Climb to new heights at Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral, England. (Fotolia)

Salisbury Cathedral, England. (Fotolia)

JOSH ROBINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:42 PM ET

Heights aren't my favourite thing.

Skydiving? Definitely out. Bungee jumping? Forget it. Getting on the roof to clean the eavestrough? Not gonna happen.

Climbing 332 steps up England's highest church spire to stand on a narrow balcony 69 metres up? You couldn't stop me from doing it.

Salisbury Cathedral offers tours of its spire, which stands 123-metres-high (though visitors can only go part way). And while 332 steps may sound exhausting, the climb isn't that difficult. Making it easier is the stairs are split up over different floors, though some of the medieval steps can be a little tricky to navigate.

Going up is a lot easier than coming down, although that was only a concern in a few places. And make sure to take your time on the way down. I didn't, and got a little dizzy. The guide kindly reminded me it was I who was setting the pace when I needed to stop after the first flight down.

Before getting to the top, there are some interesting things to see inside.

If you look closely, you'll see what appears to be graffiti carved into the walls. The work of past visitors and miscreants? It's actually the names and initials of the masons who built the spire. While some look hastily carved, others show the care, precision and skill of these workers.

In the space above the nave, you'll see the original 800-year-old oak timbers used as support beams in the construction of the cathedral. These were carved from 1,000-year-old oak trees. Also of interest are the clock mechanism and the bells. Different parts of the whole apparatus can been seen on different floors in the cathedral.

As the tower wasn't originally part of the cathedral, the building wasn't meant to support the additional 6,500 tonnes. Buttresses were added on the outside, while inside, medieval workers added iron supports to keep the tower from toppling.

In addition, modern supports have been added to shore up the medieval ones, making an interesting contrast to the earlier work. But if you look closely outside, you'll see the spire is actually slightly off centre.

The crowning jewel of the tour is, of course, squeezing through the short, narrow doorways to take in the view from the top.

And what a view! From any of the four narrow balconies, which face the cardinal directions, you get a great panorama of not only the immediate area and Salisbury itself, but also the green fields and surrounding countryside.

It's well worth the effort of climbing 332 steps. And for those of us who don't like heights all that much, the sides of the balconies are high enough to make one feel secure.

NEED TO KNOW

For travel information on England, contact visitbritain.com. For details on the Wiltshire area, see visitwiltshire.co.uk. For Salisbury Cathedral, see salisburycathedral.org.uk.

Read more: Little England has all the elements for a big vacation


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