Our last stop during the countryside portion of our tour was the city of Winchester. Like the other places we visited, Winchester has a long and rich history dating back to prehistoric and Roman times. Today, the Hampshire County Councils are based in Winchester, and it is said to be one of the most desirable cities in England in which to live. I can understand why. It was a lovely city to visit, and as it was directly on the way to London from Lymington via M3, it is within easy distance of several major cities.
Winchester Historic Sites
I mentioned Winchester in The New Forest, as it was the site of William the Conqueror’s palace. The Castle was completed in 1067, however, the Great Hall, an addition built during the 13th century by Henry III is all that remains intact. The ruins of the foundations can be seen today outside the Great Hall.
The Great Hall was built to a ‘double cube’ design, so that the height and width are exactly half the length. It is called “one of the finest surviving aisled halls of the 13th century,” and is magnificently constructed, with beautiful stained glass, although it did have rather a cold, cavernous feeling when we visited on a cold December morning. The really cool thing about the Great Hall, beside being the last surviving part of Winchester Castle is King Arthur’s Round Table hung on the western wall of the Great Hall. The Round Table is a replica of the legendary Round Table dating back to about 1290. It was originally an actual table, but has since had its legs removed, and has been hung on display since at least the 1500s. The Round Table features the white Tudor Rose in the center, and is painted with 24 places for his knights. I tried to find Lancelot, but my 20th century reading ability or perhaps lack thereof limited my success.
A step outside takes you to Queen Eleanor’s Garden, a recreation of a medieval garden. The garden is named after Henry III’s wife, Queen Eleanor of Provence, and her daughter, Queen Eleanor of Castile. The garden contains ornamental plants and herbs representative of what would have been grown in a garden of the time. It also features an old oak bench adapted from a Gothic bench in Winchester Cathedral. The Garden is a designated Conservation Area, and is a joint venture between the Hampshire County Council and the Hampshire Gardens Trust.
The steel gates at the east end of the Great Hall connecting it to the courthouse were created to commemorate the royal wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. The gates are very pretty and intricately designed, and contains their initials and the date of their wedding. The writing on the walls surrounding the gates are the names of Hampshire’s representatives in Parliament.
If you have more time, the Wolvesley Castle ruins are about a three-quarters of a mile walk. It is an English Heritage site and is free to visit. More information about Wolvesley can be found here.
Winchester Cathedral is another impressive site, and located a half-mile walking distance from the Great Hall. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, and has roots dating back to the seventh century. There are a number of famous people buried here, including Jane Austen and a number of ancient kings and bishops of Winchester. We unfortunately did not have time to go inside, but it is a truly beautiful sight from the outside.
Among the ancient and medieval history throughout Winchester, we found a modern city with a university, cute boutique shops, and some fun dining. Before heading out to London, we stopped for coffee and snacks at a cute cafe.
The Winchester Combined Courts are located adjacent the Great Hall. The County Court is also housed in the centre. For those interested in true crime stories, the trial of serial murderer Rosemary West took place at the Winchester Crown Court in 1995. She was convicted on ten counts of murder and remains in prison today. That is not why I’d visit Winchester, but I found that factoid listening to Redhanded, a true crime podcast I subscribe to.
Winchester is a great place to stop and visit. There is so much history and legend to spark the imagination. Happy trails!
For source information and to plan your visit, visit