I love towers, spires and everything that gives you a panoramic view over a place. As Salisbury's cathedral spire is the highest in England (123m), I wanted to go up there. Fortunately, this was possible within the Tower Tour. A guide will take you on a 2-hour tour through the beams and up the spire and you will learn countless interesting facts about the history of the cathedral.
I will try to compile a few of these facts here, but there were way too many to keep them all in mind.
* The whole cathedral weighs some 60,000 tons; the tower alone 6,500 tons.
* The architects used a number of different strategies to spread the enormous weight, such as arches, beams and pillars, but also a system of metal bars which can be found in the tower and still looks as though it is new despite its 650 years of age.
* The weight of the tower deforms the walls of the church.
* Many of the masons and craftsmen left their initials or a geometric sign on one of the beams. A later addition to these "graffiti" are the engravings of tourists or supporters of Sailsbury Cathedral which were engraved in the lead glass windows in the early 1990s using a dentist's burr.
* A lot of the material used for the beams was recycled. You can find old masts as well as parts of the scaffolding.
All in all, the Tower Tour was one of the most informative I've ever seen. And after climbing 332 steps you can enjoy a superb panoramic view over Salisbury, the Avon valley and the vicinity. It's definitely worth its relatively high price of £10. Bear in mind that there are parts that are very narrow and steep. Also, there are only a few tours per day. Ask at the information desk at the cathedral entrance for details.
Salisbury Cathedral is remarkable among the numerous English Gothic cathedrals: it was completed in one go, in only 45 years. Given the fact that this was accomplished in the 13th century, it is really incredible how little time the builders needed. The tower was built a century later, and to learn more about it you should invest £10 in the highly informative tower tour (see next tip). Moreover, the short construction time makes Salisbury Cathedral one of very few churches to be built only in one style: Early English.
Entering through the cathedral's main entrance, you'll be impressed by the sheer size of the nave and of course the beautiful pillars lining it. But there is also the relatively new baptismal font which must be unique, too. It's a large rhombus-shaped pool of water resembling a fountain more than a font. In the water you can see the reflection of the stained-glass windows and the ceiling.
In the beautiful chapter house you'll come across another unexpected sight. Salisbury Cathedral keeps one of only four copies of the "Magna Charta", the first body of laws which clarified the relation of the monarch and his subjects. Written in 1215 in a Latin shorthand, it was used to define (i.e. actually limit) the powers of the king who was more or less forced to sign it. It was a very modern piece for those times which is reflected in the fact that many clauses have found entrance into modern day constitutions such as that of the USA. The Salisbury copy of the "Magna Charta" counts as the best preserved of all of them. I was amazed at how short it actually is: just one page, but covered all over with minuscule letters.
Another interesting part of the cathedral is its cloister. Built in 1445, it is the oldest complete cloister of England. One side of it is used as an outside terrace for the church cafe, and you've got a nice view from there.
A gentle stroll across the water meadow will take you to the site of the Old Mill. It is a great area which is rich in flora and fauna. The Old Mill is still standing and has been sympathetically transformed into a great restaurant and hotel. The bar/restaurant has some great outdoor seating which overlooks the river - just the thing for a nice sunny day.
Just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the City Centre you can find yourself amidst leafy parkland. There are some great level paths which meander their way through the water meadow which is home to an abundance of wildlife. The path is extremely popular with walkers and cyclists alike. As you walk along the path you will get some great views of the Cathedral with the water meadow in the foreground.
This is a great looking building situated alongside the banks of the river. As with most Wetherspoon pubs the exterior is sadly reflected inside and as you go in it's just a regular modernised pub which serves food and drink at reasonable prices. This particular Wetherspoons also offers affordable accomodation.
Accross the road from the Poultry Cross you will find one of the oldest pubs in the area. It has a great half timbered exterior with wood panelling and great fireplaces on the inside. Something quite unusual which makes this pub unique is that a macabre find of a mummified hand is on display next to the fireplace in the upstairs bar. This is said to have belonged to a man who cheated at cards and hence lost his hand!! We popped in for a coffee in the afternoon and then for a drink later on. This is a really cosy pub with a great atmosphere.
