Top 5 Cotswolds villages within 1.5 hours of Winchester

Drink, Food, Shopping, Travel

The picture-perfect Cotswolds is a firm favourite in our household. It’s just close enough for a day trip, or an easy weekend away, and even in bad weather it’s still utterly charming.

Although it feels like a bit of a trek, the nearest stretches of the Cotswolds are just over an hour away from Winchester (and even closer if you’re based in north Hampshire). Pootle up the A34/M4 and you’ll hit Cirencester (the “Capital” of the Cotswolds) in an hour and fifteen.

So if you fancy a beautiful day trip for some stunning scenery and sublime pub lunches, jump in your car and try these villages.

1. Castle Combe

When I think of the Cotswolds, I think of Castle Combe. The beautiful sandstone cottages, sweeping streets, and the tranquil river running by are just exquisite.

Castle Combe is proclaimed as one of England’s prettiest villages, as well as rising to fame through being a film location for some big tv/film hits, most notably Steven Spielburg’s War Horse, Downton Abbey, and Stardust.

The White Hart pub serves a great range of easy pub classics, including jacket potatoes, stews, sandwiches and pies. If you’re after something special, The Manor House Hotel has become a firm Insta-favourite for its sweeping, ivy-covered façade, or otherwise try The Castle Inn (opposite the White Hart) which is the sister Inn to The Manor House Hotel.

And for any Harry Potter fans, nip over to neighbouring village, Lacock, to visit Hogwarts, the home where Professor Slughorn’s pretends to be an armchair, and one of the Godric’s Hollow filming locations.

2. Bibury

Another contender for “prettiest village in England”, much of Bibury is protected by The National Trust, and for good reason. Arlington Row, which is the most photographed row of cottages in Bibury, dates back to the 1300’s, and you can even stay in one of them.

Grab a bite to eat at The Swan Hotel, which sits on the River Coln and is another Cotswolds Insta-landmark, again for its ivy-covered façade.

3. Poulton & Meysey Hampton

Ok, so whilst these are technically juuust outside of the Cotswolds, they’re both right on the edge and so sweet that they deserve a spot on this list. I’ve grouped them together because they’re a stones throw from each other and an easy walk between. Lunch at the Masons Arms, which sits on Meysey Hampton’s beautiful green, surrounded by Cotswold cottages. The green even has the old horse mount steps from time-gone-by that you can walk up.

4. Biddestone & Slaughterford

Just a 35-minute cross-country walk between each other, Biddestone and Slaughterford sit just across the Cotswolds border, and both equally charming in aesthetic.

Biddestone’s White Horse pub is well regarded, or why not try The White Hart in Ford, and walk in a loop between Biddestone, Slaughterford and Ford.

5. Burford

Slightly larger than the previous 4 places, Burford boasts a much larger food scene and a small high street to boot. If you like antiques and homeware, Burford is the one for you.

Walk along the River Windrush towards Swinbrook on this scenic 6.5km walk before circling back to Burford for a well-earned pub lunch.

Unmissable upcoming markets

Drink, Food, Shopping, Style, Travel

We visited Alresford last weekend, and had the luck of stumbling upon their bi-annual brocante and antiques market, hosted by ACVR events. Although we (and they) were nearly blown away in these uncustomary gale-force winds we’ve been having, there were some beautiful pieces and/or bargains (the joy of an antiques market is that the two are never mutually exclusive) for sale there.

I love having a mooch around a market, particularly when having a lazy weekend, so I thought I would make a list of some of the upcoming ones over the next few months.

Winchester

On the first Sunday of every month is the Antiques Market (it’s brilliant. You could spend a lot of time there).

On the second and fourth Sunday of every month is the Hampshire Farmer’s Market.

On the third Sunday of every month is the Art & Design Market.

I am biased, but Winchester is one of my favourite places. We are spoilt with inescapable history on every corner, independent shops and fantastic food options.

Southsea

Love Southsea Market hosts a fantastic market every two or so weeks. Stalls include street food, flowers, clothes and fashion, homewares and accessories, and jewellery.

You need to book tickets at the moment, due to Covid : About — Love Southsea Markets

Separately, there is also a farmers market on the third Sunday of every month.

Southsea is a lovely coastal town, east of Portsmouth (a little like Brighton & Hove twin together, so does Portsmouth & Southsea). It is full of cool eateries, coffee spots, and independent shops (and very lovely 4-storey townhouses looking out to sea).

Alresford/Alton/Petersfield

Alresford – Every Thursday, Alresford hosts their weekly market of local foods, ceramics and homewares. There’s lots to also explore around Alresford, including shops and walks, so it’s definitely worth a day-trip.

Alresford’s bi-annual vintage and brocante market that we stumbled upon last weekend is separately hosted by ACVR events. The next is on the 26 September. If you want to catch it sooner, head to Ringwood, Romsey or Bishops Waltham, or otherwise have a look here: Calendar of Events – Speciality Markets & Events (acvrevents.co.uk)

Alton – The pretty little market town of Alton hosts a weekly market on a Tuesday. The farmers’ market is also on, on 12 June, 17 July and 14 August, and the Hampshire farmers market on the second Saturday of each month. Alton is also a stone’s throw away from Chawton House, Jane Austen’s family home.

