The ancient and interesting city of Winchester is located on the western edge of the South Downs National Park in south-east England, along the course of the River Itchen. It is only 61 miles (98 km) south-west of London and 13.6 miles (21.9 km) from Southampton.
Despite being a city and the county town of Hampshire, Winchester is a quaint, quiet town and a delightful place to explore.
Long before England became a united country, Winchester was a most important town (even more important than London). When King Alfred the Great united the tribes of southern and western England into one population occupying Wessex, most important events were held in Winchester. Alfred’s mobile Court often resided in Winchester and the town benefited from its royal connections.
Winchester is famous for having the longest medieval cathedral nave in Europe, and the well-known Winchester College Public School, the alma mater of many famous and infamous people.
Winchester College Guided Tours
The College was founded in 1382 and is believed to be the oldest continuously running school in the country.
Seasonal Guided Tours are conducted around the medieval heart of the College, and include Chamber Court; the 14th century Gothic Chapel, with one of the earliest examples of a wooden vaulted roof; College Hall, the original Scholars' dining room; School, the 17th century redbrick schoolroom and the original mediaeval cloister. Walking tours last approximately 1 hour.
- College Guided Tours Further Information
Tel: +44(0) 1962 621209
Web: Winchester College/ Guided Tours External Link
Winchester Cathedral should not be missed even though it has a moderate admission fee. It is full of ancient architecture, magnificent carving, remarkable monuments including Jane Austen’s grave, and even has a flooded crypt!
The Armed Forces have a long tradition in Winchester. The Garrison currently consists of Worthy Down, Sir John Moore Barracks and Peninsula Barracks. The main function of the Garrison is the training of Britain’s Defence Force.
Peninsula Barracks is located in the heart of the city and houses some excellent military museums (Gurkha, Rifles, Kings Royal Hussars, Adjutant General Corps and Hampshire Museums) as well as being the Regimental Headquarters of The Rifles.
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As would be expected of such an ancient city, there are several interesting museums. The Winchester City Museum and Westgate Museum as well as City Space and The Gallery at Winchester Discovery Centre, are now operated and funded by Hampshire Cultural Trust. On display are many items from Winchester’s collection of historic treasures.
Winchester’s Painted Bollards
Rather more unexpectedly, the city has a unique collection of painted bollars. Between 2005 and 2012 the Winchester City Council commissioned The Colour Factory to brighten up the city with an art project. The result was 24 bollards on the corner of Great Minster Street and The Square painted in the style of famous artists, or with topical scenes. Spare some time to enjoy these quirky and fun objects.
Parks & Beauty Spots
The area around Winchester has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Three Iron Age Hill forts - Oram's Arbour, St. Catherine's Hill, and Worthy Down are nearby.
Oran’s Arbour in the town centre is now a small grassy park used for staging outdoor street performances during the annual Winchester Hat Fair, and as a picnic spot. However, it was originally an Iron Age hill fort which the Romans turned into Venta Belgarum, Britannia in 70 AD. The Roman town was subsequently demolished by Alfred the Great and became Winchester.
St Catherine’s Hill
St Catherine’s Hill is a small but dramatic chalk hill to the south east of the town, rising steeply some 220 feet (67 metres) from the water meadows of the River Itchen.
On the summit of the hill is an ancient turf labyrinth or mizmaze, probably cut between 1647 and 1710. The Winchester Mizmaze is most unusual, being roughly square and not circular, although its paths curve gently and it has rounded corners. It is also one of only two surviving historic English turf mazes where the path is a narrow groove in the turf.
The summit of the hill at 318 feet (97 metres) provides a fine view over Winchester. It is a nature reserve due to its chalk downland flora which includes practically the full range of downland orchids, with Chalkhill Blue and other butterflies.
St Giles’ Hill
This hill falls steeply to the east bank of the River Itchen. Access is via a series of steps and rustic paths from the City side, with an alternative route from the area of the Chesil Car Park.
It is a steep walk up this chalk spur but it is well worth doing. There is an interesting, and rather ornate, sculpted seat slightly up the hill, conveniently placed for a relaxed enjoyment of the view. A handy Information point on the edge of the open area gives the names and locations of the major landmarks.
Now partially wooded with trees planted in the 19th century, the hill in the 11th century was originally a bare chalk down where every September St Giles Fair, the largest fair in Europe, was held. For the sixteen days of the fair, all other trading in Winchester ceased, and the Bishop received the revenues normally due to the King.
At the end of the 19th century the hill was being encroached upon by villa building. Public outcry stopped the building, and saved the summit and south west slopes of the hill as open space, which affords magnificent views over the City and St. Catherine’s Hill.
Self Guided Walk
A self guided walk leaflet can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre or downloaded from Web: Visit Winchester Self Guided Walk.pdf file External Link
A Roman road originating in Salisbury called ‘The Clarendon Way’ ends in Winchester. The Clarendon Way is now a recreational footpath.
To the east of Winchester is the village of Chawton with its Jane Austen’s Home Museum. This delightful village is a magnet for Jane Austen fans.
Winchester is conveniently located near some of England’s most varied beauty spots: The New Forest with its resident ponies; the Beaulieu Estate with the National Motor Museum, Palace House & Beaulieu Abbey; the perfectly preserved Georgian shipbuilding village of Buckler’s Hard and the spectacular coastal scenery with its chalk cliffs and stacks on the Isle of Wight.
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The Watercress Line
‘Watercress Line’ is the marketing name of the heritage Mid Hants Railway Ltd ‘Watercress Line’ in Hampshire. Originally connecting Winchester to London, the line now runs for 10 miles (16 km) from New Alresford to Alton where it connects to the National Rail network.
Close to Alton is the village of Chawton. It was here that the renowned author, Jane Austen spent the last years of her life. She is buried in the grounds of the church of St Nicholas.
The line gained its popular name in the days that it was used to transport locally grown watercress to markets in London. The railway currently operates regular scheduled services, along with dining trains, real ale trains and numerous special events throughout the year.
Contact & Further Information
Visit Winchester External Link
Winchester is accessible by both road and rail.
- By Road
Winchester is well connected to the motorway network and can be easily accessed from all directions. Located just off the M3 (Junctions 9, 10 & 11), it’s an easy journey by road from London (1.5 hours) and Southampton (20 minutes). Take the A34 from Newbury (35 minutes), Oxford (1 hour) and the A30 from Salisbury (40 minutes).
City car parks and Park & Ride
Winchester has a number of short-stay and long-stay car parks throughout the city. It has an excellent Park & Ride service, with three car parks easily accessible from the M3 motorway and only minutes away from the city centre. A frequent bus service operates from all Park & Ride car parks to all main areas of Winchester city centre. For further information about travel and parking in Winchester, visit Winchester City Council website
- By Rail
Winchester is on the main line from London Waterloo with trains running several times an hour (journey time approximately 1 hour). It is also easily accessible by rain from Bournemouth, Poole, Southampton, Basingstoke and Oxford. For information on train times and prices contact National Rail Enquiries on 08457 484950 or visit Web: National Rail Enquiries
- By Bus
For local bus services visit Web: Stagecoach/ Plan a Journey External Link
For further Travel Information, go to Web: Visit Winchester/ Local Travel Information External Link
For information on getting to Winchester go to Web: Visit Winchester/ Getting to Winchester External Link
Google Maps - Winchester