The Cathedrals of Salisbury, Bristol, and Wells, England

After we had danced our way out of jet lag at the European Swing Dance Championships in London, we had a few days to kill before we were due north to meet up with friends and, eventually, family. Regular readers of our blog know that we’ve been on a multiyear mission to visit each of England’s cathedrals, so naturally, we checked the map to see where a nearby concentration of hitherto unvisited cathedrals might be found. We were drawn a couple of hours west of London by the chance to see three new cathedrals and to stay in a little town with the wonderfully quirky name of Wookey Hole.

Yes, that is the name of the town, and no, it has nothing to do with wookies of the Chewbacca variety. The town is actually well known to our British friends as a holiday destination. It’s the site of the Wookey Hole caves, in and around which an entire family attraction has been built complete with animatronic dinosaurs. It seems our British friends expect to see dinosaurs when they go spelunking. We stayed at the actual Wookey Hole resort hotel: being off-season, we got a great rate (free tip #1), and we were smack dab in the middle of three English cathedrals and a couple of other sites-to-see.

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Our Pistachio-colored Fiat 500 Rental Car


How we got to Wookey Hole is also of note. Since we needed mobility to get around and see the sites, I broke down and agreed to rent a car (I’m actually glad we did: it was a Fiat 500, the most fun driving I’ve had in 20,000 miles or so). We could have taken a train, or we could have actually flown, to Bristol. Instead, we kept an eye on the availability of a Bla Bla car1 (just to try out the service), and when one didn’t appear available we booked a ride on a National Express bus2. For a very reasonable fare we were whisked directly to the Bristol airport where we rented our car; in almost all situations, car rental fares are best at airports (free tip #2). I’ll continue to look for opportunities to try out Bla Bla car, but I’ll never hesitate to take the bus.

Wookey Hole was convenient to three cathedrals and two other well-known attractions we wanted to see. Here’s our report on the cathedrals.

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The Salisbury Cathedral’s Nave

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View’s from Salisbury Cathedrals’ Tower

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Salisbury Cathedrals Beautifully Reflective Baptismal Font


Salisbury – Salisbury’s Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the grandest cathedrals in England. If we were to put together a “top 5” list of English cathedrals to visit (and we probably will one day), Salisbury Cathedral would almost certainly be on the list. The cathedral was built in the mid 13th century and boasts the tallest spire in the UK. Visitors can take a tour up and through the attic and climb the tower for a fascinating perspective of the church and spectacular views of the city and surrounding countryside; this tour is well worth the price, but does require lots of climbing of (often steep) stairs. The cathedral also shows off the world’s oldest working clock, four original copies of the Magna Carta, and a mesmerizing baptismal font.


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Bristol Cathedral

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Bristol Cathedral’s Nave

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Nativity Scene, Bristol Cathedral


Bristol – Bristol’s Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity is the oldest of the three cathedrals we saw but otherwise the least remarkable. Originally an abbey, it managed to survive Henry VIII to become the seat of the diocese of Bristol. It was actually undergoing a major expansion during the reformation and the nave as seen today was not completed until the 18th century. The result is a dark mix of old and very old. Still, it’s a sizable cathedral with soaring arches and interesting art set in the middle of Bristol.


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Rain-Shrouded Wells Cathedral

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Wells Cathedral’s Spectacular and Unique Scissor Arches

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Beautiful Textile Art: Wells Cathedral’s Altar Cloth

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Our Very Personal Tour at Wells Cathedral


Wells – The Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew was the best surprise cathedral in our visit. We had never heard anything about it (unlike the Salisbury Cathedral) and knew very little about the town of Wells. Having no expectations is a great recipe for being delighted, as we were with the Wells Cathedral. The building dates from 1175, having been built on the site of an earlier church from the 8th century. Architecturally, it is in a consistently and entirely Gothic style (that alone makes it unique). It’s a “comfortable” size, grand without being huge (like York). Its signature feature is its “scissor arches”, which we found practically mesmerizing. We took one of the excellent free tours, and we were the only ones on the tour. The church boasts some of the best textile art we’ve seen in altar cloths. Be sure to stop by the gift shop and say hi to Louis the cathedral cat.

Stay tuned for upcoming reports on two of the top attractions in all of England…

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Louis the Cathedral Cat (Our Celebrity Encounter)



1 – Bla Bla Car is an interesting new ride sharing service. The concept is basically that if you’re driving from London to Bristol and have unoccupied seats in your car, offer them for sale and recoup some of your gas money. Not to be compared with Uber, which is a taxi service where you pay someone to take you from point A to point B, Bla Bla car only works if you can find someone already planning to go where you want to go, on the day you want to go, but it’s typically much cheaper (we saw rides from London to Bristol for as little as $7, just not on the day when we wanted to travel).

2 – A bus is a large vehicle in which many people can ride.

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