Winchester, Hampshire’s historic cathedral city, is one of the oldest settlements in Britain and the ancient capital of the Kingdom of England. Today, Winchester is a fascinating mix of legend, myth, history, and heritage. Winchester is the best place to live in the UK in terms of quality of life, a study has found. Researchers from The Halifax ranked areas based on things like life expectancy, crime levels, broadband access and the weather.
Any Hampshire holiday should certainly include a visit to the unspoilt city of Winchester. Lying in a scenic valley and alongside the River Itchen, the ancient capital city is particularly historic and this is immediately apparent when you begin to explore the streets and learn of its strong associations with King Alfred the Great.
Much of the city centre is dominated by Winchester Cathedral, which is one of England’s finest and directly responsible for much of the city’s tourism industry. The magnificent Winchester Guildhall on the High Street is another notable landmark and is where the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) is based, appearing more like a palace than a visitors centre.
On the recent Channel Four television programme ‘The Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK‘, Winchester was actually voted as the top city. It is easy to see why when you start to sightsee, since there is much to choose between. Tourists often come to Winchester to stroll along its numerous walking trails, such as the Water Meadows Walk and the Riverside Walk. Families regularly choose to visit the Mid Hants Railway and take a steam train ride between New Alresford and Alton, as well as a trip to Marwell Wildlife Park, to see its huge selection of exotic creatures living in spacious themed paddocks. The City Mill appeals to all ages and dates from the mid-18th century, while for a lunchtime picnic, the Cathedral Grounds and Abbey Grounds are the places to come.
Travelling to and In Winchester
There are a myraid of ways to get to Winchester, each with its own advantages.
Rail: just an hour by direct train from London Waterloo, Winchester is also on direct routes from Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Weymouth, Birmingham and the north of England. You can check for all your rail connections to Winchester from across the UK and Europe with GoEuro.
Coach: National Express operate regular coach services to London, Heathrow and Oxford
Ferry: Winchester is a 40 minute drive from Portsmouth’s ferry port
Cruise: Winchester is a 20 minute drive from Southampton’s cruise terminals
Air: Winchester is just 15 minutes by road or rail from Southampton International Airport. London Heathrow is 50 miles away and London Gatwick is 72 miles away.
Road: conveniently located just off Junctions 9, 10 and 11 of the M3. Also accessible via the A34 from Newbury and Oxford.
Chauffeur: Just an hour drive from London, if you arrive in the UK at a London airport, you might consider using a chauffeur service as your Winchester airport transfer. Winchester is a very historic city, so an old-school British chauffeur drive will really set the stage for your visit to this enchanting city. With chauffeur services such as Cars Exec now closely competitive with regular taxis, it’s worth the very small additional cost to make the trip in grand style.
Sights to See in Winchester
Fifteen centuries of English history lie behind the massive Winchester Cathedral you see today. It stands at the heart of historic Winchester, once the seat of Anglo-Saxon and Norman royal power, on the site of an early Christian church. It’s been a place of worship ever since. Dating back to 1070, it’s one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with a stunning nave that seems to stretch on forever. In the north aisle of the nave you’ll find the grave of Jane Austen, one of the most endearingly popular literary figures in British history. Today, after 12 centuries, this great Cathedral church remains the seat of the Bishop of Winchester and centre of the Diocese of Winchester. Its beautiful spaces continue to echo to the sound of daily prayers and glorious sacred music.
The original wooden Norman Winchester Castle dated from 1067. In the 12th century a tower fifty feet square with walls 14 feet thick was constructed and circular tower was built on the motte in the 13th century. In the 17th century it was sold to a Royalist and after its capture in the Civil War it was slighted and almost all the stone removed for other buildings. Only the 100 foot long by 50 foot high Great Hall started in 1222 remains which contains King Arthur’s round table. The hall is now used as the Winchester Courthouse. You’ll find more on this at the Visit Hampshire website.
Bombay Sapphire Distillery
Based at Laverstoke Mill in rural Hampshire, just 15 miles from Winchester and 10 miles from Basingstoke, the Bombay Sapphire Distillery is in a conservation area with over 1000 years of history. The distillery showcases the care, skill and artistry behind every drop of Bombay Sapphire, and allows you to discover the flavours of the botanicals which make Bombay Sapphire gin so unique. All experiences must be booked online in advance. Take in the beautiful natural surroundings as you walk along the River Test and uncover the fascinating history behind Laverstoke Mill. Discover the exotic botanicals in the Glasshouses, Botanical Dry Room and behind the scenes of the in the Dakin Still House.