I have a confession to make. Narrow, winding stairs are my kryptonite. I don’t know what it is about them, but my eyes and feet begin to argue and I find it difficult to keep putting one foot in front of another. So it may surprise you that I chose to start my day with a climb up the 332 stairs of Salisbury Cathedral to the top of the tower. Quite a few of the stairs were narrow, and there was definitely a lot of winding, but the views it provided were simply out of this world. I have been fortunate to visit cathedrals across the UK, but I have never seen one from this perspective before.
It wasn’t just the incredible views from the top that kept me going, although they were spectacular. The opportunity to see behind-the-scenes of a 13th century cathedral helped me appreciate the time and effort it took to create such a structure, and it made me think far more about the builders who have laboured on it over the centuries so that we can enjoy it today. In particular, volunteer guide John Mangan provided a wonderfully informative narrative throughout the climb about the history, the architecture, and the people who have influenced the cathedral over the years. I could also go on for pages about this fascinating past, from Old Sarum to Wyatt the Destroyer, but I’ll finish up for now by saying that if you have a chance to do the Salisbury Cathedral Tower Tour (and have a head for heights/stairs) – go.
From the cathedral MrElaineous and I headed to Fisherton Mill. This is an oasis in the heart of the city, set in a 19th century grain mill and now composed of a gallery, café, and studio space. The café part of it serves delicious food and cakes; MrElaineous is still raving about how good the proper coffee was, and I wished we lived just a bit closer so I could enjoy their brownies on a regular basis. The artists’ studios on the upper level allow you to see creativity in action, and I really enjoyed seeing the current exhibition (on until 1st September). “Recreate” showcases art made from recycled materials and, wearing my Off the Ground hat, I thought this was a great way to encourage people to look at waste in a new light. MrElaineous and I are already thinking of coming back to do a bit of Christmas shopping later in the year, and I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in giving unique gifts while supporting local artisans.
We returned through the centre of Salisbury, enjoying the colourful umbrellas over the High Street and lovely flower displays, before winding up at the The Salisbury Museum. As a former archaeologist, I’m ashamed to say I have never been here before, but it is a must-see location for the artefacts from Stonehenge and other sites across Wiltshire. The newer Wessex Gallery in particular was a wonderful way to step back in time and, donning my archaeological interpretation hat, the colour-coded timelines were an excellent method to tell the story of the past in a clear way. I especially enjoyed having the chance to “meet” the Amesbury Archer and see the Pitt-Rivers maps, but all of the artefacts are fascinating in their own way. Jumping ahead to the 20th century, the Henry Lamb art exhibition was a real bonus; it’s not often that you can see how an artist’s style has changed over time, and his documentation of both World Wars and the time between make for interesting viewing.
Returning to the beautiful Legacy Rose and Crown in the afternoon, MrElaineous and I had the opportunity to see the river from a different perspective with Salisbury Punting. This was the absolute perfect way to unwind and chill out: although we could still see the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, it felt like we were a million miles from the city centre. Indeed, with sheep watching us from the riverbanks, we could have been in a completely different century! After that spot of relaxation, it was time to watch the sunset over the river during dinner.
And that was only Day 1! Check back later this week for a jam-packed second day, or please consider signing up for the mailing list to have the most recent blog post delivered directly to your inbox (and get a free eBook as a thank you!).[ If you’re looking for even more about Salisbury, please see my Visit Wiltshire article about this stunning and historic city. ][ PART 1 ] [ PART 2 ]