottage

Dinton Dovecote

Salisbury - Wiltshire

Sleeps 2

Unique former Dovecote transformed into a stunning abode with heated outdoor pool in the pretty Wiltshire countryside.

West Barn Lodge

Salisbury - Wiltshire

Sleeps 18

19th Century barn that's been lovingly converted into luxury accommodation for up to 18 people in Wiltshire.

Abbas House

Melbury Abbas - Dorset

Sleeps 8

Grand holiday home in Dorset with large social spaces, a picturesque garden, and a private hot tub.

The Beckford Arms

Fonthill Gifford - Wiltshire

Sleeps 2 per room

Stay in the traditional yet stylish surroundings of The Beckford Arms - a country pub located on the parkland of Fonthill Estate in South Wiltshire.

The Little Granary

Wylye - Wiltshire

Sleeps 2

This little granary in Wiltshire dates back to the 16th century, and has traditional features, contemporary amenities and beautiful countryside views.

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