Aliens in West Wiltshire

..and don't miss the scrumptious scones

The Bath Arms (right) a 270 year old village pub, owned by the Marquis of Bath, has just been given a quirky makeover into a boutique hotel. Picture, Gareth Huw Davies

Aliens in West Wiltshire? I doubt it. Like us, they would probably get lost.

We followed the corkscrew road down from the M4, avoiding the gravitational pull of Warminster and Westbury, narrowly missing the (so they say) UFO hangout at Cley Hill.

We plunged into the Deep Space of Longleat Forest, where Center
Parcs buzzes like a bright little meteorite of fun.

Out the other side, it could have been Pluto, so sparing are they with
their signposts in far-off Wiltshire.

We gave up map reading and started to enjoy the mystery tour. In a deep valley, forded an ancient stone bridge over a dawdling stream, we stopped to snap the chocolate-box view.

Then we found it. Just like a big planet suddenly filling the flight deck window of the Starship Enterprise, there was the Bath Arms, on the green in the tiny hamlet of Horningsham.

This 270 year old village pub, owned by the Marquis of Bath, has just been given an quirky makeover into a boutique hotel, with bedrooms ‘individually designed, and to some, a little eccentric.’

Could they mean the Kama Sutra bedroom? Ours was a little less racy, featuring the decor of Imperial India, and photos of society girls in open topped cars from the swinging 1920s.

I asked Manager Christoph Brooke if the Marquis approve of his makeover. ‘Loves it,’ he said, pointing to proof on the excellent restaurant’s wall -- a spoof portrait of the smiling Marquis, dressed as a maharajah.

Next morning we set off on safari to the next door Longleat estate, Britain''s first drive-through wildlife park. The six Marquis detonated an earthquake in outdoor attractions here in 1966 when he launched it, making ‘the Lions of Longleat’ one of the catchiest slogans in tourism.

There''s much more to see now, from scimitar horned oryx, to Chilean flamingo, but driving around inside the enclosure with the lions is still the main draw. We found them as nonchalant as ever, clearly regarding humans, provided they keep the windows shut, as a lesser life form.

Now, about those spaceships. This part of Wiltshire was famous in the 1960s for nee-nawing patrol cars hurtling around quiet lanes after white lights in
the sky. Deploying hyper speed turbo-thrust, the visitors
always got away. If they were ever there.

We took a turn on nearby Cley Hill, which some romantics believe to be a
tourist site for visiting aliens, just like the Devil'' s Tower in Spielberg’s Close
Encounters. We imagine spaceships whizzing round the galaxy with a ‘We''ve
been to Cleyhill’ sticker in their back window.

Intergalactic traffic was light during our visit. Instead the hill, site of an Iron Age
fortress, made a pleasant afternoon stroll after Christoph’s excellent pub lunch -- everything sourced within 50 miles. We walked up what passes for a mountain in Wiltshire, From the top
we could see Salisbury Plain -- or was it as Alpha Centauri?

Returning to the M4 we stopped at Lacock Abbey, home of Fox Talbot the pioneering photographer, where they shoot the after-class scenes in Harry Potter. They built picturesque old Lacock Village to a crafty circular design. Walk around it and you end up that the
tea rooms. To visiting alien reading on the intergalactic Internet: don’t miss the scrumptious scones.

Bath Arms
Wiltshire, BA12 7LY
01985 844308

Longleat Safari Park
adults £11.00 ; children (3-14yrs)£8.00

01985 844400

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