Old Sarum is one of the most historically important sites in southern England and parts are thought to date back as far as 400 BC. It grew to combine a royal castle and cathedral within an Iron Age fortification, which is not seen anywhere else.
For 150 years it was a major centre for both secular and ecclesiastical government and it was at once point used as a base for William the Conqueror. In 1086, William held an important ceremony here, where the most powerful men of England took an oath of loyalty to him.
But, in 1226, the cathedral was moved to its current location in Salisbury and it was the beginning of the end for the site.
As well as the remains of the fort, Old Sarum and the land around it offers wonderful views of the city of Salisbury and surrounding countryside. If history isn’t your thing, it is still worth a trip to walk the ramparts and picnic on the grass (Visitors are welcome to picnic anywhere on site; both the inner and outer baileys are covered in grass).
Old Sarum covers an area of approximately 29 acres of beautiful rare grass chalk-land and there are many footpaths around the site. Following some scrub clearance, Old Sarum is now a great place to spot butterflies and kestrels, which are often seen hovering over the outer bailey.
English Heritage now runs the centre of the site. Although there is no café there are vending machine which offer tea, coffee and hot chocolate as well as sweet and savoury snacks e.g. crisps, flapjacks and ice creams.
There is a shop that sells a wide range of gifts and souvenirs, including locally produced wines, jams and chutneys. And, for all those children who really want to step-back in time, there is a wide range of knight and princess dressing up items, as well as replica swords and armour.
The outer area of Old Sarum is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the English Heritage run inner site, pre-booking is essential at the moment.
English Heritage runs a limited number of guided tours. These must also be booked in advance.