Salisbury is known as ‘the city in the countryside’, and it’s easy to see why, as it is surrounded by the beautiful English countryside at every turn. However, this famous medieval city is also brimming with sights to see and things to do.
It should come as no surprise that lots of people stay in Wiltshire holiday cottages in Salisbury every year to take in the incredible heritage that the city boasts. This very heritage is now set to come to life as a new mobile phone app is being released that will unveil fascinating information about some of the city’s top attractions.
If you are holidaying in Salisbury this year or are considering visiting the city, then read this guide about the top cafes and restaurants, attractions and other great activities you can visit and participate in.
Salisbury Cathedral offers one superlative after another, including the UK’s tallest spire, the world’s oldest working mechanical clock and Britain’s largest secular cloisters.
Arguably, the highlight of the cathedral is its Chapter House, which hosts the finest of four remaining 1215 Magna Carta’s, the document that brought King John to heel in the 13th Century and has been an inspiration behind legal constitutions across the globe ever since.
You can go on lots of tours around the cathedral and these are listed below:
• Tower tours – If you have a head for heights you can climb up into the Cathedral’s hidden roof spaces. This behind-the–scenes adventure is a popular option for small groups and costs just £12.50 per person.
• Library tours and cream tea - Salisbury Cathedral is opening up its 15th-century library to individuals and small groups. The library contains over 10,000 books dating as far back as the 9th century and visitors can also head on a cathedral tour and see the Magna Carta. The price for this tour is £22 per person.
• Graffiti tours - Expert guides share the findings from an on-going project recording and interpreting the Cathedral’s graffiti. This trip involves climbing to the triforium level to view medieval Arabic carpentry markings, believed to be amongst the earliest in the country, as well as looking down the full length of the Nave to the Cathedral’s East End. This costs £12.50 per person.
As previously mentioned the new English Heritage Cities app is now available to download, and here you can learn a whole host of information about the cathedral.
The house is surrounded by a beautiful, two-acre walled garden that stretches down to the confluence of the rivers Avon and Nadder , offering perfect views of Salisbury Cathedral.
Originally a medieval canonry, the house in Cathedral Close brings together six distinct architectural styles.
The house is steeped in history, with the first recorded occupant being Henry of Blunston, Archdeacon of Dorset, living there from 1291.
Arundells was saved in 1964 by Mr and Mrs Robert Hawkings after it had fallen into disrepair and was facing the risk of being demolished.
Fortunately it was saved and now the beautiful house has been restored to its former glory so visitors can explore it and its two acres of gardens. The garden was redesigned in 1985 and has remained unchanged over the intervening years.
The house also boasts an impressive collection of gifts from leaders such as Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Chairman Mao and Fidel Castro. There is also an extensive art collection as well as ceramics, glassware and sculptures.
Boscombe Down Aviation Collection
Boscombe Down Aviation Collection is located in a World War 1 Hangar and takes visitors through the history of flight and flight-testing.
The collection of aircraft, cockpits, weapons and models is amazing and you can go on guided tours that are led by aviation experts. As part of these tours you can even get into the cockpits and experience the thrill of being a pilot of some of the world’s fastest jets.
Some of the collection highlights include a Sea Harrier XZ 457, a Falklands war veteran plane, one of the fastest jets in the world, the English Electric Lightning, and a replica BE2 B biplane, which was the first to land at Boscombe Down.
The attraction boasts computer simulators and an historic Link Trainer simulator to allow you to try flying a number of jets that have previously been on display.
Wilton House has been the seat of the Earls of Pembroke since the 1540s and is still very much a family home.
Today you can see 17th century interiors, a world famous art collection and sculpture gallery, and rooms full of over 460 years of Pembroke family history. Other exhibitions that are not to be missed include “Cecil Beaton at Wilton” and “Lord Pembroke’s Classic Car Collection”.
The grounds are bordered by the rivers Wylye and Nadder and include an adventure playground offering families lots of entertainment.
Whether you bring a picnic, eat in the restaurant or explore the Gift Shop, Wilton House has something for everyone and offers the perfect family day out for visitors.
River Bourne Community Farm
The River Bourne Community Farm was launched in 2010 and is sited in the village of Laverstock, on the outskirts of Salisbury. The farm boasts over 78 acres of water meadows, paddocks and arable land.
On the farm you can see chickens, goats, donkeys, traditional breed pigs, sheep, highland cattle and small animals. There is also a farm shop serving eggs, honey and other local produce and a cafe selling refreshments and light lunches. The attraction is free and open to the public from 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday and from 10am – 1pm on Saturdays.
The Salisbury Museum tells the story of a unique landscape, which has been the cradle of continuous human achievement for 500,000 years.
Its collections, exhibitions and events bring tales of the landscape and the people who shaped it to life. The museum’s collection includes artefacts from ancient Wessex, nationally important finds and treasures from Old Sarum, Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape.
Other exhibitions at the museum mean you can meet a 4,300 year old Amesbury Archer and see the skeletons of a Ford warrior and a Stonehenge archer.
The museum is beautifully located in the medieval King’s House in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close and the King’s House Café offers visitors home cooking ranging from morning bites to light lunches. Entry costs just £7.50 for adults, £3.60 for children and £18.50 for families.
By climbing the mighty ramparts you will get great views over Salisbury and the surrounding countryside.
You can explore the site of the once thriving town of Old Sarum and even stand in the place where Salisbury's original cathedral once stood.
