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Salisbury or Winchester for 2 nights

I've discovered that both Salisbury and Winchester are lovely towns with stunning cathedrals. I'm halfway through Sarum by Edward Rutherford, and am interested in both towns but need to pick one in which to stay (we'll have a car). Is one more charming than the other? Appreciate thoughts! Our itinerary for now looks like this: Leave Bath and stop at Avebury & Stonehenge Salisbury & cathedral with possible tower tour at 11:15 or 1:15 Old Sarum Winchester & cathedral Option: Petworth House (1 hour from Winchester) Option: Bignor Roman Villa (7 miles from Petworth) On drive to Canterbury where we'll stay a week, we're considering hitting Portsmouth Navy yard & museums Fishbourne Roman Palace (eliminate if we get to Bignor)
Arundel Castle

Posted by
1599 posts

We have visited both cities. It's fun to compare the cathedrals. I thought that Salisbury was a bit more interesting, possibly because I also enjoyed reading Sarum. Salisbury seemed to have both shops and some cute restaurants along the little river. Another interesting spot is Mottisfont Abbey, which is between the two towns. It was a meeting place back in Anglo-Saxon times, today there's an interesting old house and a lovely walled garden.....When you drive between the two towns, use the country roads to get from one to the other. That area is full of pretty little villages.

Posted by
521 posts

Salisbury is more charming, it's a tangle of old streets, has a big market, feels a bit more provincial. We live about 20 miles from there and occasionally visit because of the independent shops. We sometimes go to Winchester too, which is mostly laid out along one very long street. It's worth visiting just for the cathedral. Both have a Pizza Express, which is an important consideration for me, but may not be for you! Looking at your itinerary and thinking about the shortest route, the logical order would be Avebury, Stonehenge, Old Sarum, Salisbury, Winchester, Portsmouth (where half my family were from), Fishbourne, Petworth, Arundel, and then Canterbury last. Petworth is an outlyer from the route along the south coast, so in a sense it doesn't matter whether you visit Fishbourne before or after it.

Posted by
662 posts

Thanks so much, Cynthia and Kevin for your insight and tips. We secured a place in Salisbury and will take side roads out and about to see wonderful sights. We have decided to skip the naval museum and sights of Portsmouth (sorry, Kevin!).

Posted by
591 posts

Salisbury is a very good choice for a base. Of the places you've mentioned, I especially liked Arundel Castle, but was not too impressed with Petworth House. About an hour SW near Dorchester are 2 other places that may interest you: 1) Thomas Hardy's Cottage and 2) Athelhampton House. I recall that Athelhampton House is in the little village of 'Puddletown' on the banks of the River 'Piddle.'

Posted by
662 posts

Thanks so much for those extra tips, Tim. We'll consider heading to Dorset for some sights!