You’ve already been to Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Woodhenge, and you’ve got just one day in Salisbury to see the city itself. Is it possible? The short answer is no. But, you can make the most of it.
I’ve been twice now and I think I’d still like another crack at it – just to wander the streets and look at the stunning heritage buildings.
My most recent trip to Salisbury was with Visit Wiltshire just this past weekend. We were treated to hot sunny days (and possibly a spot of sunburn, don’t forget your sunscreen!) and a lovely walk around the town.
If you’ve just got one day, here’s how you can make the most of it:
Salisbury Cathedral and Magna Carta
First up, it’s just not a visit to Salisbury without stopping to see the Cathedral, known formally as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s a popular spot, both inside and out; you’ll see many locals enjoying time in the sun (if it’s out!) on the lush green lawn around the building, and many tourists within the Cathedral itself.
This Cathedral has a fascinating history, so I highly recommend taking an official tour. Did you know it was built in just 38 years and without any plans for a tower? If you’ve been to a lot of very old churches and cathedrals, you’ll notice that they are often a mix of architecture styles because the building process was so long and thus spanned different periods of ‘fashion’. The Salisbury Cathedral has just one style – English Gothic.
I didn’t get a chance to do the Spire Tour, but it comes highly recommended by Emma. She says you can’t go to Salisbury without climbing the tower, especially because it’s Britain’s tallest spire. This tour takes about 105 minutes in total.
Something to look out for: When you go, your tour guide will point out the impact the tower has had on the building. Because it was added afterwards, the weight of the tower has actually ‘squashed’ the centre of the Cathedral.
See the Magna Carta
The ‘Great Charter’ is one of the most celebrated documents in British history and one of the four best-preserved original copies from 1215 can be found at Salisbury Cathedral. Make sure you visit the Chapter House to see why it’s such an important document and how it influenced politics and laws today.
The Salisbury Cathedral is open every day. There is a suggested donation of £7.50 per adult for Cathedral access and £13.50 per adult for the Tower Tour, which includes access to the Cathedral. There are free tours of the Cathedral floor available throughout the day. It’s free to enter the cloisters and see the Magna Carta in the Chapter House.
Historic Salisbury Museum and Mompesson House
Once you’re out of the Cathedral, the Salisbury Museum and Mompesson House are very close by. If you’ve really only got the one day in Salisbury, it might be best to pick just one and enjoy it thoroughly.
I’ve noticed that every town has its own museum and I’ve found that they are always worth a visit. The Salisbury Museum is definitely no exception, especially if you like archaeology.
Given its location (near Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Woodhenge), the Salisbury Museum showcases some brilliant archaeological finds, including the Amesbury Archer who was buried near Stonehenge more than 4,000 years ago with a large number of items, including gold!
The museum also houses some gorgeous ceramics and local historical objects, including the Salisbury Giant, which has existed in some format since the 1400s (below).
The Museum is open every day and an adult ticket costs £8.
This 18th Century townhouse – a National Trust Property – was featured in the award-winning film Sense and Sensibility in 1995.
It’s a gorgeous example of English Baroque and has beautiful features, including ornate plasterwork and woodwork. You’ll see some stunning examples of glassware and elegant furniture throughout the building. If you’re visiting in Spring or Summer, you’ll have to visit the (almost) secret garden behind the house where you’ll enjoy the tranquil setting and the beauty of England in bloom.
Local artists and a spot of lunch at Fisherton Mill
At this point, you’re going to be hungry and in need of a break, so I can recommend heading over to the award-winning Fisherton Mill. It offers good food and artwork by local artists.
For some reason over the last year, I’ve found myself keenly interested in local art – particularly ceramics. So I was pleasantly surprised to walk into Fisherton Mill and find myself facing a gallery of stunning pieces. They have everything from jewellery to homewares from more than 200 artists in the South West. Make sure you leave some time to take a look at what’s on show.
Now, as for food – I can definitely recommend one of their sandwiches, made on their homemade sourdough. Even if they had just given me bread, I would have been pretty satisfied. They also make their own cakes, so make sure you leave room for dessert.
Important note: Fisherton Mill isn’t open on Sundays.
A self-guided treasure hunt
It’s actually much harder than it sounds to just wander the streets of a town. That’s the case for me anyway. However, when given a treasure hunt map and time to explore, you’ll see historic sights you may normally miss if you’re heading from activity to activity.
We were given maps from Treasure Trails (who have a range of options for cities and towns across the UK) and set off on a journey.
I just want to say at this point that treasure maps are not just for kids! The Treasure Trails map actually required us to put our thinking caps on and we really did have fun working on the clues (and questioning our IQ levels).
While you can certainly do these activities in any order, I recommend doing this one in the afternoon. The suggested time frame is about one and half hours, but if you like to stop and take photos (or perhaps grab a pint), you may end up taking longer and missing out on tours and museums.
The Treasure Trail map is £6.99 and you can pick yours up at the Salisbury Information Centre which is also the starting point of the trail.
One day in Salisbury – Pin for later!
There’s so much to see and do in Salisbury and if you love history and culture it’s a must visit.