Cathedral Tower Tour | St Albans

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

I know I always throw around the phrase ‘we live right next to the cathedral’ all casual like but, well, we really do live right next to St Albans cathedral. I’m talking literally in the shadow of the thing.

It has pros and cons.

Mostly, it’s really rather glorious. It’s such a romantic setting, tucked away from a main street, with beautiful views of this historic building right out the window and the bells chiming away; I love all the different tunes and the sound gives you this feeling of innate Britishness.

On the downside, those bells can get a tad annoying first thing on a Sunday morning. Cos I’m more of a wine and lie-in kinda girl rather than a chipper, Sunday-best churchgoer. You get my drift; whether we love or hate the bells is very much dependant on what time of day it is and whether we were at the pub the night before.

I should also point out that St Albans clock tower is also only 200ft from us. Those bells like to chime every second for six minutes at 7:54 in the morning. We have yet to figure out why this is necessary (if you know why, please do put us out our misery!).

Now, given how close the cathedral and clock tower are and given we live slap bang in the middle of both of them, you can forgive us for assuming that those 7:54 bells were coming from the cathedral, as do all the other bells. Turns out we’ve been sending a lot of undue irritation towards the cathedral at approximately 7:54am every weekend for the past 18 months (soz babe).

We only learned this because we finally got around to doing the St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour recently. We’re proof that no one is a tourist in their own backyard; it is literally in our backyard and we went up the Empire state building before we went up St Albans cathedral.

Anyway, it was so good! We climbed 140 feet, which is approximately 193 steps, up medieval staircases, all the way through the tower and right up onto the cathedral roof.

The stairs and pathways were extremely narrow – as G pointed out, people were clearly a lot thinner back in 1077 (definitely no longer buying the ‘fat monk’ stereotype) – and I felt a tad claustrophobic if I had to stop in the middle of one of the pathways or spiral staircases but luckily there were different points where they broke out.

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

Our first stop was the North Transept gallery where you got amazing views looking down on the interior of the cathedral (not one for you though if you’re scared of heights), and of the stained-glass window (called the rose window). Seeing the window up close was really something; it was absolutely stunning. We also could see the Presbytery ceiling up close and our guide told us all about the meaning of the different crests. It was really interesting to learn a bit of local history.

We then climbed further up, into the roof space actually on top of that ceiling. Although dark with a fair share of pigeon poo, you saw a completely different side of the cathedral. Less grand and much more practical, and our guide told us all about how the roof was built and how it’s maintained to keep such an old building standing.

Next up, we climbed more stairs and came to a pathway with a view over the front of the cathedral and the Hertfordshire countryside. Every single person in the group emerged onto that corridor from the dark stairs and went ‘oh wow’! Even though it was cloudy, it was still a gorgeous view. From that pathway, we went into the bell ringing chamber where, you guessed it, the bell ringers ring the bells! There was a miniature model of a bell so our guide could show us how the ringing works and we saw all the ropes the ringers pull leading up through the ceiling to the bells above. Our guide also showed us the number sequences that the bell ringers work from to play certain ‘songs’ – it looked very confusing but that might just be because numbers are not my thing!

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

We then went up to the floor above to actually see the bells up close. They went off whilst we were in the room and wow are they loud. Everyone jumped out their skin when they went off, even though we were all half expecting it. I loved seeing them up close; there is something majestic about them, particularly as they're several hundred years old.

Finally, we went up onto the actual roof of the cathedral where we could look out across St Albans, the surrounding countryside and down at our own flat from the highest point in the area!

Going down the stairs was more nerve wracking than coming up and we had to avoid smacking our heads on a couple of very low beams! But we made it with no casualties and spent another hour or so wandering round the cathedral on the ground (which is stunning) before having sandwiches and shortbread in their cafĂ© (currently located in a marquee on the side of the cathedral whilst restoration works go on – but it’s quite cosy hunkering down inside with the heaters whilst the rain comes down outside).

Would absolutely recommend doing the cathedral tour if you’re local to Hertfordshire (and even if not) and especially if you live right next door!*

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour

St Albans Cathedral Tower Tour


*I’d be worried about revealing my address on the internet but there’s actually a surprising amount of people living in close proximity to the cathedral/clock tower. I’m surprised there isn’t some kind of therapy group named ‘the bells woke me up again’ tbh.

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