Mere is a stunning village nestled in beautiful Wiltshire. It is surrounded by the South West Wiltshire Downs and Cranborne Chase, both of which are areas of outstanding natural beauty. A picture perfect village, Mere has cute cottages, pubs, a number of shops and an old fashioned tea room. It is well located for walks and visiting local attractions such as Stourhead National Trust House and Gardens, Stonehenge and Longleat Safari Park. Here’s our travel guide for Mere, Wiltshire.
Mere, Wiltshire – A Hidden Gem
Wiltshire is home to part of the southern Cotswolds, including the picturesque town of Castle Combe. However, Castle Combe and the Cotswolds in general have become a victim of their own prettiness, Castle Combe is Instagram’s darling and attracts heaps of visitors. Parts of the Cotswolds receive lots of visitors who are bussed (and trained) in from London. Wiltshire is also home to Stonehenge.
Besides the Cotswolds and Stonehenge, the rest of Wiltshire isn’t a well known travel destination, yet it is a beautiful English county. The village (or small town) of Mere is a hidden gem, is adorably quintessential and surrounded by rolling hills. Mere is well located in Wiltshire, but close to the border of Dorset and Somerset.
Due to delays in buying our house in neighbouring Somerset, we accidently ended up living in Mere for 4 and half months. This was during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic and the first lockdown of England. Our time in Mere was spent exploring the beautiful surrounding countryside (restrictions permitting, of course).
Amazing things to do in Mere, Wiltshire
1. Walking, walking, walking
What is the point of visiting the countryside if you don’t do a walk (if you can)?! Mere is surrounded by loads of amazing walks, some from Mere and others a short drive away.
Walking tips for Mere:
Download Maps.me. This free app works offline (so good for no signal areas) and shows many of the public footpaths in the local area.
Remember, it is the UK so bring clothes and shoes for all weather. If you are walking in the winter, please bring proper waterproof footwear (wellies are best). I have seen too many townies’ white trainers destroyed by the West Country mud!
I am an avid walker and recommend these super comfy Saloman walking boots and these boring but blooming effective wellies.
Recommended walks from Mere
The horseshoe around Great Bottom
2. Stourhead House and Garden
Stourhead House and Garden is a glorious National Trust property and 18th century garden in the area. It is about a 5 minute drive from Mere, or a 3 mile walk across the fields. There is a tranquil lake with a cute bridge, a number of Temples and Grottos lining the lake and loads of gardens and forest to explore. As of 2021, you have to prebook to visit and you have to pay an entrance fee. The house is currently closed due to coronavirus.
3. King Alfred’s Tower
Perhaps King Alfred’s Tower should be renamed Rapunzel’s tower, as it looks very much like what I would imagine Rapunzel’s tower to look like! Only about a 10 minute drive from Mere and part of Stourhead’s lands, King Alfred’s Tower is a 49metre high folly surrounded by miles of stunning forest which you can explore for hours. Climb up the tower for amazing views.
Whilst there is an entrance fee for the tower as it is owned by the National Trust, exploring the surrounding forest and countryside is free. The National Trust has a walking trail around the forest, however I do suggest that you explore it for yourself, following different paths deep into the woods. If you do go exploring by yourself, download the maps.me app as it is quite easy to get lost in these woods! Keep an eye out for deer hopping through the forest undergrowth.
4. Cream teas and cakes
What I particularly like about Mere is its Old World charm, and this is reflected in the Angel Corner Tea Rooms. The place feels like it’s from a different era so don’t expect avocado on toast, but you can get a solid cream tea from there.
Another nice place to pop into is the Sprout and Flower for a coffee and a cake, along with having a browse of their beautiful flower and vegetable collection. This shop is one of my favourites and the owner is very welcoming.
5. Westbury White Horse
Whilst Westbury itself is probably nowhere to write home about (no offense Westbury!), the Westbury White Horse is pretty blooming impressive. The large horse was originally cut into the chalk on the hill but now has been preserved through modern methods. It can be seen for miles and is a famous local landmark. Around the area there are a number of walks you can do across the Salisbury Plains. Or you can just sit on the hillside, admire the horse and eat a picnic taking in the beautiful views across Wiltshire and Somerset.
Westbury is about a 20 minute drive from Mere.
6. Old Wardour Castle and forest
Old Wardour Castle near Tisbury is a beautiful, albeit fake castle. It was built in the 14th century as an extravagant home. It is surrounded by lovely forest, where you can wander for hours following winding paths. Wardour forest is probably one of my favourite places in the area, particularly in spring where bluebells cover the forest floor.
Due to Covid-19, I haven’t visited the castle but you need to book in advance and only some parts of the castle are open. However even if you don’t go in, it is still a lovely day out. You can explore the forest around the castle, or easily just find a place for a picnic in front of the castle on the lawn and admire its beauty from a distance.
