Andrew Swift introduces us to some of the delights of this ancient landscape
● After another 50m, bear right along a path, turn right across a footbridge and follow a path through water meadows with a view of the cathedral. After 500m, you come to 15th-century Harnham Mill, now a hotel.
● Retrace your steps along the path and, after crossing the footbridge, bear right to follow a path through a park. Bear right across a footbridge and right again to follow a path winding along the river to 15th-century Crane Bridge.
● A right turn across the bridge leads to Crane Street. On your right is Church House, which started life as a 15th-century wool merchant’s. Cross to the north side of the street for a better view of the buildings on the south, with a 14th-century branch of Prezzo at the end.
● Carry on to St Thomas’s church, where a painting of the Last Judgement, reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, can be seen above the chancel arch. Follow the path past the church to emerge on a busy street. Bear right and cross two sets of traffic lights to a Market Place of European dimensions, with the 18th-century Guildhall in the far corner.
● Bear right and go through an alley called Oatmeal Row to emerge by the 14th-century Poultry Cross, with Salisbury’s most traditional inn, the Haunch of Venison, behind. Opposite, the timber frame of Goldsmith’s, long covered by plaster, now stands gloriously revealed.
● Turn left along Butcher Row, and after passing the back of the Guildhall, look across to a house built for another wool merchant, John à Port, in the 15th century. Turn left along Queen Street to find another old inn – the Cross Keys – whose ground floor has made way for a shopping mall. Venture inside to see a Jacobean staircase which led to the galleries around the inn yard.
● Carry on into Endless Street, passing another 14th-century building – Nuggs – whose timber frame has recently been revealed. An old wooden window also survives at the side.
● Turn first right along Salt Lane, left by the 15th-century Pheasant Inn and right by Frowde’s Almshouses, built in 1750. After 60m, bear left through St Edmund’s churchyard. After passing the church – now an arts centre – carry on alongside a wall before bearing right and right again, then turn left along a track leading to an urn. The mound on your right is the only surviving section of the rampart once encircling the city. Follow the track as it curves through the grounds of Bourne House, passing through a porch removed from the cathedral in 1791.
● Just beyond it, follow steps up to the road, bear right, passing Bourne House – now the Council House – and take the second left along St Edmund’s Street. Take the third right along Milford Street, carry on at the next crossroads, and after passing the Red Lion – whose original 14th-century building lies hidden in the inn yard – you come to Catherine Street. Before turning left, carry on for 50m to the Odeon cinema – and Salisbury’s most bizarre adaptation, for the cinema foyer is the imposing hall of a 15th-century mansion.
● Head back and turn right along Catherine Street, where on the left, towards the end, the modern shopfront of a fabric store incorporates an old wooden frame. Turn left by the Cloisters, carry on past the Trinity Almshouses of 1702 and a 17th-century townhouse on the corner of Culver Street, before turning right, just before the dual carriageway, along a path.
● Ahead is St Ann Street Surgery, a fitting introduction to Salisbury’s most fascinating street. Virtually every house in St Ann Street is a gem, but the highlight is Joiners Hall, the best timber-framed house in Salisbury, built around 1635, a little way along on the left.
● At the end, carry straight on through St Ann’s Gate into the Close – and another world. ‘Great stretches of grass and billowing trees lead your eye to the soaring immensity of the cathedral,’ wrote John Betjeman. ‘Never was so grand a building in so worthy a setting. The houses of the Close, stone, redbrick, flint, Georgian, Victorian, medieval, are a perfect informal group and they set off the vastness of the cathedral.’
● At the main road, look to your right to see De Vaux House, incorporating fragments of a college founded in 1261. Carry on alongside the wall of the Close, bear left along Exeter Street, and, after passing St Ann’s Gate, look across to the Chapter House pub – originally the 15th-century King’s Arms. To the left is another 15th-century building whose first floor was rebuilt in the 18th century to create an assembly room for the inn. The building next to it, with exposed beams, gives an idea of what it originally looked like.
● After passing the 18th-century White Hart, turn left along New Street, looking out for the Old Forge and the timber-framed, flint and tile-hung New Inn. Carry on along Crane Street and turn right along a footpath before the bridge. After crossing a footbridge, carry on to a clock tower which stands on a corner of the old gaol and incorporates a carving of handcuffs.
At a glance…
- Length: 5.5 miles
- Trains: Running between Bristol to Salisbury at least every hour during the day