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Great Weekends By Train: Salisbury

Posted by Emma Field at 11:45 on Tuesday 15 January 2013

In the third instalment of our series of posts about easy weekend breaks by train from London, VisitEngland's Chris Moore heads to Salisbury in search of a romantic taste of classic English heritage and great food

Salisbury's Poultry Cross in the centre of town. Photo ©VisitWiltshireSalisbury's Poultry Cross in the centre of town. Photo ©VisitWiltshireSaturday
An hour and a half after leaving London’s Waterloo, we were in the ancient medieval city of Salisbury, dominated by its early English Gothic cathedralThe spire, Britain’s tallest, was immortalised by Constable in Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, and it still rises dramatically from the picturesque surroundings today. Surroundings which, as we arrived, were still covered in a little morning mist, bathing the whole scene in an ethereal light. 

With such a vivid landmark it wasn’t too hard to find our way to Cathedral View Bed and Breakfast. Built in 1795, this Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse is nestled in the shadows of the cathedral and has won itself countless accolades. A VisitEngland Silver award and owner of four stars, it’s also the proud recipient of the Visit England Breakfast Award.The latter was something I’d wait until tomorrow morning for because we were off almost immediately to explore the bustling Charter Market, which has stood in the same spot for around 800 years.

Salisbury's Cathedral View Bed and Breakfast has the VisitEngland Breakfast Award. Photo: Cathedral ViewSalisbury's Cathedral View Bed and Breakfast has the VisitEngland Breakfast Award. Photo: Cathedral ViewEven before the market came in to view we could hear a burble of voices as people haggled over prices, as they have done for hundreds of years. When it came into view the site was a kaleidoscope of colours and movement as the open-air stalls swirled with a friendly clamour. The smells of freshly ground coffee, artisan cheeses and smoked fish kept us in a kind of daze as we wandered slowly through the thrumming crowd. Eventually we stopped our mouths watering by stuffing them with warm donuts before making our way from the throng to explore the rest of Salisbury, finding major brands and independent little boutiques housed in the old half-timbered buildings that line the compact city centre.

The Iron Age Fort site at Old Sarum: Photo ©English HeritageThe Iron Age Fort site at Old Sarum: Photo ©English HeritageAs ancient as the buildings were, we were planning to go back even further in time. Almost 5,000 years in fact, to Old Sarum. After a two-mile ride on the number 5 from the bus station, we arrived at this massive Iron Age fort. As we learned from the interpretation panels, we weren’t the only visitors to the site; Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark here. Walking hand in hand up the old ramparts we looked out across the rich green fields back at that beguiling spire before heading back in search of a drink and something else to eat. 

The Haunch of Venison, circa 1320, is a truly historic pub. Not every old boozer can claim that Churchill and Eisenhower planned the D-Day invasion from its snug. Nor can they so proudly display the mummified hand of a long-gone patron possibly caught cheating at cards. And neither do all serve such heart-warming quality locally sourced food. I opted for the deliciously flavoursome venison and bacon casserole (be silly not to really) and discovered another level of comfort food.  

After a great night’s sleep back in the charming room of our B&B, I practically ran downstairs to sample this famous breakfast. The bright yellow yolks from locally laid eggs and smoky Wiltshire bacon were worthy of its happy reputation but I did find the subsequent climb on the roof-top tour of the cathedral a little more difficult than I might’ve done otherwise… 

I’m not someone who is usually lost for words, and certainly no expert on cathedrals, but this place rendered me dumbstruck. The sublime interior and breathtaking vistas left us both bewitched. In addition, the cathedral also generously threw in a peek at Europe’s oldest working clock and the best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta, dating back to AD 1215.

Chris stayed at the Cathedral View B&B.

More information: visitwiltshire.co.uk/explore

>> Find out more about romantic breaks in England’s heritage places

Salisbury Cathedral on a misty morning. Photo: ©Visit Britain/David NotonSalisbury Cathedral on a misty morning. Photo: ©Visit Britain/David Noton

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