Visit Wiltshire recently published a list of top 10 reasons to visit Salisbury. It’s a great list, but I thought it might be fun to chip in a few more reasons why I think people should visit Salisbury.

1. Old Sarum

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Old Sarum

Old Sarum

Old Sarum is about a mile and a half north of Salisbury. It was originally an Iron Age hill fort. It was used by the Normans[1] but was gradually deserted after the Cathedral was moved down from the hill to its present location. Samuel Pepys visited in the 17th Century and wrote that the earthworks were so ‘prodigous’ they ‘did fright me’. I’ve written more about Old Sarum’s history here: Old Sarum, Salisbury. More detail here: Old Sarum – English Heritage

2. The Giant and Hobnob

Salisbury Hobnob - Salisbury Museum

Hobnob

Visit Wiltshire recommend Salisbury Museum[2]but they didn’t mention one of the museum’s absolute highlights – Christopher the Giant and Hobnob. Hobnob is wonderful – he’s an ‘Obby-Oss’ style horse costume used in medieval processions. You can see similar creations in various towns across the country. Hobnob is dwarferd byhis companion – the Salisbury Giant. The Salisbury Giant is the only processional giant in the country. He’s unique, impressive, and a little bit scary.

3. The Doom Painting

Devil from Saint Thomas Church Doom Painting, Salisbury

The Devil from the Doom

The Doom is a huge, medieval depiction of the Day of Judgement. It features the dead emerging from their graves – some joining Jesus in Heaven, others being dragged off to hell. It’s a spectacular painting, and an insight into the minds of the people who built the Cathedral. The Doom is in Saint Thomas’ Church, at the other end of the High Street from the Cathedral

4. Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

Stonehenge Winter Solstice Winter 2012 Sunrising

Stonehenge

Sunrise at Stonehenge on the winter Solstice is lovely[3]. It’s much less busy than the summer solstice, although year on year more people seem to be turning up. I’ve not been to the summer solstice since the 1970s but it seems to be very popular – Wilts and Dorset run special buses from Salisbury railway station. However the best way to get to Stonehenge at any time of year is….

5. Walking from Amesbury to Stonehenge

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Amesbury to Stonehenge track

To Stonehenge

There are lots of good walks in the Salisbury area. One of my favourites is the walk from the Countess Road to Stonehenge. You can get a bus to Amesbury, walk under the A303 subway, then across country over the Plain to Stonehenge. Apart from being a lovely walk, you do get some sense of the importance of the whole Stonehenge landscape. There’s a little bit more detail here.

6. Pubs

The Haunch of Venison in Minster Street, Salisbury

The Haunch

It used to be said that the proportion of pubs to people was greater in Salisbury than in anywhere else in the country. I don’t know if that’s true but there is a wide and varied selection. The Hanuch of Venison is worth visiting for the history- Churchill and Eisenhower allegedly drank there while planning D-Day and it has a mysterious withered hand upstairs. The Cloisters and Qudos both do music, and the Rai D’Or does fantastic Thai food (and probably the best beer in the city centre).

7. Cafes

Bird and Carter, Salisbury

Bird & Carter

Salisbury has the usual national or multi-national coffee outlets, some of which even pay their taxes, but it also has some interesting independent cafes. The Boston Tea Rooms are in the historic Old George Inn[4] which is worth a visit in itself[5]. The Cathedral cafe is worth going to for the view of the Spire through the glass ceiling. For quality of the food, Bird and Carter and the Fisherton Mill Cafe are both very good

8. Salisbury City FC

Another very good reason for visiting Salisbury is to see the football team. Salisbury City are a great club – they’re currently playing attractive football and getting good results. With any luck the Whites will be back in the Conference Premier next season.

9. Stately homes

There are more grand houses in the Salisbury area than you can shake a stick at. Some of these are at least partially open to visitors – Wilton House, which is famous for its paintings, Breamore House where you can visit the Mizmaze and Heale Gardens – Official Site which has a nice, informal cafe next to the river.

10. Culture

Visit Wiltshire mentions Salisbury Playhouse – the ‘regional theatre with all guns blazing‘ as, I think, the Independant put it. There are also great shows at the City Hall, Salisbury Arts Centre, Salisbury Studio Theatre. Also the Odeon Cinema has started showing the ‘NTLive’ performances. Beyond the performing arts, Salisbury has some great public art that’s worth seeing -including graffiti by Chivitz from last year’s festival, the Ancestor at Amesbury, Salisbury artist Fred Fieber’s murals and the Walking Madonna in the Close.

Footnotes

  1. William the Conqueror formally received the Domesday Book at Old Sarum []
  2. Bill Bryson recommends it too. He says in his breaktrhough book ‘Notes from a Small Island’ The Salisbury Museum is outstanding and I urge you to go there at once.. There was an interesting codicil to Mr Bryson’s recommendation. It’s recounted in local blogger Travelrat’s blog post []
  3. There are some pictures from the 2012 solstice here: Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2012 « Salisbury and Stonehenge []
  4. There’s a bit about the history of the Old George here: Old George Mall, Salisbury []
  5. It wasn’t all that long ago that the BBC were in fact reporting that you could visit the Old George in thir ‘things to do’ section – BBC – Wiltshire Days Out – The Old George Inn open to the public []

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