Old Sarum

Old Sarum, which lies around three miles north of Salisbury Cathedral, is a former hill fort, castle and site of a historic cathedral that shows many layers of history in its ruins. It’s managed by English Heritage.



The huge banks and earthworks of Old Sarum were begun by Iron Age settlers who inhabited the site from between about 400BC and AD43. Old Sarum is one of the largest Iron Age hill forts in England. After the Roman invasion Old Sarum became a Roman garrison.

It’s likely that the Saxons also used the site, but it was the Normans who made the biggest developments. Being protected on three sides by the very steep banks, and with commanding views of the local roads and rivers, the Norman’s saw the strategic benefits of the site. They built a timber motte and bailey castle on the earthworks shortly after 1066.

The motte was later replaced with a stone royal place and a cathedral was also constructed, both overseen by Bishop Roger of Salisbury.

Bitter disputes between the clergy in the cathedral and the guards in the castle led the clergy to look for a new site to build a cathedral. In 1219 Bishop Richard Poore, on approval of King Richard I and the Pope, settled on a new location to the south. The Salisbury Cathedral we know today began to be built in 1220. A settlement grew around the new cathedral, and Old Sarum was eventually abandoned and fell into ruin.

Ruins of the palace and the footprint of the cathedral are visible today. Visitors can learn more about Old Sarum by either taking a guided tour or using the printed guidebooks and information boards around the site. Old Sarum also has wonderful views of the Wiltshire countryside, Salisbury and the towering spire of Salisbury Cathedral, and is an excellent spot for a picnic. The site has a small shop selling gifts and ice cream and being an English Heritage site there are often activities for children.

Opening Details

Old Sarum is open every day except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. From the end of March to the end of September opening hours are 10am to 6pm. In October it closes at 5pm and then 4pm from November to the end of March.

Map & Directions

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