Salisbury - England's Overlooked Gem
cathedral dates back to 1220 and has the tallest spire of
any cathedral in England.
Although Salisbury's most notable feature, it is far
from the only reason to visit this lovely town and region.
1 of a 4 part series - click for Parts
Salisbury, in Wiltshire, is a
lovely town, and is suitable both as a day tour excursion from
London and/or as a location to spend several nights in, while
sightseeing around the town and surrounding area.
Salisbury - Not Well Known to
Strangely, Salisbury has been
inexplicably and unjustly neglected by many Americans and the
travel writers they rely upon. Rick Steves, for example, ignores
it entirely in his British book. And so, to correct this
oversight, here’s all you need to know about this lovely city.
Facts and Figures
Founded in 1227
Location 85 miles Southwest of London
Close to Cotswolds, Bath, Portsmouth, Southampton, West Country
Train Service : Every half hour from Waterloo. Journey
takes 80 – 90 minutes.
Tourist Information : Fish Row (just behind the main
Market Square). [p] (01722)334-956 Open Mon-Sat, and Sundays
also in May-Sept
Where to Stay : Grasmere House, The White Hart, The Red Lion, Milton Hall
Where Not to Stay : The Cathedral Hotel
Where to Eat : La Luna (Italian), LXIX (modern), Old Mill
(outdoor), Milford Hall and Grasmere Hotel restaurants
Where Not to Eat : Haunch of Venison
What to Do/See : Cathedral, Town Center, Old Mill, Museums
Salisbury itself can be
experienced in a single day train trip from London, but there is
so much to see and do around Salisbury that you’ll probably want
to spend a couple of nights or longer, and perhaps hire a car to
explore around the area.
Salisbury, on the banks of
the River Avon, is best known for its proximity to Stonehenge
and for its glorious cathedral. The building of the cathedral
also marked the founding of the ‘modern’ town of Salisbury;
prior to that time most people lived a couple of miles north at
Old Sarum, a settlement dating back to Iron Age times (open
daily, English Heritage). Nowadays there is little remaining at
Old Sarum, but some of its stone was taken to Salisbury and used
for building the walls of the Cathedral Close.
The main attractions within
the town itself include the Cathedral and some of
the other buildings in the Cathedral’s Close.
There are three main
attractions within the Close. The first is the National Trust’s
Mompesson House, a Queen Anne style house built in 1701, and its
walled garden (closed on Th and Fr, open between late March and
late Oct). Also in the Cathedral Close are two museums – the
Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, set in an old medieval
building known as the King’s House (open Mon-Sat plus Sundays in
July and August), and the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and
Wiltshire Regiment Museum, in a 1254 house that was one of the
first buildings erected in the Close (open Tues-Sun in Feb, Mar
& Nov, daily Apr-Oct).
The town retains some lovely
medieval streets and the 15th century Poultry Cross is worth a
Market days enliven the city
center every Tuesday and Saturday. Guided walking tours of the
town operate at 11am in the summer and may operate in other
months; there are also Cathedral Walks and Ghost Walks – details
of current walk schedules are available at the Tourist Info
Salisbury Day Tour
Travel by train between
Salisbury and London. Hire a taxi from the station to take you
to Stonehenge - ask for a flat rate Stonehenge tour price.
There are also coach tours that pickup from the station, but if
you're pressed for time, the taxi tour will be quicker.
Visit the Cathedral area,
the Town Square, the Poultry Cross. Stroll through some of the
old streets, perhaps visit the Antique Center on Catherine
Street. Walk over to the Old Mill and view the Cathedral from
the other side of the river, with a view little changed from
If you're there on a Tuesday or Saturday, you can enjoy the
market that is held in (where else) the Market Square in the
center of the town.
Walk back to the railway
station and return to London.
Salisbury Area Touring
Plan on spending half a day
to a day on foot around the town itself.
A one day drive out of
Salisbury to the south could include a visit to, Romsey, the
church there and Broadlands, the former home of Lord
Mountbatten, then through the New Forest and back up to
A one day drive north would
include Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Woodhenge, and Avebury, including
driving past several White Horses.
A one day drive west could
include Wilton House (and/or Longleat), the Fovant Regimental
Badges, and Old Wardour Castle.
Salisbury could be a stop on
your itinerary either before or after travel to/from the West
Country, or London, or Bath, or the Cotswolds.
seen here in a painting by famous British painter John
generally considered to be England’s finest medieval cathedral,
and is unusual because it was all built at the same time with
none of the subsequent additions of most other cathedrals. This
gives it a very pleasing unity of appearance. Construction
commenced in 1220, with most of the work complete by 1258.
This means that 2008 is being celebrated as the 750th
anniversary of this gorgeous building.
It has the tallest spire
(404 ft) of all the English cathedrals, with this having been
extended subsequent to the Cathedral’s initial construction. The
extra 6500 tons of tower and spire have caused the support
columns in the church to visibly buckle under the weight.
Notwithstanding this, and
some crumbling of the exterior decoration, the church is
generally well preserved. It also has an extensive Cloisters and
Close, as well as one of the four remaining originals of the
Magna Carta (the British equivalent of the US Constitution,
signed in 1215), and the oldest working clock in all Europe
(built in 1386).
Volunteer guides give free
tours regularly every day. Entrance to the cathedral is free,
but you are strongly requested to make a ‘voluntary’ donation.
Some parts of the cathedral complex do have admission charges –
for example, if you wish to climb the 332 steps up to the base
The cathedral is open daily,
but there are some interruptions during formal services every
Sunday. A lovely glass-roofed restaurant offering views up to
the cathedral spire, and the inevitable gift shop are also
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15 Apr 2003, last update
21 Jul 2020
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