A UK break in Winchester: history and South Downs hikes in Hampshire

Set on the edge of a national park, this Hampshire city’s peaceful personality belies its illustrious history.

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Alfred the Great made Winchester England’s first capital in 871, and the Hampshire city long remained at the centre of the action. Narrow streets of medieval and Georgian buildings hint at its past. The nearby South Downs National Park can also be accessed via the South Downs Way. A 100-mile-long walking and cycling route, the trail starts in Winchester and stretches to Eastbourne. 

What to do

Winchester City Mill is powered by the River Itchen that flows through the city, and it dates back at least 1,000 years to the reign of King Alfred. This National Trust property has a cafe whose cakes often contain flour made onsite. A short car journey away is the village of Chawton. Here, you’ll find Jane Austen’s House, where the famous author spent the last years of her life. Objects on show at the pretty cottage include the small table where she worked on her classic novels.

Where to eat

Forte Kitchen is an award-winning restaurant serving simple but delicious British food, such as the wild mushrooms on sourdough toast. Settle into 18th-century inn The Old Vine. With wooden beams and a smouldering fire on cold nights, it’s a cosy spot to tuck into pub classics like Hampshire cured ham or the pie of the day. 

Don’t miss

On guided tours of Winchester Cathedral, you can learn about why it took almost 500 years to build. Opt for the Tower Tour to climb to the roof, for stunning views of the city and beyond.

We like

The Great Hall — all that remains of Winchester Castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1067. It’s borne witness to events from lavish banquets to trials for treason, and the medieval round table mounted on its far wall is often associated with that of Arthurian legend.

Where to stay

Dating back to 1755, former coaching inn The Wykeham Arms is just around the corner from the cathedral and above a popular pub. Stay in the Hamilton Suite, with its characterful brick feature wall, framed historic paintings, spectacular chandelier and rolltop bath for a good soak. Breakfast is served in the pub downstairs and ranges from a comforting full English to avocado on toast. Doubles from £159, B&B.

This story was created with the support of Visit Hampshire.
Published in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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