Among Britain's many cathedrals (all of which are magnificent) Salisbury probably has more claims to fame than most. Its spire, at 123m tall, is the tallest in Britain. It has the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close in Britain, extending over an impressive 80 acres, and tying together central Salisbury and the surrounding countryside with a stunning sea of green. Inside you'll find what is thought to be the oldest working medieval clock in the world - built in 1386. On top of all that, the cathedral is home to one of the four surviving copies of Magna Carta, a document which limited the powers of king and established the rule of law back in 1215. Remember King John from the Robin Hood stories? This was the document created to reign him in a little (along with all of his successors). Looking up to see Salisbury's magnificent painted ceilings and fan-vaulting is of course part of the fun of visiting, but just in case you have a stiff-neck, you can actually see them in the glassy surface of the cathedral's beautiful font. A water sculpture crafted by artist William Pye, its waters flow out and are drawn back up in a constant cycle. The fun in Salisbury Cathedral really begins when you embark on a tour of its upper reaches. A spiral staircase leads you up and up into the fabric of the building itself, from where you can take in the full spectacle of the nave from its middle level. Climb up another level and you're into the structure above the nave itself, where you can see the individual oak timbers that have held the roof in place for more than 700 years. Further up again and you'll see the quarter and hour bells, and if you wait you can hear them rung - not by hand, but by a clock made for the church in the 19 century. Keep your eyes peeled for graffiti of an impressive vintage, much of it artfully carved by stonemasons, and some dating back to the 15th century and earlier. One of the most spectacular sights inside the building is the view inside the spire itself. A remarkable scaffold of timber reaches up into Britain's tallest spire, and helps to secure it against any particularly difficult weather conditions. The very tip of the spire is another ten ladders up from here, and isn't part of the tour. Occasionally however, someone is required to make the climb to change the warning lights for passing aircraft. Outside the cathedral tower, the view over Salisbury is magnificent. The impressive houses, originally built to house the clergy, are all visible in the large cathedral close. You'll also see more than a few pigeon feathers, one sign of the resident Peregrine falcons who make the exterior cathedral balcony their home. All in all, a magnificent building, a fascinating tour and a very rewarding visit. Thanks to VisitWiltshire, Salisbury Cathedral and tour guide Michael for showing us around - find out more about Salisbury Cathedral.
The highest spire in Britain: exploring Salisbury Cathedral
Friday 07 February 2014
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