2018’s Novichok attack thrust the sleepy city into the spotlight, after former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned on a park bench last March. But thanks to the community’s ‘collective spirit’ in the face of this adversity, it’s become a particularly desirable place to live: “This cathedral city is divinely attractive, has a distinguished history and offers top-class schooling, but this year we’re honouring its resurgent community spirit — and its glorious surrounds,” The Sunday Times report reads, with home editor Helen Davies adding: “Salisbury has shown real collective spirit in dealing with a chemical attack that saw the cathedral city become the centre of world headlines for all the wrong reasons.”
So, if you happen to be taking a visit to the UK’s number one city in 2019, here’s what should be on your itinerary.
Places To See:
One of Salisbury’s main attractions is its Cathedral. For over 750 years, pilgrims have come to visit the religious building, which started construction in 1220. Legend has it that the cathedral was built in that spot after the Bishop of Old Sarum shot an arrow in the direction he wanted it to be constructed; the arrow hit a deer, which died in the place where Salisbury Cathedral now sits. It’s a hugely impressive structure, complete with the tallest church spire in the UK – with 330 steps to the top it’s not for the faint of heart, but if you can handle the height, the view across Salisbury is spectacular.
The building’s chapter house is known for its unusual shape and its medieval frieze that depicts scenes of Adam and Eve and Noah. It’s also home to the best preserved of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, which was written in Latin by hand on sheepskin. The document wasn’t signed but instead sealed, and at the bottom of Salisbury’s Magna Carta you can see the marks where King John’s seal was once attached.
This stately English country house sits just on the fringes of Salisbury and has belonged to the Pembroke family since it was granted to them by King Henry VIII in 1544. Since then, it’s been linked to many political and artistic circles throughout its history – but even if you’re not particularly political or artistic, you can still pay a visit. Take a look around the inside of the house or, on a nice day, have a look around the grounds. And while you might think that kids would be a trifle bored at the thought of exploring huge acres of garden, think again – Wilton House has an enormous play area, complete with slides, trampolines, and climbing frames. So, while your kids are off exploring the park, you can go star spotting – Wilton House has been used in many a period film and TV show, including the likes of 2004’s Pride and Prejudice, and all three series of The Crown.
Another reason people flock to Salisbury: the chance to see one of the seven wonders of the world. A short bus journey will take you to Stonehenge, where you can walk around the historic 4,500-year-old Stone Circle, or have a look around the Neolithic houses and get a taste of what it would have been like to live in the stone age. And if you’re in Salisbury around the summer solstice, then partake in a local tradition and gather on the night of the 21st June to get in between the stones for a long night of music, druids and dancing, before watching the sun rise in the early hours – and don’t forget to bring your bongos.
If you’re partial to a ruin or two, take a walk up to Old Sarum. This is where what’s left of a royal castle and cathedral sit, within an Iron Age fortification. The cathedral didn’t last long before it was moved to the centre of Salisbury. But its footprint remains, and all you have to do is cross the bridge above the moat to enter.
You can catch a bit of culture as part of the city’s Wiltshire Creative initiative – Salisbury Playhouse regularly has shows and plays as part of its itinerary (the comedy Around the World in 80 Days is showing there before heading off to the US, whilst May sees the drama The Stranger on the Bridge taking to the stage), while the Salisbury Arts Centre regularly has art shows, music and cinema evenings and are even streaming a Live version of Gillian Anderson and Lily James in All About Eve from the National Theatre. It’ll also be home to the Salisbury International Arts Festival 2019 over May and June.
There are plenty of places for a scenic walk in Salisbury. It’s makes up the start of the 34-mile-long Avon Valley Path, which will take you to the edges of the New Forest National Park (for wild horses roaming around and a quick swim in the river, you need to head here) and on to Christchurch harbour. You can also try out Clarendon Way, another walking route that links Salisbury to another quaint Wiltshire town, Winchester. A stroll around Wilton Gardens is well worth it, as is the outstanding landscapes of Larmer Tree Gardens – many will know it from the popular festival, but when it’s not full of glittery party-goers you can wander through the woodland and try and spot all the ornate buildings dotted throughout the grounds.
Where To Eat And Drink:
The Haunch of Venison
All this sightseeing is thirsty work, so take a pitstop in one of Salisbury’s historic pubs. First stop, the Haunch of Venison: one of the oldest pubs in Salisbury – so old, in fact, that craftsmen working on the Cathedral spire would take a pitstop for a pint in there – and probably one of the smallest too, it’s a building that’s steeped in history. Those with a strong stomach should take a look at the preserved mummified hand that’s kept behind glass in the pub’s wall – it’s believed to be from an 18th century Whist player who lost it after cheating in a card game. It’s actually been stolen quite a few times itself, but now is secure behind locked glass. Plenty of Salisbury’s pubs have a long, rich history actually – The Queen’s Arms is Salisbury’s oldest pub, dating way back to 1170 and what is now the Bill’s used to be a pub called The Chough, which had on display an opening to the many tunnels that run underneath the city.