The Poultry Cross was used to give shelter to market traders. The original cross would have been close to the centre of the market square but gradually lines of market stalls developed into permanent rows of shops, infilling a lot of the square and separating the cross from the market. The present shelter is 15th Century, but the decorative topping of flying buttresses was added in 1852 in emulation of a cross at Chichester.
The Tourist Information is a good place to start your visit to Salisbury. Here you can pick up a free street map or for a small fee you can buy a town trail leaflet which will guide you around the City giving information on all the places of interest. There is also a small gift shop here selling souvenirs, books and maps of surrounding areas.
Salisbury Cathedral is an archtectural gem. The mighty spire dominates the City and its' exterior is ablaze with the most wonderful carvings you will ever see. Inside you will also find many interesting features, tombs of local dignitories, an Ancient cope chest and the Oldest working clock in Britain. For a small fee you can also view one of the few remaining copies of the Magna carta which is housed in the Cathedral.
We were a little restricted on what we could see during our visit as there was a service on at the time. We were able to see quite a lot though. I especially loved the Cloisters and cloister gardens.
There is no entrance fee as such but there is a suggested donation of £5 per person.
Old Sarum is now in ruins high up on a hill top overlooking the newer town of Salisbury. An Iron Age hillfort which was successively occupied by the Romans, Saxons and the Normans who built a Royal Castle and Cathedral here. Over the centuries its' population dwindled to a handful of people who, until the Reform act of 1832, still elected their own MP. Lack of water and exposure to the elements forced the occupants of Old Sarum to abandon their living quarters and create New Sarum - Salisbury as we know it today. From the Ramparts you can get some fantastic views over Salisbury and beyond!
Old Sarum is in the care of English Heritage. There is a nice little gift shop at the entrance which sells guide books for Old Sarum.
Children: £2.20 (5-15yrs)
English Heritage Member Cost: Free
Opposite the Paultry cross is the Medieval Inn caled the haunch of Venison.
It's a great pub and has a long history and is probably one if not the oldest pub in Salisbury.
In the room on the first floor in a space next to the fire place is the mummified hand of a card player that is said to have cheated during a game.
monday - saturday
11.30 am - 11.00pm
12.00 noon - 10.30pm
One of the most well known landmarks of Salisbury is the Paultry Cross, It stands at the heart of the Medieval town and is the only Medieval Cross remaining in the city from the middle ages, It was first mentioned in 1335 and used to give shelter to market traders untill the lines of market stalls were made into shops and the position of the market moved further over, in Medieval times this area would have been busy with pilgrims who stayed at the numerous Inns nearby such as the 'Haunch of Venison' opposite before visiting the Cathedral and the shrine of St. Osmund (Chancellor of England from 1074 to 1078 and Bishop of Salisbury from 1078 to 1099)
The top of the cross is a more modern addition and was added in 1852.
The Guildhall was opened in 1795 and was agift to the city by the Earl of Radnor. It replaced an earlier building which had been destroyed by a fire in 1780.
most if not all of the town trails start at the Guild hall , probably because the tourist information is at the back of the building.
The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (Salisbury) is also known as the Redcoats in the Wardrobe, hence the name of this museum. Here in this wonderful cathedral close building, you can see all sorts of army items (see their extensive homepage to see examples) and read up on the major battles that the regiment has taken part in. Closed December and January. The second picture shows its lovely setting in the green Cathedral Close.
Although seeming to be medieval gothic, this church was built in neogothic style in the first half of the 19th century. St. Osmund's was consecrated on September 6th 1848. It replaced an older roman catholic church which has deteriorated during the past centuries.
Although it is dwarfed by the cathedral, which staands in fron of St. Osmund's, it is nice to see the contrast between this neogothic, less decorated building and the highly decorated cathedral.