By Jenny Butler

Last Saturday was exactly the kind of winter’s day I like best – cold and crisp but with plenty of sunshine. Perfect walking weather. This route is one of my favourites as it starts and finishes in the city centre and includes some of Salisbury’s best-loved views.

At the end of the High Street I turned right and headed out along Crane Bridge Road towards Queen Elizabeth Gardens, passing the recently refurbished Old Ale and Coffee House (a regular haunt of mine) along the way. ‘Lizzie Gardens’ as it is affectionately known is bordered on two sides by the rivers Avon and Nadder. In summer you can take a picnic or enjoy live music and even at this time of year its network of paths make a delightful place for a stroll.

Meandering along beside the water I eventually reached the little pebble beach on the far side of the park – the river here is very shallow making it a popular spot for feeding the ducks, although it seemed they were temporarily out of luck at the time of my visit.

The bridge here marks the start of the Town Path and is one of my favourite stopping off points, so I couldn’t resist the chance to lean my elbows on the top rail for a moment or two and take in the sight of the cathedral spire, soaring above the treetops.  

The Town Path is well-used by walkers and cyclists, as well as shoppers and families enjoying a breath of fresh air, and last Saturday was no exception. The views across the water-meadows towards the Cathedral are truly stunning and never fail to impress even if, like me, you have seen them many, many times before. One of my favourite observation points is to be found about half way along the path, where a handy five bar gate gave me another excuse, if any were needed, to stand and admire the scene before me.

The water-meadows either side of the Town Path are criss-crossed by irrigation ditches, with a series of locks controlling the flow of water. Several times each winter the Harnham Water Meadows Trust organises demonstrations of ‘drowning the meadows’, the next two being on Saturday 11 and Saturday 25 February 2017 – see their website for details.

There is plenty of wildlife to be seen along the Town Path and on previous walks I have spotted kingfisher, heron and even a treecreeper. This time, as I neared the end of the path, I was delighted to come across the same family of swans I had first encountered last summer when the seven cygnets were very young – now, of course, they are almost fully grown.

Crossing the weir I paused for a moment to enjoy a slightly different take on the view – this time through the arched gate of the aptly named ‘Island Cottage’.

Next door is one of my favourite watering holes, the Old Mill. Part pub, part restaurant, part B&B, the 15th century building has some features dating back as far as the 13th century, as well as a lovely riverside garden at the back and a terrace at the front facing downstream. The terrace can be a real sun trap and even on a cold January day such as this there was one brave soul sitting on a bench enjoying a pint.

Taking the opportunity for one last glance back across the river to the Old Mill, I crossed the playing field and emerged onto the main Harnham Road. Ten minutes later, just past the entrance to Grasmere House Hotel, I turned left off the main drag into the older section of Harnham Road. This picturesque street is home to a row of charming thatched cottages, as well as the Rose & Crown Hotel, a half-timbered former coaching inn.

From here I continued down historic St Nicholas Road and on by way of the 14th century Harnham Gate (one of four original openings in the surrounding wall) into the Cathedral Close.

Unless I am visiting the Cathedral itself I like to walk up the west side of the Close, as I think the views of the Cathedral are better from there. As well as the Cathedral  this oasis of calm is filled with numerous architectural gems and my route along West Walk took me past a fascinating cross section of them. Highlights included The Walton Canonry (a Georgian masterpiece, once the home of author Lesley Thomas):

The Salisbury Museum (housed in the medieval King’s House):

Arundells (medieval origins with an 18th century façade, home of former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath):

and The Rifles Berkshire & Wiltshire Museum (dating from the 13th century):

Crossing Choristers’ Green I stood for a moment to admire the National Trust’s Mompesson House, 'the perfect Queen Anne townhouse’:

– before turning left past the College of Matrons (17th century almshouses) and leaving The Close via the 14th century High Street (or North) Gate. Whilst the portcullis that once graced it is long gone, the High Street Gate, together with St Ann’s Gate and the Harnham Gate, is still locked at 11pm each evening, reopening at 6am the next day.

Having reached the High Street I was back where I started. With stops for photos and admiring the view, my walk had taken me about an hour and had certainly helped to work up an appetite. I was tempted to pop into Roly’s Fudge Pantry for a well-earned treat, but lunch with Mr B. beckoned so I decided to save it for another time.

If you would like to visit the city and experience this walk for yourself, details of all our Salisbury accommodation can be found here.




  1. RobinMichael
    I found myself going on this walk by accident. It is rather nice to stumble upon something unusual.

    A notice warning of 'the Drowning'!

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