There was also once a royal castle, which stood high on the motte, and an Iron Age hill fort where it all began.
A visit to the Old Sarum allows you to find out about over 2,000 years of history and how the Romans, Normans and Saxons used the land.
Top cafes and restaurants
Inspired by fast-paced, Japanese ramen bars and a collection of Asian food, the Wagamama story began in 1992 in Bloomsbury, London.
Now Wagamama is one of the most popular restaurants across the UK as it brings the fresh, nourishing flavours of Asia to all.
Wagamama believes in kaizen, roughly translated as ‘good change’. It’s a belief in continuous improvement and that every day in simple ways they should strive to be better than the day before.
Wagamama is all about positive eating; and that’s why the restaurants, including the one in Wiltshire, use fresh ingredients, cook the food with passion and love and serve the food the very second it’s ready. Spreading positivity from soul to bowl.
Wagamama say, “We want customers to share in our enthusiasm, slurp their noodles, relax in good company and leave feeling happy, nourished and refreshed.”
Bill’s at Home
Bill’s at Home started as a small cafe 30 years ago and it has always had a menu dedicated to fresh, seasonal dishes.
Popular dishes include their Halloumi Burger with tomato hummus and sweet chilli sauce, it’s been on the menu from day one and still remains a firm favourite today. The café's summer dishes include the Bill’s Summer Salad with baby kale, freekeh, sprouts, blueberries and watermelon or the Seared Salmon Salad with mango & cucumber.
Bill’s at Home also recently unveiled a new Click and Collect service, meaning you can order a Bill’s burger or a doughnut with chocolate sauce from your luxury hideaways cottage.
King John Inn
The King John Inn is the quintessential country pub and here diners can taste the fine flavours of its field-to-fork menus and drink a number of local ales.
The pub is renowned for boasting scenic views of the countryside, but more recently it is the food that the King John Inn has become famous for as it has been awarded the prestigious 2 AA Rosette-award for food. On the menu there is lots of British game and seafood and as a result of working with small farms and local suppliers the menu always highlights the flavours and ingredients of each season.
If you have brought your dogs along on holiday, then you can bring them into the King John Inn as well.
The Cosy Club
The Salisbury Cosy Club is just a two-minute stroll from the cathedral and is based in a Grade II listed former arts college.
The club boasts a large open-plan bar area, a secluded terrace to the rear, and a ground floor dining room to the side, which in turn has stairs that lead to a light and airy first floor dining room – The Mezzanine.
The dining areas can seat around 120 diners and if you head here for a bite to eat you will not be disappointed as whether you’re in for brunch for lunch or tapas for dinner, the food menu offers something delicious for everyone.
As well as serving classic English foods such as full-English breakfasts, there are favourites from across the globe served too.
The Royal Oak Inn
Tucked away in the Nadder Valley away from the hustle and bustle, the Royal Oak Inn dates back to 1852. In 2007, the pub closed its doors, but in April 2014 three local residents bought and renovated this iconic pub.
Today there is a bustling bar staffed by a friendly, enthusiastic team and ever since the bar has been a busy environment with diners, drinkers, farmers, walkers, dogs and children all enjoying the welcoming atmosphere and wonderful menu.
The menu serves a range of seasonal dishes and fresh new choices every week and the produce is locally sourced. The wine list is great as well and there are local and national beers served including the pub’s own English Pale Ale “Cliffehanger”.
Other top activities
A tour with Salisbury City guides
Salisbury City Guides offer a variety of tours around this iconic, medieval city and all tours are taken by a team of professional Blue Badge Guides, who all live in or around the area.
Below are just a few of the tours you can go on:
• The medieval City of Salisbury – This tour takes you to the Georgian Guildhall and allows you to sit in the court room where people were sentenced to transportation to Australia in the 19th Century. You also visit the home of a 15th century troublemaker and view a spectacular example of a 15th century Doom Painting set within a remarkable example of Tudor gothic church architecture.
• Salisbury Cathedral with its magnificent Spire - This trip tells you about the cathedral and how it was built in a short period of time between 1220 and 1258 as well as sharing information on the tower and the spire. The tour takes you to see Magna Carta and gives you a glimpse of the 80 acre Close containing fine examples of medieval and Georgian architecture.
• The original Salisbury – This tour takes you to the Old Sarum, just 10 minutes away from the centre of Salisbury, but really a world away. The Iron Age hill fort with ramparts overlooks the centre of Salisbury and this trip tells you about its remarkable story covering the Iron Age, The Romans, The Normans and politics in the 19th Century.
The Salisbury City Guides also offer trips to Stonehenge, Winchester, Bath, the New Forest, Hardy Country and local market towns.
A punt is a flat-bottomed boat which does not have a keel. Salisbury Punting provide VIP chauffeured punting trips on the River Avon from the Legacy Rose & Crown Hotel and the Grasmere House Hotel in a 21 foot traditional hardwood punt.
It is an extremely tranquil experience with great views across the Harnham Water Meadows which have not changed in many centuries. Here, you will encounter a variety of wildlife, including swans, ducks, moorhens, kingfishers, herons, geese, swallows and bats – and that's just the birds encountered on the trips.
You can book trips via their website or by calling 07538000597.
Image Credit: Ash Mills, Arundells, Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, Wilton House, River Bourne Community Farm, Bill’s At Home, Wagamama, King John Inn, Cosy Club, Royal Oak Inn, Salisbury City guides, Salisbury Punting.