"Almost passed on this..." Old Sarum by Zmrzlina
Old Sarum Travel Guide: 12 reviews and 37 photos
Many years ago I read Edward Rutherford's Sarum and not only did I get all caught up in epic historic fiction for a long while, I got all caught up in wondering about this part of the world. However, I had decided to bypass it, just because I wanted to go to Avebury, a stone circle on the same idea as Stonehenge, and on UNESCO's World Heritage list. I "collect" World Heritage sites, so Sarum lost out on my itinerary.
But...arriving at the bus station in Salisbury to buy my ticket to Avebury first and then onto Stonehenge for the rest of the day, my plans fell a'cropper.
A truly delightful, utterly opinionated, clerk took one look at me, dressed in my khakis, long sleeve t-shirt and heavy Irish knit cardigan, and said I was in no way dressed for the Salisbury Plains. I told him, with all the bluster I could muster, "I am a New Englander and we are much hardier than you might think!" That settled, he proceeded to tell me that he wouldn't sell me a ticket to Avebury because it would be a waste of my time. He got out his map and time schedules and set about convincing me that Old Sarum and Stonehenge would be the best itinerary for the day.
Now, I had to agree because for one thing, the bus I planned on taking was not running this early in the season, so I would have gotten to Avebury much later than planned, and had to have rushed to get to Stonehenge. But also, his dire warning about the discomfort of a long bus ride really did concern me. I've not much experience with long bus trips and this one would have been about 2.5 hours. So, I gave in and bought the ticket to Sarum then onto to Stonehenge. And he sold me a full day bus ticket which actually worked out cheaper than buying individual tickets.
The bus to Old Sarum takes a very roundabout route, over hill and dale, but that's okay. Got to see some of Salisbury's neighborhoods. It is not a very long trip and if I had lots of time, I would have walked it.
Got there a bit before the main gates opened so walked around the pathway that winds up the hill where the ruins sit. Some gorgeous views from that path and that part is free admission. And there are some excavated ruins here, too, with tablets describing the original layout. The ruins of the original cathedral are very easy to make out.
Though the sun was shining, the temps were still a bit on the chilly side, but I was comfortable enough in my heavy cardigan. Once the gate opened, I paid admission and got to be one of very few early morning visitors to wander the castle ruins.
After wandering the ruins, and browsing the gift shop, thinking how cool it would be to have a picnic among the ruins, I headed back to the bus stop to wait for the bus to Stonehenge.
This, and other English Heritage sites, are open for booking special events. I think I like that idea, though I hope they take all sorts of precautions to make sure the event doesn't damage the site. It would be wonderful to have a wedding here.
- Pros:A bit of ancient history that is easily accessible and has a cool book to go with it.
- In a nutshell:Don't pass it up, even if it isn't UNESCO World Heritage.
Many years ago I read Edward Rutherford's Sarum and adored it. Very long, very epic. If you haven't read it, pick it up... more travel advice
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