Arty, off-beat and yet not too cool for school, Salisbury is the only city in Wiltshire but boy what a gem it is. Toxic nerve agents aside, it’s full of medieval splendour with a cluster of funky independent shops and restaurants and only a few short miles from the Neolithic splendour of Stonehenge, so when you’re bored of shopping, eating and drinking you can hot-foot it there and find your inner druid.
We’ve pounded the streets, hit up the best places to fill your boots and drop some cash and discovered a whole load of fun for you to enjoy.
For a small city there are an abundance of eateries that are intimate, quirky and irrefutably independent. If you like your Indian grub less bright orange and more out of the ordinary, Anokaa
on Fisherton Street is the place. Its street food style twice cooked beef vindaloo curry, chardonnay soaked crispy duck breast and Persian spice rub and oven roasted Gooshargh’s organic black leg chicken breast (try saying that after a couple of Tiger beers) will sort you out. Even their website declares this is “a beautiful place for beautiful people”.
on Market Place is a chain but is still oh so lovely – the restaurant is large but they’ve been clever with the design and it has a comfortable feel. Plus it serves one of the best lamb Massaman curries ever. A nod goes to the Old Ale and Coffee House
for the best Sunday roast in town and some pretty cool beach huts out back.
I’ve only picked one hotel for this guide as it’s all you’ll need, quite frankly. The Old Mill Hotel
is a 15th century building with features dating back to 1250. From its early ecclesiastical beginnings, it was transformed in the 16th century to a paper mill and now is a hotel is in the most tranquil location with rushing water, roaring fires and impressive gardens. Saying that, the shopping and tourist district of Salisbury City centre is a mere (and very beautiful) 10 minute walk away through Harnham Meadows.
Salisbury is tiny, so for this read walkable. Easily do-able in a day, you’ll be able to catch the Cathedral (the home of one of four original surviving copies of Magna Carta), the old town and then head out along the River Avon to Old Sarum and back in time for lunch.
If you’re keen on going bespoke, then tailoring a walk around the history is a good bet. The Salisbury City walk highlights the main attractions in the city centre and Cathedral Close. Hear about how the medieval city was created by Bishop Poore from 1220 and how it grew to be one of the wealthiest in the country. See the world famous Doom painting and the store where the Duke of Buckingham’s ghost haunts the Blue Boar Inn. Find out what happened to a cheating card player at the Haunch of Venison pub and the story of John Halle whose grand house is now the oldest cinema foyer in the world.
You can search for wee ghosties on Friday evenings from 4 May with Salisbury Ghost Tours
; there are some chilling tales of hauntings and gruesome happenings from the City’s past, with witches, wizards, ghosts and the violent death of the Duke of Buckingham just for starters. Keep your wits about you, me hearties.
Salisbury has a thriving cafe scene and one of our faves is The Yard
, a shop and gallery as well as tea rooms. Try The Cafe
at Fisherton Mill and Boston Tea Party
is also worth a stop, if only because it is nestled in The Old George Inn, a Grade 1 listed building dating back to the early 1300s which once boasted the likes of William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell and Samuel Pepys amongst its guests.
Come evening (or lunch? Depends on how you roll, I guess), Craft Bar
at The Salisbury Arms is a popular jaunt. Plenty of craft beer and cider (obvs) with a cool street food kitchen, it’s a welcoming local – some might say it’s that great ‘back street bar’ you’ve always hoped to stumble across. It’s an independent, young family business, which we always like to hear, and we’ve heard the Monster gourmet burger and cheesemary (rosemary and cheesy) fries are legendary.
There are some cracking indie treasures tucked away if you know where to look, and our enduring favourite is OsoBoutique
, who have two shops on St Thomas’ Square and the High Street, with a beautifully curated collection of stylish and affordable jewellery, clothing and accessories. They stock super-cool ranges Uno De 50, Mama B and Two Danes and some unusual jewellery and accessories from all corners of the globe.
So, what kind of tourist are you? Much as I’d love to mooch around the shops and drink cocktails at dawn, more than likely I’d have the Mudlets in tow so it’s the Salisbury Museum for us. There’s always kids’ activities on during holidays and half terms, and the permanent galleries are interesting enough.
If your kids will sit still, Salisbury Punting will take you out on the water to escape the busy pavements and see the city as you never could on foot.
Treasure Trails is a great way for kids to see Salisbury – they offer a murder mystery-themed walking trail around the city which’ll keep them busy for an hour or two – then stop for coffee and when you’ve got your energy back, rent bikes from Hayballs and explore the flat traffic-free trails around town.
Splash of Colour
Our absolute fave is Splash of Colour in Fisherton Street, which will rest your feet and deliver you flat whites while the Mudlets get creative with pottery. A super relaxing, therapeutic and creative place, it is perfect for all ages, and especially for little fingers to go crazy with paint on china. They also run parties for little kids (and big kids. Their hen nights are very popular!), or it’s the perfect place to capture your tiny one’s hand or foot print to treasure forever. During the school holidays Splash of Colour run a programme of workshops with a range of activities from pottery painting projects, mosaics and potter’s wheel.
The perfect word to describe Salisbury, you’ll find quirks at every corner, especially if you look up at the architecture. Roly’s Fudge
is a traditional-style fudge pantry attracting tourists from all over the world, and for the really off-beat, we’ve heard Salisbury Escape
is ‘the best thing to do in Salisbury’. One of the latest in the escape room games popping up all over the country, it will set your brain to work solving puzzles and mysteries.
We love Salisbury Arts Centre
for its mix of comedy, cinema and workshops. Worth mentioning too is the Salisbury Playhouse
, doing its thing for youth theatre and West End shows on tour as well as producing its own high-quality theatre.
And finally, if you’re looking to sniff out those true indie’s, doing things in their own authentic way, check out micropub Haunch of Venison
. The oldest hostelry in Salisbury and certainly the most haunted, The Haunch boasts a former bread oven with a smoke preserved mummified hand inside (no joke. An 18th century whist player lost it in a card game while cheating) and a Horsebox bar with rare gravity-fed spirit taps. The Horsebox was reputedly used by Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower during the planning of D-Day landings in 1944.
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