Despite its great landed estates, which include Wilton and Longleat, Wiltshire still has a proliferation of good family houses, although demand sometimes exceeds supply. Many of the county’s manor houses, farmhouses and rectories are pre-Victorian.

It is only this century that Wiltshire’s popularity has surged. This is largely thanks to good communications to London, although the county’s appealing landscapes have played a part. Wiltshire remains predominantly rural, and Swindon is its only major town. Agriculture is still important, but new, high-tech industries are now springing up along the M4 corridor.

The county’s wide, open spaces, such as Salisbury Plain – the largest expanse of chalk grassland in England – contrast with secluded river valleys; to the north-west of the county are hills overlaid with clay.

Wiltshire also is rich in prehistoric sites, from Avebury and Silbury Hill in the north to Stonehenge in the south.

Ease of access to London means that house prices are buoyant. The most popular areas are those where road and rail links to the capital are good, such as close to the M4 in the north and A303 in the south.

Wiltshire’s villages and isolated houses tend to be prettier than its towns, where prices are lower.

Major towns

Swindon, Salisbury, Calne, Chippenham, Devizes, Trowbridge, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Warminster and Westbury.

Transport links

Train: Paddington to Swindon 55min; Paddington to Chippenham, 1hr 10min; Waterloo to Salisbury 1hr 20min.

Car: Swindon is 76 miles from central London and Chippenham 93 miles, via the M4. Salisbury is 85 miles, via the M3 and A30.

Public schools

St Mary’s School, Calne (01249 815899). Girls only, age range 11-18. Day and boarding. www.stmaryscalne.wilts.sch.uk/

Dauntsey’s School, West Lavington (01380 812446). Co-educational, age range 11-18. Day and boarding. www.dauntseys.wilts.sch.uk/

Marlborough College (01672 892200). Co-educational, age range 11-18. Boarding. www.marlboroughcollege.org/

The Godolphin School, Salisbury (01722 333059). Girls only, age range 7-18. Day and boarding. www.godolphin.org/

Salisbury Cathedral School (01722 322652). Co-educational, age range 3-13. Day and boarding. www.salisburycathedralschool.com/

Stonar School, Melksham (01225 702309). Girls only, age range 4-18. Day and boarding. www.stonar.wilts.sch.uk/

Warminster School (01985 213038). Co-educational, age range 4-18. Day and boarding. www.warminsterschool.org.uk/

Leisure

Golfcourses: Marlborough (01672 512147); North Wiltshire, Bishops’ Cannings (01380 860257); Salisbury and South Wiltshire, Netherhampton (01722 742645).

Hunts: the Wilton, the South and West Wiltshire, the Avon Vale and the Tedworth.

Fishing: rivers Kennet, Avon, Wylye and Nadder.