Since 1930 Wiltshire County Council and its successor
Wiltshire Council have been based at Trowbridge.
High downland areas and wide valleys are typical of the
Wiltshire landscape with Salisbury Plain being important as the location of the
Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles in addition to other ancient landmarks.
The city of Salisbury is notable for its medieval cathedral. Important country
houses open to the public include Longleat, near Warminster, and the National
Trust's Stourhead, near Mere.
The county, in the 9th century written as Wiltunscir, later
Wiltonshire, is named after Wilton the previous county town, itself named after
the river Wylye, one of eight rivers which drain the county. Wiltshire is
notable for its pre-Roman archaeology; the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Mesolithic
people that occupied southern Britain constructed foundations on the hills and
downland that now make up the county. The most famous Neolithic areas in the UK
are Avebury and Stonehenge.
The local nickname for Wiltshire natives is moonrakers.
Origins of this come from a tale about smugglers who successfully cheated the
local Excise men by concealing their alcohol – most likely consisting of French
Brandy in kegs or barrels - in a village pond. When confronted by the excise
men they raked the area in order to screen the submerged embargo with waves,
with the claim that they were attempting to rake in the big round cheese which
was noticeable in the pond, which in reality was of course the full moon's
reflection! The officials took them for simple yokels or mad and let them be,
allowing them to resume with their criminal activities.
With most of Wiltshire lying on a bed of chalk which
provides the high downland landscape, Wiltshire is a predominately rural county.
Part of this chalk is the Southern England Chalk formation that underlies large
areas of Southern England from the Dorset Downs in the west to Dover in the
east. The biggest area of chalk in Wiltshire is Salisbury Plain, a
semi-wilderness utilised mainly either as training ranges by the British Army
or for arable agriculture.
The highest point in the county is the Tan Hill-Milk Hill
ridge in the Pewsey Vale, just to the north of Salisbury Plain, at 295 m (968
ft) above sea level. The Marlborough Downs are part of the North Wessex Downs,
a 1,730 square km (668 square mile) conservation area. Avon Vale is the biggest
clay vale in the region.
The Avon runs diagonally through the north of the county, flowing
through Bradford on Avon and into Bath and Bristol. There are sizeable British
Army barracks at Warminster, Tidworth and Bulford, and the RAF Lyneham is
further north and home to the RAF's Hercules C130 fleet.
Swindon Town are the only professional football team in
Wiltshire, playing games at the County Ground. Rich Benke, the international
snowboarder, comes from Chippenham in Wiltshire but he currently resides in
Wiltshire has twenty-one towns and just one city. Places of
interest include: Arc Theatre, Ashcombe House, Avebury Neolithic stone circle ,
Avebury Manor & Garden, Avon Valley Path, Barbury Castle, Bowood House,
Castle Combe, Castle Hill, Mere , Cherhill White Horse, Chisbury Chapel , Coate
Water, East Swindon , Corsham Court , Cotswold Water Park, Courts Garden,
Crofton Pumping Station, Edington Priory , Fonthill Abbey, Great Chalfield
Manor, Iford Manor and gardens , Kennet & Avon Canal Museum, Devizes , King
Alfred's Tower, Lacock Abbey, Littlecote House, Longleat Safari Park,
Ludgershall Castle, Ludgershall, Lydiard Park & House, West Swindon, Malmesbury
Abbey, Maud Heath's Causeway, Mompesson House, Old Sarum, the former cathedral
, Philipps House & Dinton Park, Richard Jefferies Birthplace and Museum
(The Old House at Coate) , Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury and South Wiltshire
Museum, The Science Museum at Wroughton, Shearwater Lake, Silbury Hill,
Stonehenge, Stourhead, Swindon and Cricklade Railway , Swindon Steam Railway
Museum , Trafalgar House , Wardour Castle , West Kennet Long Barrow , Westbury
White Horse, Westwood Manor, Woodhenge, Wilton House, Wilton Windmill, Wilts
and Berks Canal, Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Part of Win Green and Wroughton.
Wiltshire is served by both the M4 and M5 motorways and has
two major junction railway stations at Salisbury and Westbury, and important
junctions are also found at Swindon and Trowbridge. Old Sarum Airfield, Clench
Common Airfield and Redlands Airfield can all be found in Wiltshire.