Wiltshire’s Magnificent Medieval City - Salisbury
PUBLISHED: 11:12 06 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013
Oliver Draycott renews a passing acquaintance with Salisbury ...and wishes he'd stayed longer because Salisbury is the sort of place where you want to stay and linger, with a genuinely warm feel about it.
There is something about a cathedral city that marks it out - and it isn't just the ecclesiastical trappings. There's a whole ethos that goes with the status which apparently rubs off on its residents because this is a very friendly place. On at least three occasions locals saw me taking notes and, when I explained what I was doing, were most effusive in their praise for the city. But then, the City has an instinctively warm feel about it. Couple that with some remarkable medieval buildings, streets relatively free from heavy traffic, and a wealth of attractions in close vicinity to the city, and that makes Salisbury a sheer delight to spend a couple of days in. Frankly, you'd need one day to really explore what's on offer in the Cathedral Close alone, with its three museums and the Cathedral itself which, this year, celebrates its 750th anniversary with a host of events planned to commemorate the occasion.
Explore the City's treasures
In The Close there are three museums and a National Trust property close together:
Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum (01722 332151) (of which author, Bill Bryson, says in his Notes from a Small Island 'Salisbury Museum is outstanding, and I urge you to go there at once' (www.salisburymusuem.org.uk);
'Discover Salisbury' in the Medieval Hall (01722 412472), where there is a 40 minute film showing the history of the city. The hall is available for hire as a wedding venue. (www.medieval-hall.co.uk);
Redcoats in the Wardrobe - the Regimental Museum of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment. (01722 419419) (www.thewardrobe.co.uk)
Mompesson House (01722 335659). An 18th century mansion: a retreat of peace and tranquillity, with a walled garden, and a location for the film Sense and Sensibility in 1995. (www.nationatrust.org.uk).
What to do in and around the City
Salisbury's market square with its café culture makes it very easy to just sit outside and watch the world rush by - even in the middle of January, when I was there! Time it for a Tuesday and a Saturday and you can also browse around the market (except for the third Tuesday in August when the Charter Fair hits town for three days). Apparently, Salisbury has the largest number of pubs per head of population than any other British town and you are spoilt for choice. But one pub you simply have to make for is The Haunch of Venison and its tiny, panelled, front bar (not to mention a mummified hand, the legacy of a game of cards, apparently) and restaurant.
Between May and June, Salisbury puts on its annual Arts Festival. Culture is something that Salisbury does well. The Festival even has its own full-time staff operating independently of the Town Centre Manager and they also look after the annual Food and Drink Festival in September. The town also celebrates St George's Day in April, one of the few places in the country where England's national saint is officially recognised.
Three things to take home
Specialist oils, vinegars, herbs, wines and culinary paraphernalia from Nuggs (01722 417600). (www.nuggs.com).
Handmade chocolates from Salisbury Chocolate Bar and Patisserie (01722 327422) (www.chocolatesand patisserie.com) or Polly's Tea Shop (01722 336037 (www.thepolly.com)
Almost anything from Fisherton Mill in Fisherton Street (01722 326346) (www.fishertonmill.co.uk).
Stop for a bite to eat
Traditional or Contemporary English, or do you fancy something a little more exotic? Whatever your taste you'll find it in one of many of Salisbury's fine restaurants and cafes, with an eclectic mix of modern continental, exotic and good old plain English cooking.
Anokka, Fisherton Street. (01722 414142). Fine Indian cuisine with a unique Anglo-French twist. (www.anokaa.com)
The Avon Brewery, Castle Street backing onto the river (01722 416184 (www.theavonbreweryinn.co.uk)
Harper's, Market Square (01722 333118). (www.harpersrestaurant.co.uk)
Hox Brasserie, Fisherton Street (01722 341600). Authentic and original Indian cuisine. (www.hoxbrasserie.co.uk)
Gastro Bistro at The Pheasant Inn, Salt Lane (01722 414926). Food with a French twist. (www.gastrobistro.co.uk)
Rai d'Or, Brown Street (01722 327137). CAMRA Pub of the Year 2008, this was once Salisbury's medieval brothel but now serves Thai Food to die for. (www.raidor.co.uk)
Lemon Tree, Crane Street (01722 333471). A light and airy atmosphere with a seasonal menu. (www.thelemontree.co.uk)
Where can we stay
As a touring centre Salisbury is blessed with a wide range of places to stay to suit all pockets from simple guest houses, to sumptuous guest houses to star-rated hotels.
Easter - June
Salisbury Cathedral 750th anniversary events. A full programme of events. For details visit the website at www.salisbury750.co.uk.
St George's Day Celebrations. A full day of activities to celebrate St Geroge's Day, maintaining a tradition continued in Salisbury since medieval times.
25 May - 8 June
Salisbury Arts Festival, starting with The King's Singers at Wilton Church on 24 May
(0845 241 9651) for booking and www.salisburyfestival.co.uk for full programme details
Plenty of car parking off season in 11 sites, but advisable to use park and ride at other times. Zip pre-pay card and park and ride information available from 01722 434650 of www.salisbury.gov.uk.
Fish Row, off Market Square 01722 334956 www.visitsalisbury.com
Salisbury Cathedral, providing tours and group visits and packages.
'Discover Salisbury' - the Medieval Hall, Cathedral Close (www.medieval-hall.co.uk) (01722 412472
Salisbury District Council: www.salisbury.gov.uk
Salisbury Cathedral: www.salisburycathedral.org.uk
Salisbury Festival: www.salisburyfestival.co.uk
Salisbury Racecourse: www.salisburyracecourse.co.uk
Fisherton Street (08457 484950) for all rail enquiries.
Wilts & Dorset. Rolleston Street. (01722 336855).