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Weekend break to Wiltshire

Swindon has long been linked with the ability to travel and enjoy a quick getaway.

In 1840 the Great Western Railway arrived, bringing with it a new town area, sitting alongside the old market town.

Today, on a weekend break this ethos is still apparent as countryside and town proved equally within easy reach of our base for the weekend - the Holiday Inn, Swindon.

It is about a five-minute drive from junction 15 of the M4, and proved the ideal spot to access the diverse parts of north-east Wiltshire.
Me and my travelling companion, my mate from university days Nikki, decided to use our getaway to take in some countryside, fresh air and a spot of pampering.

The relaxation element got off to a good start. Our twin room was spacious, modern and comfortable. And you can request soft or firm pillows, to aid a good night’s sleep. A three-course meal in the hotel’s Traders Restaurant came in at a very reasonable price.

Saturday started well, with a good 20 lengths of a decent-sized pool in the Spirit Leisure Club.

A fully equipped gym is available for hotel members to use, but we both decided to go for what I consider to be the gold-standard of any pampering weekend - a full body massage. This was expertly delivered by Angie Smith, a beauty therapist, who runs her salon from the hotel.
Roughly half-an-hour away is Marlborough, a delightful market town. Imagine a larger West Malling, and you get the picture.

The middle of the street was given over to a thriving Saturday market, and historic buildings are home to boutique shops and the odd small chain store.
It is the sort of place that will gently and pleasantly relieve you of cash, but you’ll come away feeling positive, not harassed by a busy town-centre.

We headed back towards Swindon, stopping off to walk parts of The Ridgeway National Trail.
It is Britain’s oldest road, and the trail follows an ancient chalk ridge route used by prehistoric man.
The entire route is 87 miles, stretching from parts of The Thames and the Chilterns. That distance was perhaps a bit much for two chattering uni mates, but a gentle walk from the outskirts of Marlborough took us along footpaths, gentle hills and fields.

There was just time as evening drew in to take a short drive to Barbury Castle, an Iron Age hill fort. There is not much left of the fort to see, apart from defensive ditches and ramparts, but in its day, it commanded a view over the Ridgeway. In recognition of this, it now lies within a country park, in the Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
On a clear day, you get a wonderful view of rolling fields, looking back towards the hub of the town.

No chill-out weekend is complete without a blow-out meal. We can recommend The Weighbridge Brewhouse in Swindon. True to its name, the restaurant set in a converted church, contains a microbrewery and the results are available at the bar.
I thought I was adventurous opting for a delicious veal schnitzel, Nikki went one better with a Thai crocodile curry.

Mary and Nikki’s stay was courtesy of the Holiday Inn, Swindon.

The hotel is situated on Marlborough Road, Swindon and is just two miles from the town centre.

It takes roughly two hours to reach from mid Kent.
Prices for a mid-week stay on a bed and breakfast basis start from £49, weekend stays start from £99, including breakfast.
Book online at www.ihg.com, or call 0800 990 399.
Visit Wiltshire’s is encouraging more people to get out and about in the countryside. Wiltshire has more than 8,200 footpaths, and several cycle routes.
More information on planning a break in the county at www.visitwiltshire.co.uk

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