Swindon began life as a Roman settlement owing to its mild height advantage and limestone base. It remained a quiet settlement based around the quarry with a population not reaching above a few thousand; that was until the Industrial Revolution. Good access to the Somerset coalfields by the canal, and its position midway between London and the West made Swindon an ideal site for machine construction and maintenance. The great locomotive minds of the 19th century Gooch and Brunel set up factories, which soon developed into the new town. The Old town which previously had little more than a weekly market soon had to supply the 14,000 strong workforce and Gooch set up a Medical Fund which was later used as a template when setting up the NHS.

1986 saw the end of an exciting era as the factories finally closed. The area has since been regenerated and showcases the area with the Steam Railway Museum. The acres of space which were utilised to develop the world’s most advanced railway of its time have facilitated the rapid residential and business growth the city. The problems associated with such growth have been offset by new developments within the city and further a field drawing attention to the beauty of the surrounding area.


STEAM - Museum of the Great Western Railway – The first train to be built entirely at the Swindon works was the 'Great Western', the name of which has been lent to the museum and rail operator in the area. The museum tells the story which shaped the area’s history through interactive displays, old footage, costumed staff and of course the trains themselves. Regular exhibitions take place in addition to special children’s events.

Swindon Museum offers a wider perspective of the city with exhibits covering local history, geology and social history. They have also managed to include a mummified child and an Indian crocodile. The Art Gallery, located in an adjacent listed building in the Old Town, focuses mainly on artists from the 20th century and holds one of the best collections of modern British art outside London. A recent addition and highlight is Turner Prize short-listed artist Steve Pippin’s Laundromat Locomotion.

Lydiard Park – The 280 acre country grounds, once a medieval deer park, are one of the most striking sights around Swindon, and are set to undergo a £5 million restoration project. The stately Lydiard House has been renovated and gives visitors a chance to take in the intricate decorations, original furniture and family photos. There is a play area, gift shop and café, with barbeques available to hire during the summer months.

Faringdon Park offers another expanse of green space with ornamental gardens that were originally intended for the rail workers, entrance is free.

Oasis Leisure Centre – The distinctive dome-covered pool draws visitors from miles around. The 'tropical' environment can be somewhat overpowering, but there are plenty of pools, slides, water-cannons and a wave machine to make up for it. In addition to the lagoon pool, there are extensive sports facilities and a venue hosting popular music concerts and events.


Retail is one of Swindon’s main businesses with shoppers flocking from across the country to visit the various centres and retail parks. The covered pedestrian Brunel Centre in the centre boasts most of the main department stores. The Old Town leans more towards antiques, books and furnishings in an authentic historic setting. A Farmer’s Market takes place here behind Wood Street the last Friday of every month.

The Great Western Designer Outlet Centre has over a hundred fashion, home ware and sports brands, all selling excess stock at discounted prices. The mass of stores is set in a renovated Victorian building with restored memorabilia, including an old locomotive in the food hall. The STEAM Museum is also located here.

There are a rapidly increasing number of out-of-town shopping centres offering services other than purely retail, such as libraries and estate agents. The main complexes include Asda-Walmart, Greenbridge Retail and Leisure Park, Mannington and Bridgemead.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Swindon's restaurants definitely seem to have been omitted from the regeneration program. Chain restaurants and pubs with meal deals tend to be the most popular stop-off for the average visitor (who is undoubtedly there to shop). There are some decent curry houses however, such as Rafu's with restaurants in Swindon and Highworth. Beyond the centre it is relatively easy to stumble across a decent country style pub with good food and often children's entertainment. Faringdon, Lechlade and Rowd, each a short drive from Swindon, are all highly acclaimed for good quality traditional food.

The larger pubs in the city centre are probably worth avoiding at the weekends unless you're in a large group wanting a particularly loud and drunken night out! Mackenzies, Longs Bar and the recently opened Old Bank are a few of the better venues in the Old Town. A great deal of decent live music goes on at The Vic, Riffs and The Furnace. The most prestigious club is the Brunel Rooms which has been pushing dance and alternative music since 1973 and now sees regular house, drum and bass and hip hop nights often showcasing international acts.

Tourist Information

Swindon Tourist Information Centre37 Regent StreetSwindonSN1 1JLTel: 01793 530328 or 01793 466454Fax: 01793 434031infocentre@swindon.gov.ukwww.visitswindon.co.uk


Swindon does not have its own airport so visitors must choose either Bristol or Heathrow. The former serves fewer destinations but is easy to access along the M4 or by train then shuttle bus from Bristol Temple Meads Station to the airport. A coach service runs every two hours to Heathrow and takes just over an hour.

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