History looms large when it comes to things to do in Salisbury, with the cathedral, Stonehenge and the Roman hill fort of Old Sarum as three of the must-see attractions.
Activities in Salisbury
The jewel in Salisbury’s crown, Salisbury Cathedral is a jaw-dropping 800-year-old church that dominates the town centre. Blessed with the tallest church spire in the UK (a vertigo-inducing 123m from the top of the Tower Tour), the cathedral boasts one of the oldest working clocks in the world and is also home to one of the only four original copies of the Magna Carta. The medieval architecture has been brilliantly preserved, with the ornate – and huge – interior matched by the majestic exterior. There is a range of tours available across the church, library and tower, as well as peregrine falcon displays, art exhibitions, the world’s oldest mechanical clock (built in 1386) and one of the best-preserved remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. In short, it should be on everyone’s to-do list.
The must-see historical activities continue in Salisbury with Stonehenge, which is less than 10 miles from our Salisbury South Milford hotel. The ancient Neolithic stone circle was constructed more than 5,500 years ago and is made up of 250 huge rocks and boulders aligned with the sun’s movements. You can jump on a sightseeing bus trip that leaves from Salisbury train station to Stonehenge, or head to the visitor centre, museum and the stones themselves. If you book your tickets online, you’ll get a designated time-slot to control the crowds, while the visitor centre is a three-mile round walk from the stones with a shuttle bus also available.
The amazing history lessons continue at Old Sarum, an Iron Age hill fort used by the Romans, Normans and Saxons marked by two huge earth banks and a vast ditch. The 29-acre site, located around a mile from town, has commanding views over the Wiltshire plains and also houses an impressive Royal Castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1070 and the original site of the Salisbury Cathedral dating back to 1092. The English Heritage site is free to members and is open from Tuesday to Sunday, located around a mile north of the town centre.
The Salisbury Museum
Tying together the region’s rich history is The Salisbury Museum. Located opposite the cathedral, the museum itself is a historically important building, dating back nearly 500 years. In it, you’ll find one of the best Stonehenge exhibitions in the country, an impressive range of Constable and Turner paintings, a wonderful archaeology display, prehistoric artefacts and the UK’s largest meteorite. The museum is open daily during the summer and from Monday to Saturday during the winter. Children under five visit for free.
Head north from the Salisbury Museum and you’ll find Mompesson House, an elegant 18th-century National Trust property. The house is decked out in fine period furniture, artwork and decor, while the walled garden is where you’ll find the tea room and their delicious cakes and afternoon teas.A word to the wise, Bodenham Arboretum is not free, and the price of tickets changes with the seasons of the year but at roughly a few pounds for adults it's worth it for a peaceful afternoon outdoors.
Nestled on the banks of the River Avon, Longford Castle is an almost Disney-like castle with large turrets, gorgeous gardens and an ornate exterior. The interior is decorated with one of the biggest and best private art collections in the world, built up through the centuries by the Bouverie family who still live there. The house and its priceless art collection can only be viewed on 28 days each year via an appointment from The National Gallery: Check their website for the download form and exact dates.
Boscombe Down Aviation Collection
Play out your Top Gun fantasies at the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, a fascinating collection of rare aircraft, fighter jets, replicas and model weapons. With many of the cockpits open, you can jump into a Sea Harrier XZ 457 and pretend you’re flying a critical mission or do your best Goose impression in a Tornado. The hands-on, interactive museum is open Tuesday to Sunday in the summer and on the weekend through the winter, with informative guides on hand to answer any aviation questions.
Rounding out our activities section is Salisbury Racecourse, which hosts 16 flat race meetings each year running from the end of April to the start of October. As well as plenty of fast-racing fun, the racecourse offers three viewing areas, plus a range of bars and restaurants and also hosts events and concerts during the summer season.