Stand in the very spot where knights, Kings and servants have stood over the centuries here at the atmospheric site of Old Sarum, and just feel the centuries peel away as you contemplate the ancient landscape around you. This is one of the oldest Celtic remains in Western Europe! You’ll visit Stonehenge and the lovely cathedral city of Salisbury on the tour too: a feast of English history in the comfort of an iconic London taxi!
Old Sarum is an ancient fortress within a fortress: the older Celtic earthwork can be seen for miles around, and the more recent Norman motte and bailey sits within its perimeter. Old Sarum is a great place to start any tour of England – there is a continuous record of historical events here stretching back over 250,000 years. Wave upon wave of invaders and settlers have come and gone over the centuries, each leaving their own distinctive mark. On a clear day you might see the Marlborough Downs some 25 miles away, and to the south the soaring spire of Salisbury Cathedral towers proudly over the green, rolling hills of Wiltshire.
Back in the 1220s, Old Sarum was getting too cramped and unwieldy for its growing population, so the Bishop of Sarum Richard Poore founded the new cathedral city of Salisbury about 2 miles south of Old Sarum.
The stone from the crumbling cathedral at Old Sarum was used to build the striking Salisbury cathedral, around which are gathered some lovely architectural gems dating back to the 13th century. The Close, as it is called, was home to many eminent writers, as well as former British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.
The cathedral itself is an outstanding example of the Early English gothic style, and the spire is the tallest in England – a marvel of medieval engineering. But for many, the real treasure of Salisbury cathedral is not the old clock, the tombs or the purbeck marble pillars – it’s a historical document that is 800 years old: a document widely considered to have lain the foundations of the English rule of law that over the centuries was to underpin legal systems around the world.
Magna Carta – the Big Charter – was a document that was given Royal Assent by King John in 1215, against his will. Originally, 16 documents were issued – just 4 now remain, and the best-preserved one is right here at Salisbury. The importance of this document can hardly be exaggerated in the history of England and the world. Magna Carta outlines the due process of the law, property and women’s rights, as well as the independence of the church. At least one jurist has said that Magna Carta was the most important document ever written with regards to human rights.
After Salisbury it’s time for lunch – and where better to enjoy it than in a secluded wooded valley where the clear waters of the river Avon run by.
We’ll end our day at the fascinating World Heritage Site that is Stonehenge. Thanks to a fantastic new visitor centre we can now experience the Stonehenge story within a 360 degree cinema. On display are artefacts from those distant times: flint and arrow heads, pottery, moulds for axe-heads even a complete skeleton of a local man from a time before Stonehenge was even constructed.
Outside the visitor centre there are reconstructions of pre-historic huts based on local excavations: step inside and find out how they lived over 4,500 years ago.
A courtesy bus takes us up to the Stones, and your guide will explain some of the feats of engineering, the theories and folklore around this unique landmark. Of course you can take as many pictures as you like, and your guide will be there at all times to help you out.
Why not do something really special that you’ll always remember? We can arrange for you to have your own personal tour within the Stone circle! various dates are available throughout the year. Please check with us beforehand and ask for “The Special Access tour”. See schedule below for access times.