Old Sarum

Remains of Old Sarum Castle

Old Sarum


Old Sarum probably wont be the first place visitors will come to see on their first visit to Salisbury, but it should be the first place to know about, because without Old Sarum there would be no Salisbury.

On a hilltop overlooking the valley where present day Salisbury lies are the remains of Sarum, or Old Sarum as it is now called.

This previous Iron Age hill fort, just a couple of miles north of the city centre, passed through the hands of the Romans, Saxons, and Vikings, before finally falling to William the Conqueror.

William built a Motte and Bailey castle inside the existing fort, probably around 1069-70, and the importance of the site was strengthened even more by the construction of a cathedral which was consecrated on 5th April 1092.

As was often the case during medieval times, the powers that be and the clergy didn’t always meet eye to eye and the decision was made to relocate the cathedral down to the valley below where it still stands.


Entrance to the Hill Fort and Castle
Inside the Castle Walls

It doesn’t take a genius to work out why the new town was called New Sarum, but the land on which it was built was the estate of Veretes Sarisberias, or Old Salisburies.

New Sarum (or New Salisbury) received its city charter in 1227 by Henry III and eventually the New bit was dropped and the city became known just as Salisbury.

Ive only ever known it called Salisbury, but I was surprised to learn that its previous name of New Sarum was still the citys official title right up until 2009.

Old Sarum is looked after by English Heritage these days, and there are several buses that run from the city centre if you don’t have your own transport.

The site is open throughout the year and entrance fees are pretty reasonable, but bear in mind that both the castle and old cathedral are just ruins.

For all the latest information check out the English Heritage website http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/old-sarum/

Site of the Cathedral
Site of the Cathedral

14 thoughts on “Old Sarum

  1. Jane

    Legend has it that the site of the new cathedral was determined by an archer shooting an arrow from Old Sarum. Some stories say it was built where the arrow landed, others that the arrow hit a deer and the site is where the deer died. Given the distance involved I think the latter is more likely. 🙂

  2. Jane

    Walking round the outer earthwork in Spring or summer is wonderful: loads of wildflowers, loads of birds, loads of butterflies and hrdly any people. The farmer’s wife was in her element!

  3. Malcolm Post author

    Not a particularly easy place to photograph well, so it’s helpful if the clouds are photogenic Sarah

  4. Sarah Wilkie

    I’ve been to Salisbury several times but never here – will rectify for sure on a future visit. I do love your photo with the interesting cloud effect, about halfway down 🙂

  5. Albert

    I see you mention the tour bus which is the one I took – worked well for my day-trip. Incidentally, as its owned by the same company that runs the town buses you can get any town bus back from Old Sarum into Salisbury – it you don’t have to wait for the less regular official tour bus. With this in mind it best to visit Stonehenge first, then Old Sarum and then Salisbury and its wonderful cathedral.

    1. Malcolm Post author

      That’s a good point Albert. I did a separate tip on the tour bus for VT, and as you might imagine there’s a lot more to come on Salisbury and Stonehenge.

    1. Malcolm Post author

      There’s a tour bus for people that are short of time that starts at the railway station, travels into the city for the cathedral, then heads out to Stonehenge before coming back to Old Sarum, the city centre and back to the railway station.


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