Published on March 15th, 2019 | by James Drew


Salisbury – A city to return to

Many will be all too familiar with the bad press the historic UK town of Salisbury has had of late,
writes Martin Banks.

The good news is that, after the horrors of 2018, the tourists are starting to flock back to this very pleasant town in Wiltshire.

Visitors from Belgium will be delighted to know that the town’s famous cathedral is also home to the world’s oldest working clock and that it originates from just over the border in the Netherlands.

The clock still strikes today and is, in fact, one of a few “firsts” this wonderful cathedral can lay claim to.

It also has the highest cathedral spire in the UK and is home to the world-famous Magna Carta.

Dating back to 1215 and one of only four in the world, the ancient manuscript was, unbelievably, the subject of a mindless attack last year.

Staff had to wrestle the would-be thief to the ground after parts of the glass case it was kept in were smashed with a hammer in October.

The 803-year-old document, claimed to be the best preserved of four original Magna Cartas, was undamaged and has been in storage until now.

The said window is on display close to the document which has now just gone back on show to the public.

The broken glass from the original outer case is exhibited alongside the document inside the medieval Chapter House, as part of its story.

The Tower Tour of the cathedral is another highlight of any visit here. You get the chance to climb 332 steps in easy stages to explore the ancient roof spaces. After reaching the foot of the iconic spire, 68 metres above ground level, you also get a chance to see up inside and are rewarded with an aerial view of the inside of the cathedral and panoramic views of Salisbury and the surrounding countryside. Experienced guides explain all there is to know about the construction of this architectural masterpiece.

A great way to round off a visit to this magnificent building is by sampling a good old fashioned afternoon English cream tea in the wonderfully-restored ground floor refectory.

For a small city there’s plenty to see and do in Salisbury and another “must do” on any tourist list is to experience something rather more “modern” than the nearby cathedral – “Live Escape Salisbury.”

For the uninitiated, this is an indoor game of puzzle solving that originated in Hong Kong back in 2006.

The idea is this: you are locked in a “mysterious” room and given 60 minutes to get out. You and your team must solve assorted puzzles, riddles and brain teasers in order to “escape.”

Escape rooms are a game of the mind, not of strength and be warned: a missed instruction can lead to a long chain of errors.

Most escape rooms are small independent experiences and there are now over 1,000 in the UK alone.

The Salisbury escape room is situated in a very old, grade 2 listed building and run by former engineer Charlie and Claire, a journalist. It is great fun and a terrific way to test your brain power.

If you haven’t played an escape room before then this charming, go-ahead couple will happily introduce you to what will be a new and potentially addictive hobby.

Charlie offers a few tips for participants: “Talk to each other – you won’t succeed unless you share info about what you’ve found or done.”

Another bit of good advice, he says, is to accept that you won’t necessarily escape within the hour (not many do).

“The first time I did it, it took me 4 attempts to succeed,” admits Charlie.

That’s actually not bad but still not quite up to the standard of President Obama who successfully completed his mission at an escape room in Honolulu in 2016 – with 12 seconds remaining.

Charlie and Claire opened their version of an escape room nearly two years ago and, so successful has it proved with locals, they plan to open a 2nd one, based on old board games, later this year. Allow about 75 minutes for a visit and don’t forget to take along some competitive spirit!

A great base for any visit to this part of the country is a Forest Holidays retreat – the nearest being at Blackwood Forest just over the border in Hampshire.

This is just one of several prime UK forest locations, each with a wide variety of log cabin or tree house accommodation. Part owned by the Forestry Commission and set exclusively within Forestry Commission land, the company has grown from the first cabins built in Scotland in the 1970s to almost 600 lovely cabins in stunning locations, as well as almost 600 team members.

One thing that the delightful Blackwood boasts is Forest Bathing but it also offers walk and hiking trails, cycle hire and forest Ranger guided activities such as Forest Survival Basics, Forest Night Vision, and Mini Forest Rangers (for children). Though it’s just off the busy M3, it’s a great spot to get away from it all and also enjoy some great forest adventures.

After exerting all that energy you’ll have worked up an appetite and a very satisfying way to sate any hunger is by ordering some great Indian cuisine from Anu Caterers, based just up to road in the bustling town of Basingstoke.

The friendly owner Nitin Patil can deliver within a 100 mile radius, with most deliveries covering a huge stretch from Southampton and Reading to Newbury, Oxford even as far away as London. That’s a real sign of how good the service is.

The company, which won the English Curry Award in 2018, can cater for individuals, families or groups and has rightly won numerous plaudits for the quality of its delicious food.

You can choose from a great range of traditional Asian dishes and book online or by calling. Only a few hours’ notice is needed and the food will be with you in no time.

This part of the UK is equally easy to reach from Belgium with the Eurotunnel being the fastest connection between mainland Europe and the UK.

You can travel from Calais to Folkestone in just 35 minutes and there are up to 4 shuttles per hour with direct motorway access at both ends. Prices start from just €42 per car and this highly efficient service runs 24 hours per day.

With Easter fast looming, you may be thinking of a refreshing break in the UK. If so, look no further than Wiltshire/Hampshire.

Unlike the escape room at Salisbury, you won’t want to escape in a hurry!

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