Salisbury, Wiltshire

Salisbury, in the heart of the rolling Wiltshire countryside, is one of those locations where property finders and residents alike will often use the term “city in the countryside” and mean it. So, should your property search, or your property buyer, come to that, take you to the vicinity of this charming, green and very English part of the south west of England, you’re in for a treat.

There’s some debate about whether Salisbury is in the West Country proper, although it’s definitely close by, and it’s certainly in the south west. Possibly one of the best ways to describe its location is to refer to Hardy’s Wessex – Salisbury becomes “Melchester” in his novels. The city is located where several rivers meet – the Avon, Bourne, Ebble, Nadder and Wylye.

The town is centred on the stunning 13th century cathedral, but your buying agent will be able to reassure you that this town has so much to offer besides the stunning architecture and shopping centre. If your tastes tend towards the shopaholic, you’ll find an eclectic combination of high street chains and unique independents. Salisbury is something of a hub and haven for independent stores with an original twist. There’s also a surprisingly wide range of restaurants in town, many of which serve delicious local produce, and if you’d rather punctuate your property search with trips to a traditional tea shop or two, this city will cater for every cream tea craving you never knew you had. If you’d like more of a coffee shop vibe, you can choose from high street chains or independents. If you’d like to hang out in a pub with oak beams and original features, on the other hand, you’re spoiled for choice in this south west city.

There’s a strong military presence in the area, with several military and research establishments nearby, including Porton Down and Public Health England. The town also has its own district hospital. And no property finder can talk about Salisbury without mentioning the vast expanse of Salisbury Plain, much of which is now an SSI. The magnificent, ancient grey menhirs of Stonehenge draw many visitors to the area, as does the Iron Age fort at Old Sarum, the old name for the city that property buyers and buying agents, amongst others, now know as Salisbury. This area has been settled since at least the Iron Age and was an influential centre under the Romans.

Salisbury’s population is under 41,000, yet it’s a surprisingly lively city. And if you do hanker after the bright lights of a larger conurbation, or you’re wondering about employment and higher education prospects, check with your property finder – you’ll find Salisbury is just 20 miles from Southampton and 30 miles from Bath. Even London is less than 100 miles away – 78, to be precise, and there are regular trains from Salisbury to Waterloo. The fastest trains take around 90 minutes. The A36 ring road pretty much encircles the city, but it is relatively quick and straightforward to get to the M27 or M3, and the town lies on the A30 and A338.

While there’s no university in Salisbury, property buyers will be pleased to learn there is a good mix of schools, including some prep and grammar schools. There is a sixth form college for post-GCSE education, and Wiltshire College offers some higher education courses in association with Bournemouth University.

There are several literary associations with the town – as well as Salisbury itself morphing into “Melchester”,  and providing inspiration for Dickens and Edward Rutherfurd, the cathedral was the inspiration for Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth”. The arts are well-represented in Salisbury, with events year-round at Salisbury Playhouse, City Hall, and the Arts Centre. Several actors and writers were born or educated here. And Salisbury Museum includes costumes for kids to try on as well as a range of historical exhibits and displays.

You needn’t worry if you’re the sporty type, either, your buying agent will confirm there’s plenty to keep you occupied, once your property search is over. If you enjoy rugby, football, or cricket, there’s a club for you. More sedate sports fans will enjoy bowling, snooker and the racecourse. And if seeing the world from a bird’s eye view is to your taste, then you’ll feel right at home at one of the flying schools on the local airfield.

In short, if you’re looking for a country lifestyle in a small but lively city within a couple of hours of London, Salisbury may well be the place for you.

James Nightingall