Tisbury itself is a cute little village to visit, with a selection of quaint shops, cafes and bars.
Old Wardour Castle is a 20 minute drive from Mere.
7. Longleat Safari Park, House and Gardens
Longleat Safari Park was the first safari park opened outside of Africa. It is home to tigers, lions, wolves, monkeys, elephants and more. Whilst it is no way as good as an actual safari in Africa, it is still a fun day out.
It is very popular with families and can get quite busy! Alongside all the animals, Longleat has a grand house and gardens you can explore.
Longleat is about a 20 minute drive from Mere and obviously you will need a car to explore it, otherwise you might get eaten by the tigers. Do note, the monkeys in the monkey enclosure will destroy your car but you can choose not to drive through that section if you have a fancy car.
Frome is a cute market town in Somerset, known for its nooky streets lined with independent shops, cafes, pubs and it has a thriving art community. I am a little biased towards Frome though as I live there!
Frome has a huge independent monthly market and weekly smaller markets on Wednesday and Saturday. There are a fair share of good walking routes around Frome too, from walks through Vallis Vale forest to ones along the river.
Frome is about a 20 minute drive from Mere.
Other places near Mere worth visiting:
It is worth noting that one of England’s most famous attractions, Stonehenge is around a 20 minute drive from Mere too.
The Jurassic Coast
Just over an hour from Mere is the stunning Dorset Jurassic Coast. Bridport and Lyme Regis are totally worth a visit if you want to venture that way for some fresh seaside air. Bridport is a thriving seaside market town, with a strong reputation for the arts and culture. Lyme Regis is a quaint seaside town famous for its fossil hunting and beautiful family friendly beaches.
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury
Inland, there is Shaftesbury (around a 20 minute drive from Mere) with its insta famous Gold Hill which has been described as one of the ‘most romantic sights in England’. I am not sure why but it is nice!
The town of Salisbury is also around 35 minutes from Mere. Salisbury has a beautiful cathedral which is home to the Magna Carta. The town itself has a selection of cute shops and a scenic centre.
Getting to and around Mere
Mere (like many villages in the UK) doesn’t have amazing transport links and you will most likely need a car to make the most of a visit.
There is a lot to do in and around Mere, but even nearby places such as King Alfred’s Tower is slightly out and hard to get to if you don’t have a car. However, the Iron Age Fort walk, the Horseshoe walk and even Stourhead is walkable (albeit the latter is a longish walk!).
The nearest train station is Gillingham (Dorset) with trains coming in from London. Gillingham is around 10 minutes away from Mere by car. You can get a taxi from Gillingham to Mere but they aren’t cheap and you should book ahead.
Buses between Gillingham and Mere exist but are at slightly odd times and are a bit infrequent.
Where to eat and drink in Mere, Wiltshire
I wasn’t blown away by the eating places in Mere. But they are okay just don’t expect the type, standard or selection of restaurants you get in a big city.
The Walnut Tree restaurant has a bit of a gastropub feel to it but the food was okay. It didn’t blow my socks off or change my life but was perfectly alright.
Hillbrush is the UK’s largest manufacturer of brushware, however it also has a restaurant and small museum called Visit Hillbrush. Hillbrush is not open in the evenings for meals but breakfast, brunch or lunch at Hillbrush is decent. The mini museum on the history of Hillbrush is worth a visit too.
The George Inn
The George Inn has a nice fire going in winter and friendly staff that like to chat away to you. The fire is perfect for curling up next to with a pint. The food wasn’t mind blowing, but wasn’t terrible either.
Mere Fish and Chips
I don’t know if we caught this takeaway on a bad night but it was very average. Good for a quick and easy meal though.
This Bangladeshi restaurant has now closed down.
Both the Angel Corner Tea Rooms and the Sprout and Flower (mentioned above) are well worth a visit for a coffee and a cake after a long walk.
Co-op Mini Supermarket
If you are staying in somewhere that is self catering, Co-op has everything you need to make a decent meal.
Do make sure you get your veg, cheese, bread and dairy from Sprout and Flower though to support this fabulous local business. Whilst the shop looks fancy, the veg is actually very reasonable.
Shops in Mere, Wiltshire
Mere doesn’t have an extensive number of shops, but there is a charity shop, an expensive antique shop and the awesome This and That second hand shop where you can find all sorts of affordable goodies.
Accommodation in Mere, Wiltshire
I’d suggest getting self catering accommodation in Mere. And I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Wedgewood Annex, where we ended up for 4 months during the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown. This place was an absolute godsend at a very difficult time for us.
The family running it are lovely, welcoming and give you lots of recommendations of things to see and do in the local area. The apartment is very well equipped with everything you need for a short or long stay. Thank you Pat and Pete!
A river runs at the bottom of the garden and for the bird twitchers amongst us, lots of beautiful types of birds visit the garden (bluetits, great tits, goldfinches and the occasional kingfisher).
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