Maul’s Cheese And Wine
For something a little more cosmopolitan, head to Maul’s Wine and Cheese Bar, a boutique family-run spot which the owners were inspired to set up after enjoying a variety of cheese and Montepulciano wine on their first date. As such, the owners hand-pick all the food and drink available, from local cheeses to international wines, along with cured meats and pates, served with a range of pickles and chutneys.
The Chapter House
Named after the section of the cathedral that holds the Magna Carta, The Chapter House restaurant sits opposite the building itself and is the place to go if you want a decent steak. Its Sunday roasts are also spectacular – and once you’ve had enough food, you can pass out in one of their 17 boutique letting rooms upstairs.
The Boot Inn
A huge hit with the locals, you’ll have to hop in the car to get to The Boot Inn but trust us when we say you won’t be disappointed. Sat in the sleep village of Berwich St James, this classic West Country pub’s history dates way back to the 18th century and retains many of its original features, including a large and impressive inglenook fireplace. There’s plenty of walking tracks nearby if you want to work up your appetite, and once you’re hungry enough indulge in such classics as garlic and rosemary slow-roasted leg of lamb and cucumber and Stokes Marsh Farm ribeye steak, or go for something more unusual, such as the gin-cured salmon or warming rabbit leg casserole.
The New Inn
If you’re sticking around for the weekend, The New Inn is the place to have a drink or two in the evening. A three-minute walk from the cathedral and complete with large pub garden filled with flowers, shrubbery and a warming fire pit, this is where the locals gather in the summer. The New Inn is perfectly central, so if you fancy getting a bite to eat after a glass of wine or fancy heading to another of Salisbury’s local pubs (The Haunch is a three-minute walk away), then it’s oh-so easy to walk to your next destination. This is a great place to start or end your evening.
Bringing the spice to Salisbury is the newly opened Tinga, an independently owned Mexican bar and restaurant in the city centre. Tinga’s décor will transport you straight to heart of Mexica City, complete with Frida Khalo mural, sprawling indoor blossom tree and walls covered in foliage. They serve up traditional Mexican dishes, with tacos, tostadas, quesadillas and platos fuertes all on the menu.
Where To Stay:
This traditional and stylish country pub is just 20 minutes outside of Salisbury city centre and is the ideal place to rest your head for the night. And if you want to experience the true meaning of country pub, this is it – The Beckford Arms is surrounded by nothing, but lush green fields filled with horses and sheep. If you want to stay out in the sticks, this has everything you need for a chilled Wiltshire weekend – plenty of nice walking routes, a pub, and top-quality restaurant, and a cosy library and lodge, complete with log fire for chilly evenings.
Rooms start at £95 per night
The Lamb Inn
For a traditional country experience, head out to The Lamb Inn in Hindon. This country pub-cum-hotel has 18 boutique style bedrooms – four of which have their own private gardens. With a pub, dining room and two private rooms available, it’s the perfect place for a family trip away, and the likes of the cathedral, Stonehenge, Stourhead and Longleat Safari Park are only a short drive away.
Prices start at £89 per night
Cricket Field House
Just a mile from Salisbury city centre is Cricket Field House, a four-star B&B set in picturesque surroundings. Whether you’re after a lazy weekend or a one-night stay, there’s something for everyone, from luxurious studio apartments to quaint, countrified double rooms. And for breakfast fans, Cricket Field House roll out a proper English breakfast each day and are more than happy to meet your dietary requirements, offering the likes of vegan and gluten-free fare to those who require it.
Prices start at £118 per night
If you’re planning a big family trip away, Bridge Farmhouse is the accommodation you need. Comprised of eight en-suite bedrooms which sleep up to 21 people, there’s also a fully-equipped kitchen with an Aga – and who doesn’t love an Aga? – as well as enough toaster slots, fridge space and cooking utensils to accommodate all of you, so no one’s left waiting for dinner. And speaking of dinner, if you don’t fancy making it yourself you can hire their private chef, who’s worked for them for 17 years. The house has sprawling gardens with secluded riverside nooks and a lawn running down to the river. And once you’ve run around the gardens and eaten all the food, retire to the East and West lounges.
Prices start at £78 per room per night
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