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Review: Swindon


United Kingdom

Delightful Wiltshire

  • By SilverTraveller soopernan

    35 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon

  • Nov 2011
  • Wife

77 people found this review helpful

Sometimes we are able to get away at short notice, so it transpired for a two night November break. We didn’t know the Swindon area particularly well, assumed there must still be some things to do out of season, so Pam looked up the hotels in the area. Our criteria were as follows: somewhere that was traditional, maybe where the owners wanted to present a better image, and no travelling for evening meal. She found Chiseldon House Hotel, that had changed hands only two months previously, with trip advisor reviews that were not the best, however lovely photos, good restaurant reviews, and in three acres of grounds. Worth a try. The directions were excellent, just a mile off the M4, little village with a couple of pubs, basic shops, and a good looking hotel. Parking easy, Mark the new owner was hovering near the front door, not bored, just looking out at the sound of a car, he took the luggage (younger than me, so I let him) and registered us with reception. After a quick check in the room, it was the guided tour. When staying as a secret guest reviewer I like to ask the management for a quick tour, very interesting, makes us remember the hotel far better. Then it was afternoon tea, with the obligatory sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and home made cakes. Excellent value, and a very good marketing idea. We relaxed in the room for quite some time, then had dinner after a quick drink in the restaurant bar. A la carte with four choices for each course, and a very pleasant surprise before starters of a home-made wild mushroom soup. Nice touch. Pam had pate followed by roast breast of chicken, finished with cheese (a good plateful) and I started with an excellent tomato and chilli soup, followed by pan fried rib-eye steak with horseradish pomme puree. It was as good as it sounds, but I still made room for the brandy basket with ice creams and sorbet. We each had a bottle of wine, leaving the bottom half for the next night’s dinner. A more than adequate night’s sleep, comfy bed, warm and toasty room, followed by a shower in the bath. Mark has inherited maybe more tradition than he would like, but he doesn’t need to renovate the bathrooms for quite some time yet. Breakfast was the usual, nice touch with local ham and scrambled eggs, with other choices available as well as the conventional. Thought has been given here. Before leaving home we had worked out some places to visit, which included Lydiard Park, adjacent to the sprawling town of Swindon. The walled garden wasn’t open unfortunately, but the St. John Church was, and this is well worth a visit. That is where the original family worshipped, but the house is now run by the local council. No rooms upstairs are open, however the ones downstairs are, for a reasonable price of admission. Some volunteer ladies were in a room sitting round a table restoring something – shame they were too intent in their labours to reply to Pam’s cheery hello – with many exhibits able to be appreciated at close quarters. Back into the car to a different part of Swindon, following the excellent directions to STEAM, the museum devoted to the old railway works. Make sure you park opposite and walk across, the signs are all there. I went into the signallers box, and deliberately tried to derail a pretend train, but the spoilsport voiced controller stopped me. Another exhibit involved standing in the cab of a steam locomotive, driving the train, looking out the window, engaging the engine, tooting the whistle, but I became bored so stepped off the moving train, leaving it in the control of two other visitors standing behind. No idea if it crashed, but there was nothing on the local television so it must have arrived safely. We went for a drive, lunch in Royal Wootton Bassett. Perhaps I am being mean here, but we were somewhat disappointed. Yes, it was a long high street, with a lot of different shops, but these were all a much of a muchness, not that many places to eat except for pubs, and hardly any nick places or smaller jewellery shops. Certainly no antique places that we had associated with the area, the same going for Marlborough, which we drove to next. This however has a gem in Polly’s tea rooms which are well worth a visit. No antique shops, though. Long high street, easy parking. We preferred Marlborough. Back to the hotel late afternoon, then into dinner. Tonight was smoked salmon and prawns for Pam, followed by rib-eye steak, and I had the pate, followed by roast breast of chicken. Again, a nice little touch, with a different soup. We left Chiseldon House Hotel after breakfast, satisfied that our hotel choice had been a good one. We were in no rush to get home, so stopped off one junction along the M4 at Studley Grange. We didn’t know quite what to expect, and were surprised that the car park was so large. It is behind a garden centre and a couple of other outlets, then you walk into the covered complex of little shops and craft centres. Craft demonstrations, cards, and scrapbooking, mainly for adults, but with many mothers with children, there was also a superb butterfly farm and zoo. Liam the assistant knows all the names, and we especially thought that this was well worth a visit. Coffee wasn’t too expensive either. Men, don’t be put off by this complex, there’s things to interest you as well. You can learn how to make a dolls house as well as cup cakes. Did we enjoy our break? Certainly did. If we had been energetic or rambling walkers, there’s plenty of trails to follow, and this area is an excellent one to explore.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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