When I was on my way south after cycling to the North Cape, I witnessed the summer solstice at Stonehenge and explored some more of the beautiful region that is southwestern England.
There are two major cities over there that should definitely be checked out when visiting the region: Salisbury and Bath. Both Salisbury and Bath are excellent bases to explore the region. Salisbury is the nearest city to Stonehenge, while Bath is home to hot springs and the renowned Roman Baths. In this post I’ll be talking about the four major Salisbury and Bath highlights in the area.
4 of the Best Salisbury and Bath Highlights
Let’s start with Bath, a city that I loved immediately after arriving there. The city is home to many historic sites and buildings and some of the grandest Georgian architecture in all of Great Britain, but the two that stand out from the rest are Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths.
This enormous abbey church is situated smack-bang in the middle of the city center. Begin built between 1499 and 1616, Bath Abbey was the last important medieval church that was constructed in England. The inside is as fascinating as the outside, with an elaborate interior, sculptures, statues and the Vaults Heritage Museum. The stairs to the top can be climbed for pretty panoramic views over the city.
The Roman Baths in Bath are among the best-preserved in the world. The Romans built a series of bathhouses on top of the three natural hot springs (46°C) in the city. They built them like only they could: magnificently, pretentiously and extravagantly. The Temple of Minerva is located right next to the ancient baths, which are now also surrounded by beautiful 18th– and 19th-century buildings. The Baths are the main attraction in the city and can get quite busy.
In addition to the old bathing and steam rooms, there’s also a great museum that displays artefacts that were found on the site, including about 12,000 Roman coins that were thrown into the hot springs for good luck.
In Salisbury, located a short distance south of Bath, I paid a visit to Salisbury Cathedral before heading to Stonehenge.
The Salisbury Cathedral must be one of the grandest and most majestic in Great Britain. Dating back to the 13th century, this massive building has a spectacular exterior of flying buttresses, arches and the tallest spire on the British isles. On the inside, there are incredibly decorated walls, impressive stained-glass windows, sculptures and so on. You can also see a working medieval clock, dating back to 1386 and the oldest working clock in the world. Additionally, several prominent Englishmen are buried in the cathedral.
The one true treasure in Salisbury Cathedral, however, is the Magna Carta (Great Charter), which was essentially the very first human right document ever written. Written 800 years ago in 1215, it transferred lands and rights from the King to the nobles. The peasant population remained oppressed though. Nevertheless, the King lost absolute power and the document has become a symbol of freedom and justice. The Magna Carta has been the inspiration for, for example, the Constitution of the United States and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.
Iconic Stonehenge is located just outside Salisbury and can be easily reached by car rental from Bristol Airport. It’s fair to say that it is the most famous archaeological site in the world. It really doesn’t need an introduction, but I’ll give you a very brief one anyway. Stonehenge consists of a ring of monolithic stones built 5,000 years ago. Ever since its construction it has attracted many pilgrims, worshippers, philosophers and, starting in the 20th century, tourists.
Although Stonehenge is the most well-known, the whole region is in fact dotted with ancient stone rings, series of monoliths, crumbling ruins and large chalk figures. It’s a mystical and mythical place. And definitely worth visiting.