Box, Wiltshire is a beautiful village just five miles from Bath. Famous for Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Box Tunnel, it has much more to offer than meets the eye…
This summer we’re holidaying at home and plan to explore more of our nearby towns and attractions. Based in Wiltshire, and not far from the edge of the Cotswolds, there are so many pretty places we’ve driven through but never got around to actually visiting. This is all changing now, and we’re planning daytrips galore to check out our region’s hidden gems.
A murder mystery-themed treasure trail
We’ve found a really fun way to explore some of these – Treasure Trails. As in the name, these are guided treasure trails that take you all over your chosen destination, hunting for clues and learning more about its history.
Our first of these was based in Box, and was murder mystery themed. We solved 22 clues across the village to whittle down the list of suspects and potential weapon. The ‘kids’ (16 and 17) loved it, as did us adults. This was because we had a blast discovering beautiful stone cottages and old graveyards, and found some quirky historic features.
Uncovering Box’s hidden gems
Using the Treasure Trails booklet, we quickly learnt here’s much more to Box than the main road we always pass through.
The clues take you to interesting spots scattered across the village. This included a pretty water garden which was created on railway wasteland by the Bybrook River (an offshoot of the River Avon). We also found gothic fountain and the Box Rock Circus. This showcases the famous local building stone and has high-quality fossil casts for rubbings and was built in 2012 as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The trail also has fun factoids that bring the village and its history to life. For example did you know that Peter Gabriel runs his music label and studios from Box? Other famous musical residents have included Midge Ure and Nigel Kennedy.
Going a bit further back, we also learnt that Romans mined Box back in the 9th century. A large roman villa has even been discovered buried under houses in the village.
By 1900 Box’s stone quarries were some of the busiest in the world. This stone was used to build most of the Georgian city of Bath, and became known as Bath Stone. As we discovered on our trail, it’s even been used to build Canada’s parliament buildings.
One thing I did know is that Box has strong ties to Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This is the engineer behind the Great Western Railway that linked London to Bristol. In 1841 he completed the Box railway tunnel under Box Hill. At the time this was a real feat of engineering. It was the longest (two miles) and steepest railway tunnel in the world.
Our trail gave us a chance to see the tunnel quite close up. However, we also learned there’s more than one tie to the railways in Box. There’s an old steam engine in one front garden, and Box was also the childhood home of W J Awdry; the author behind Thomas the Tank Engine! I had no idea, and the trail took us to the blue plaque on his past home, Lorne House. This is now a B&B.
Box’s Blind House and the Church of St. Thomas a Becket
The village has lots of interesting features, from the gothic fountain to the rather random French post box. Two of my favourites however, were the Blind House and the Church of St. Thomas a Becket.
Intrigued by what the tiny Blind House would have been used for, we looked it up. We discovered it was built to house prisoners before their trial and also after their conviction, before they were taken to prison at Salisbury or Devizes. It’s so-named due to the fact it has no windows, and is not one of a kind. Many of these were built across Wiltshire in the 1700s.
Then there’s the Church of St. Thomas a Becket, a beautiful building originally built in the 13th century. I loved the dishevelled graveyard, with its sinking ornate tombs, and it’s worth a visit just to see the pyramid gravestone, known by locals as the Pinnacle Stone. A gentleman requested it because he didn’t want his estranged wife to be able to dance on his grave!
Stop and smell the roses
The treasure trail really helped us learn a lot about Box, and also reminded us to stop and look at the detail of everything around us. Searching signs for the letters of a name to cross off our suspect list made us take the time to look things we’d usually overlook, like dates carved into old buildings, and even beautiful memorials on old gravestones.
We discovered Box has some lovely parks, nature trails, pubs and cafes although the latter were sadly still shut when we visited. However, we already plan to go back to do a country walk in the near future and hope to visit one or two of these, such as the pretty looking Birdhouse Café, as it’s important to support the local community.
Pubs in Box, Wiltshire
Walks around Box, Wiltshire
There are lots of pretty walks you can take in and around Box, but be warned that the village is hilly (I learnt this the hard way), so you’ll need to be fit and healthy.
More places to visit in Wiltshire
If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a visit to Box. The treasure trail is a great way to explore the village and takes about an hour and a half to complete, or you could also get a map to hand and go exploring on your own.
If Box takes your fancy, you’re bound to also enjoy visiting some of the other villages and towns around Wiltshire. The National Trust owned village of Laycock is a must see, and there’s also Castle Combe, known as one of the prettiest villages in England, and the deserted village of Imber.
Then there’s market towns including Calne and Corsham – the latter of which we plan to do a Treasure Trail around soon, stately homes like Bowood House, which has the most beautiful walled garden, and the underrated city of Salisbury.
Exploring Box, Wiltshire – pin for later!
We were gifted our Treasure Trails to try out, but as always, all views are our own!