In 1549, when the infamous Henry VIII was on the throne, Salisbury was the 7th biggest city in the country and its cathedral was the tallest building – some must of predicted great things for the city at the time…
Today, Salisbury is the UK’s 262nd largest settlement- but it still has the UK’s tallest
cathedral, which itself possesses the largest cathedral close and the longest cathedral cloisters. Besides, Salisbury is still alive with the history of its former glory, every street steeped in intrigue or beauty of some kind, a truly delightful place to visit. Wandering the streets, you will give thanks that it hasn’t maintained its position in the top ten cities, but what will you see?
Since 1258 Salisbury cathedral has been the most important building in Salisbury. And since the spire was added in 1320 it has towered over the city, standing at 123m. It is the unignorable pride of the city (The only reason we can call Salisbury a city at all).
A fine example of early gothic architecture, as a spectacle, the cathedral in itself is reason enough to visit. Those with a keener eye will also notice the tilt of its spire; caused by shallow foundations (and inspiration for William Golding’s The Spire)
Yet, inside the cathedral is where you can find one of the most valuable treasures of all – an original copy of the Magna Carta. Displayed in the cathedral’s chapter house, the 804 year old document is shielded from any natural light. The document represented an agreement to lessen the powers of the King, still considered an important early symbol of liberty today.
Salisbury’s market is a crucial part of its identity – and has been since it began in 1219! Today, the market runs twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays and is still as varied and vibrant as it has always been.
Salisbury also contains a variable treasure trove of antiquated buildings.
One of the most famous is John a’Port’s House and William Russel’s House, located in the Market Place next to Guildhall. They are regarded as the oldest buildings in Salisbury – instantly recognisable by their twinned white and black timber frames.
Everywhere you go you encounter history – The Salisbury Tourist Information Centre on Fish Row occupies a 14th century former fishmonger. Even the Odeon Cinema on Salisbury’s New Canal inhabits a 15th century Tudor mansion.
And if you fancy some refreshments but still want to remain an antiquarian- The Haunch of Venison, a pub, is over 800 years old- complete with its own folklore – a severed hand and a secret tunnel leading to a church.
As old as it is, Salisbury wasn’t always here! In fact, it was preceded by Old Sarum, a near prehistoric site, the remains of which are still visible today. 2 miles north of Salisbury or New Sarum, the settlement it was abandoned for in 1190- the walls of the cathedral close are built from stones taken from the site! Hand in hand, Salisbury and old Sarum bridge over 2,000 years of history. It is worth the walk up the hill to visit the ruins of Old Sarum – which hosted both Romans and Saxons in its time.
So why not visit Salisbury? Take a walk-through centuries of British history, see how it has blended with the modern day, see the magnificent cathedral that still towers over us, see the pubs, the market, the beautiful cathedral close, take a walk up to old Sarum and cast your mind back thousands of years- doesn’t sound like such a bad day?
Salisbury Guided Tours offer tours from Salisbury, Bath, London or Southampton.
We are a small family-run business based in Salisbury. We offer discreet, bespoke and entertaining private guided sightseeing tours in the comfort you deserve. Our tour itineraries are original, imaginative, well-paced and carefully balanced.
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