Wessex Attractions: Muchelney Abbey

Muchelney Abbey, two miles from Langport on the Somerset levels, was a Benedictine monastery founded by King Ine of Wessex around 700 and refounded by Athelstan in 939, making it the second-oldest religious foundation in Somerset. It was abolished by Henry VIII in 1538 as part of the dissolution of the monasteries, with many of its buildings being demolished. Those that remain are now the property of English Heritage.

Visitors can explore the foundations of the abbey, some of which date back to Anglo-Saxon times. Surviving buildings include the abbot's house and cloister, and - holy shit! - a monastic latrine. The abbey has ample grounds where children can play and explore.

Admittance at the time of writing costs £7 (free to English Heritage members). The abbey is currently closed for winter, with no indication as to when it will reopen. When it does (probably around Easter), the satnav postcode is TA10 0DQ. Somerset County Transport bus 850 serves the site on Thursdays. Otherwise, the nearest bus stop is in Langport, a mile away, served by Buses of Somerset service 54, from Taunton to Yeovil.

Wessex Attractions: St Catherine’s Chapel

St Catherine's is a 14th century chapel in Abbotsbury, Dorset. It was popularly believed up until the late 19th century that invoking St Catherine in prayer would help young women to find a husband. The south doorway contains three "wishing holes". Local women in the area would place a knee in one and a hand in each of the other two, and offer up a prayer to the saint. One can only assume that Dorset's isolated nature kept it safe from Protestant strictures against "popish superstition" so long after the English reformation.

The chapel is now managed by English Heritage, though church services are still held there a few times a year. It is free to visit. The satnav postcode is DT3 4JH, and it is served by buses 253, X53 and (on Wednesdays) 61.

Wessex Attractions: The Grange, Northington

The Grange at Northington in Hampshire is one of the finest examples of Greek revival architecture in England. Originally built in the Palladian style, it was radically transformed in the early part of the 19th century by architect William Wilkins at the behest of its owner, Henry Drummond, who had it rebuilt in the Doric style to resemble a Greek temple. Drummond disliked the result, however, and in 1817 sold the house to Alexander Baring, of the well-known Anglo-German banking family.

In 1964, the Baring family obtained planning permission to demolish the house, but it was saved by a public outcry, and taken into state ownership in 1975. Today, it is owned by English Heritage and used as a venue for opera performances. The Grange Festival takes place in June and July each year, and the house is open for exterior viewing the rest of the year.

Wessex Attractions: Old Sarum

Old Sarum is an iron age hill fort, dating back to c400 BC, that was the original site of what later became Salisbury. It was continuously occupied during the Roman period and a mint was recorded there in 1003. Its original cathedral was built shortly after the Norman invasion of England, as was a motte-and-bailey castle. It was at the latter that the Bastard gathered his nobles in 1086 to swear the Oath of Sarum, a loyalty oath which centralised power in his hands that had previously been delegated to local reeves.

According to legend, the site of the cathedral was moved in 1220 to another one two miles away after an archer shot an arrow into the valley to determine where it should be built. Two miles seems a long way to shoot an arrow, but one variation of the legend is that the archer hit a deer which then ran for that distance before finally expiring.

The Norman castle remained in use until the 15th century, after which Old Sarum was largely abandoned in favour of the newer town. It continued to send members to Parliament until the Reform Act of 1832, however, one of two so-called "rotten boroughs" in Wessex (the other being Newtown on the Isle of Wight).

Today, Old Sarum is maintained by English Heritage. Advance booking is recommended, via their website.

Wessex Attractions: Totnes Castle

Totnes is best-known as the landing site of Brutus of Troy in Geoffrey of Monmouth's origin myth for Britain. But it also houses one of the best-preserved Norman castles in England. After William the Bastard invaded in 1066, he ordered a string of castles built in order to subjugate the native English population. Saxon Totnes was a thriving market town on the River Dart, with a mint. The castle was thought to have been built by one Juhel de Totnes, a Breton commander in the Bastard's army, later passing to the De La Zouche family.

Today, the castle is owned by English Heritage. It is currently closed due to lockdown.

The postcode, for satnav purposes, is  TQ9 5NU.