Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK
Our independent walking holiday in Wessex in southern England starts in this marvelous Cathedral city
Our self guided walking Holiday in southern Britain starts in the historic city of Salisbury with its magnificent cathedral. The city is located in the south-east of Wiltshire, surrounded by beautiful chalk downland. Salisbury is also known as New Sarum to distinguish it from the original site of the first settlement to the north of the city at Old Sarum, although this name is not commonly used. Old Sarum, which you can visit on your walking holiday in England as you go north from Salisbury, was an Iron Age hill fort which was later used by the Romans, Saxons and Normans. The city and cathedral were rebuilt from 1220 at the confluence of five rivers which converge here, following the abandonement of its original site to the north of the current city.
Salisbury was founded on a large meadow and the building of the new cathedral was begun the same year by Bishop Richard Poore. The main body was completed in 38 years and is a masterpiece of early English architecture. Some stones which make up the cathedral came from Old Sarum, others from nearby quarries at Chilmark from where they were floated down river in small boats. The 123m (404ft) tall spire was built later and is the tallest spire in the UK.
Salisbury Cathedral was one of two English cathedrals which inspired the work of Ken Follet - The Pillars of the Earth - which was recently adapted to a TV series. The novel Sarum by Edward Rutherford, published in 1987, is an imaginative retelling of the history of Salisbury.
The cathedral site is supposed to have been selected by shooting an arrow from Old Sarum, although this can only be legend as the distance is over 3 kilometres (1.9 miles). It is sometimes claimed the arrow hit a white deer, which continued to run and died on the spot where Salisbury Cathedral now exists. The cathedral contains the best preserved of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta - an English Charter first published in 1215 - the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects (the barons) in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. There is also a large mechanical clock installed in Salisbury cathedral in 1386 - the oldest surviving mechanical clock in Great Britain.
The city of Salisbury was laid out in a grid pattern and it soon developed rapidly, and by the14th century was the foremost town in Wiltshire. The city walls surround the Close and was built in the 14th century. There are five gates in the wall; four are original, known as the High Street Gate, St Ann's Gate, the Queen's Gate, and St Nicholas's Gate. A fifth was created in the 19th century. Salisbury is still a charming and relatively small city with some delightful alleyways with the cathedral sitting proudly in impressive grounds at its centre. You'll get the chance to discover Salisbury on our independent walking holiday in Wiltshire - Wessex Wonders. This walking holiday starts in Salisbury and finishes in the charming hill top Dorset town of Shaftesbury.
You'll also have the opportunity to visit one of Britain's most enigmatic sites - Stonehenge - which is located about 20km or so north of the city. One of the most famous landmarks in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It is also at the centre of the most dense complex of Bronze Age and Neolithic monuments in England, including several hundred burial grounds. Human activity at Stonehenge dates back over 5000 years and the site was listed, along with Avebury in northern Wiltshire as a world heritage site in 1986.
Other places of interest on the Wonders of Wessex Walking Holiday: Woodford Valley - Shaftesbury - Tollard Royal - Old Sarum - Old Wardour Castle - Gold Hill - Larmer Tree Gardens - Wilton House - Ashmore - Cranborne Chase - Wessex - Stonehenge
Take a look at a full list of our independent walking holidays in France, UK and Spain