Old Sarum is a must see for anyone looking for hills with history and walks with wildlife, all in one location. This excellent example of an ancient Iron Age hillfort is situated on the outskirts of the historic city of Salisbury. Head along the A345 and you will soon see the walls of this famous hillfort housing both the ruins of a medieval castle, as well as the foundations of the original Salisbury Cathedral.
First built around 400BC, Old Sarum has seen many settlers and undergone various additions throughout medieval times. Enter via the wooden bridge that sits between grassy protective banks, and you will come across the ruins of the Royal Castle built by William the Conqueror in 1070.
Enjoy a roam around the site and scramble up the ancient protective ramparts to get a fabulous view of the modern Salisbury Cathedral which lies another two and a half miles to the south. Head to the north-west and you will see the footprint of the first Salisbury Cathedral completed in 1078 and consecrated in 1092. Reportedly the cathedral suffered major damage due to a violent storm just five days later! Bishop Roger of Sarum then rebuilt the cathedral and it became an important administrative centre. At one time it even acted as a prison for Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine who was being held by King Henry II under the charge of treason.
Politics at Old Sarum deteriorated and legend has it that the then Bishop of Old Sarum shot an arrow from Old Sarum to find a new location for a new Cathedral. The arrow hit a deer which died at the site of what is now Salisbury Cathedral.
If you have the time, take a stroll along some of the footpaths that cover the 29 acres of beautiful - now rare - grass chalk lands that form the outer bailey. Look out for butterflies such as the Adonis Blue and Silver Spotted Skipper. If you’re interested in birds then keep your eyes peeled for stone curlews and skylarks - and watch out for kestrels hovering. It’s the perfect spot for a rest or a picnic!
Old Sarum is owned and run by English Heritage so please check out their website for prices and opening times as these can vary throughout the season.
Where to Stay
If you are looking for somewhere to stay and explore Old Sarum and other henges in the area, we would recommend the Holiday Inn Salisbury-Stonehenge as a fantastic base. There is so much to see during the day and you can return to your modern accommodation in the evening to make use of the superb amenities and enjoy a top notch meal at the Solstice Bar & Grill.