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All in a day: Salisbury

Date Posted: 11/08/2013

Stonehenge.

There’s a wealth of activities for a school visit within the medieval walls of this Wiltshire city.

The Wiltshire city of Salisbury (Latin, Sarum) was established in its current location in 1220, but the original settlement dates from prehistory. There is still a great deal of surviving medieval architecture in the city to admire, including the cathedral.

If you’re worried about bad weather on a school trip, then never fear as Salisbury boasts a plethora of indoor attractions, all within walking distance; none more so than the five located in the Cathedral Close.

The city and nearby locality has lots to fill a day itinerary, and attractions include museums, National Trust properties, heritage sites, military history and a bustling centre filled with shops, eateries, and a market that has been running since the 12th century.

Located at the convergence of five rivers, next door to Salisbury Plain, and a gateway to the New Forest, the area also boasts natural scenery alongside the urban attractions of the city. Stonehenge, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is about eight miles north-west of Salisbury.

10am Salisbury Cathedral and the Magna Carta

A place of worship and pilgrimage for nearly 800 years, the imposing structure is the landmark of Salisbury. Additionally, this 400-foot masterpiece of Early English Gothic lays claim to being Britain’s tallest spire.

Options include a self-guided tour of the ground floor using the pocket tour book available, which takes around an hour, or a plethora of workshops and guided tours with one of the cathedral’s educational team, which can include a jaunt up into the tower.

The cathedral also houses one of the four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. Although it already has a good display area, the cathedral plans to improve the experience for its 800th anniversary in 2015.

Salisbury and South Willtshire Museum.

11:30am Mompessson House

This Queen Anne property in Cathedral Close, overlooking Choristers’ Green, holds a lovely collection of period furniture and artwork. The volunteer guides can tell your pupils interesting tit-bits about the pieces and the history of the property. It also has a really pretty walled garden that holds a small cafe and the original privy.

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11:30am The Rifles Museum

The Rifles Museum holds the collection and archives relating to the infantry regiments’ of Berkshire and Wiltshire from 1748 to today and the current regiment, The Rifles. It’s a must for History teachers looking to educate their students about our military past.

The museum is housed in a property known as ‘The Wardrobe’ which was originally built in the 13th century as a store for the Bishop’s documents and clothes – hence the name.

2pm Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum

Back in Cathedral Close, the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum (another medieval house) holds a large collection of Stonehenge artefacts and local historical pieces. Be warned though that once Stonehenge has completed its new visitor centre, some of the museum’s artefacts will be moved there.

4pm Stonehenge

The English Heritage attraction is a short-drive out of Salisbury and is well equipped for school groups, as we discovered when we arrived alongside 400 Italian students. Bear in mind however, that opening times vary during the seasons.

There are a couple of things that hit you when you get to this 5,000 year-old structure; one is its sheer immensity, which I was surprised by, and the other is the amount of people that are there: this is an attraction that sees over a million visitors a year.

New features at Stonehenge this autumn will include a visitor centre housing exhibition galleries, reconstructed Neolithic houses and a cafe.

If you’re arranging a school group trip to Stonehenge from late autumn, improvements are set to include a welcome host, dedicated parking for 30 coaches, and a pre-printed ticket collection system.

Mompesson House

Pictured: Mompesson House.

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4pm Old Sarum

Pupils can discover the story of the original Salisbury at Old Sarum, which is located two miles north of where the city stands now.

The mighty Iron Age hill fort was where the first cathedral once stood and the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark. Today, 5,000 years of history are told through graphic interpretation panels on site, managed by English Heritage.

For further school trip information visit www.visitwiltshire.co.uk.

School Travel Organiser's Guide