With so many glorious cathedrals punctuating the landscape, it is small wonder that a day out to a cathedral or an abbey has become a popular pastime. However, the cathedral is only part of the attraction. Have a look at some of the jewels in the south of England crown.
Located in Old Portsmouth, close to Gunwharf Quays shopping outlet and the Historic Dockyard, home to HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the newly opened Mary Rose museum, Portsmouth Cathedral was consecrated as recently as 1991 by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. There is plenty to explore in the city and shopping in Portsmouth and Southsea, or visit Southsea Castle and the Spinnaker tower. The Isle of Wight is just across the water, easily accessible by boat or ferry, or take the ferry to Hayling Island for sandy beaches.
First England's ancient capital and seat of King Alfred the Great, then capital of Wessex, Winchester has a rich history that is told through its architecture and many important buildings, one of which is the cathedral which can trace its origins back through fifteen centuries of history. Winchester has an attractive town centre with niche shops sitting alongside household names and is close to the pretty villages of Bishops Waltham and Wickham.
One of the most iconic buildings in the world, Canterbury Cathedral is home to the leader of the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury and its origins can be traced back as far as 597 making it the country's oldest cathedral. Forming part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Canterbury itself is enough reason to visit but the city's heritage and culture is only part of the attraction. Today Canterbury is a vibrant, exciting place to visit for fine food, superb shopping and great days out. Exploring the city on foot is a great way to unlock the city's labyrinth of winding lanes and streets or view from the river by taking a boat trip along the River Stour.
Younger than Canterbury Cathedral by just seven years, making it the second oldest in the land, Rochester Cathedral stands on land donated by King Ethelbert and was built in 604.Rochester Castle sits high above the Medway and is just one of a huge number of attractions in an area that, together with Chatham and Gillingham, have a power history inextricably linked to the tidal reaches of the River Medway, Charles Dickens, Kings, Queens and Pilgrims.
Home to the only cathedral visible from the sea, Chichester's long and interesting history can be traced back to Roman times when it played a significant role in the Roman Invasion of AD43. Today the Roman influence is still in evidence, serving as the town plan with a traditional Tudor Market Cross at its heart and a city wall at its boundary. Superb shopping, fine dining, street cafes, art galleries and one of the most influential theatres outside the West End ensures that Chichester, the only city in West Sussex, continues to prosper. The City enjoys a superb reputation for shopping, fine restaurants, art and the theatre.
Dedicated in 1873 as the Catholic Parish Church of Arundel it was not until 1965 that the church became The Cathedral Church of Our Lady and St Philip Howard. Historically important because of its connection to the Howard family who rank first below the royal family in the Peerage of England, and as one of the finest examples of French gothic architecture in the country. The Cathedral overlooks the ancient city of Arundel which is also home to the restored medieval Arundel Castle.
Boasting the tallest spire in the UK, containing the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta and the oldest surviving mechanical clock, Salisbury Cathedral is an EarlyEnglish Gothic Cathedral and historically significant building in every sense of the word, dominating the skyline.
Established in 1220 as a new town, Salisbury has a city wall containing five gates, four of which can be traced back to the 14th century. A plethora of restaurants and pubs, Purple Flag status since 2012 and declared one of the Lonely Planet's Top 10 Cities in the Best in Travel for 2015.
Located in the heart of the city, Exeter Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter that lies in the midst of the Exeter city centre, is a commanding sight and magnificent example of Gothic architecture. Completed in around 1400, the Cathedral attracts thousands of visitors every year and features an early set of misericords, the oldest astronomical clock in use today and the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England.
Located on the River Exe, Exeter is a picturesque and historic city and the county town of Devon. With glorious street scenes, niche shops sitting comfortably alongside high street names and a cosmopolitan selection of bars and restaurants, it is a superb place to visit for a day out whilst enjoying the rolling countryside and glorious beaches of Devon.
One of only three cathedrals in Britain with three spires, Truro cathedral was consecrated in 1887 and was built on the site of a 16th-century parish church, part of which still remains as the Lady Chapel. It was the first new cathedral to be built in Britain for 800 years and its spires tower above the quaint country cottages, dominating the skyline.
Located almost in the centre of Cornwall, Truro is a bustling city with a rich history as a market town and port that boomed during the tin mining era. Today the peaceful river is popular for pleasure cruises and the market town has becoming the county's main shopping town. Truro's Hall for Cornwall is a hub of entertainment with touring opera, ballet, musicals and dramas and, as you would expect, there are superb beaches on what has become known as the Cornish Riviera.
Commenced in 1175 and taking approximately 80 years to build, Wells Cathedral was the first of its kind, built entirely in the new Gothic style that was taking France by storm. Magnificent inside and out the cathedral is an impressive feat of engineering, British ingenuity and design. Its impressive West Front still retains around 300 of the original medieval statues and the face of the famous 'Wells Clock' is the oldest in the world. The scissor arches are stunningly graceful and were constructed over a 10-year period from 1338, providing internal strengthening and buttressing to support the addition of a high tower of a new tower that was added in 1313. The Jesse Window, which dates from 1340, is one of the most exquisite examples of 14th century stained glass in Europe.
Medieval Wells is the smallest city in England with around 12,000 inhabitants and has a picturesque location tucked away on the southern side of the Mendip Hills. Its origins can be traced back to Roman times and, like its better known neighbour, the City of Bath, it has natural springs which can be found in the moated Bishop's Palace. Wells has lively market twice weekly and picturesque narrow streets, a good selection of shops and restaurants.