Petersfield – On every Wednesday and Saturday, the Petersfield market has a variety of stalls and is on between 8:30 and 3pm. The Hampshire farmer’s market is on there on the first Sunday of every month.

Ringwood

The Hampshire farmer’s market is held on the last Saturday of each month. There is also a weekly market every Wednesday selling local produce, crafts, clothes and plants.

On 3 July, 4 September, 6 November, and 4 December the ACVR vintage and antiques market we had the pleasure of visiting in Alresford today, will be at Ringwood.

Ringwood is another lovely Hampshire market town, close to beaches and the New Forest, with excellent eateries and independent shops.

Romsey

Romsey’s market is hosted every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday morning in The Cornmarket. Romsey has hosted a market for over 400 years, so although I have not visited this one, I imagine it would be a nice one to stroll through. Romsey is another town with some nice independent shops and cafes.

The Hampshire farmers market is also on, on the first Sunday of every month.

The ACVR brocante market is also here on 25 July, 17 October, and 28 November.

Bishops Waltham

The ACVR brocante market is also here on 18 July and 10 October. Bishops Waltham’s markets are sadly on hold at the moment, but is usually on Fridays.

I have not been to Bishops Waltham in a long time, but it’s on my list now that things are opening up. I have, however, heard that there is a Josie’s there and therefore I am convinced it will be a nice day trip. Bishops Waltham is nestled on the edge of the South Downs, en route to other towns and villages worth a visit, such as Wickham.

A Historical Stroll Through Winchester

Travel, Uncategorized

START: The Great Hall and Winchester Castle

The original castle site dates back to the Roman times. After William the Conqueror successfully invaded England (in 1066), he built one of the first Norman castles here in 1067. The Great Hall was built later, in 1222, and is the only part of the original castle that is still standing. The castle was a royal residence until the 1500’s when Elizabeth I became Queen.

You can do tours of the Great Hall, and see King Arthur’s round table here, as Winchester is believed to be the site of Camelot. At the back of the Hall is Queen Eleanor’s garden, beautiful in the summer, and a lovely and tranquil spot.

2. The Westgate

One of the two remaining gateways in Winchester, the Westgate used to be a debtors’ prison and is now a museum.

There are often family-friendly activities going on, and it’s a really good place to learn about the history of Winchester.

3. Winchester Cathedral

It goes without saying that Winchester Cathedral is one of Winchester’s top history spots. The original minster, Old Minster, was founded around 645, and the brick paths around it are where the Old Minster stood. The current structure is Norman, dating to the late 1000’s.  It is the burial place of King Alfred the Great, King Cnut, William the Conqueror’s son, and  Jane Austen (to name but a few!).

If you are visiting Winchester at Christmas, the Christmas market stalls are all around the Cathedral, and it is a truly magical time of year here. There’s also ice-skating, and the carols are also lovely to go to. I recommend picking up a mulled wine and having a wander to see all the Christmas lights about the city.

There is an admission fee for visiting the Cathedral, but it is well worth it.

4. Cheyney Court & Priory Gate

One of Winchester’s most iconic spots, picture-perfect Cheyney Court is the perfect summary of Winchester history. It dates to the 16th century, as a court for the Bishop, covering the Soke of Winchester.

Adjoining it is the 14th century Pilgrim’s Hall, which, after the 1600’s was used as a stable block. Look back (and up) once you’ve walked under the Priory Gate, as there is a small Porter’s Lodge above, which was the home of the Cathedral’s organist.

5. Kingsgate

The second medieval gate in Winchester, the Kingsgate as it stands today is believed to date as far back as the 12th century. Above the archway, on the first floor, is St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate church, one of the few gateway churches remaining. The Kingsgate was one of the gates into the medieval city, and the church used by the lay people.

There’s the lovely Kingsgate Bookshop inside the archway, with a selection of books, maps and prints available to purchase. If you’ve watched the recent Les Mis. film, you can see this stretch of Winchester when Hugh Jackman is fleeing from Russell Crowe near the beginning.

6. Jane Austen’s House & Winchester College

Passing through the Kingsgate, you turn left along College Street. On the right hand side, passing P & G Wells (Winchester’s oldest bookshop) on your right, is the yellow house where Jane Austen lived in her final years. It is said that Jane Austen and John Keats were both frequent visitors at P & G Wells.

Just along from Jane Austen’s house is the beautiful Winchester College. This is one of the many buildings of the College, which offers guided tours that cover much of its history and grounds.

7. Wolvesey Castle

Wolvesey Castle is an English Heritage site with free entry. It’s situated behind the Bishop of Winchester’s current residence, and you could completely miss it if you didn’t know it was there. You have to walk down a path along the side of the Bishop’s residence, and then all of a sudden, you’re amongst its magnificent ruins.

This was the palace of the medieval bishops of Winchester and was classed as one of the most important Norman palaces in the UK. It was used until the 1680’s and was sadly left to fall into ruin.

8. St Giles’ Hill

If you’re after a stunning view over central Winchester and it’s water meadows, St Giles’ Hill is where you want to go. Historically, the area around St Giles’ Hill and The Soke was the wealthy area of the city. At the top of the hill is a park where the ladies and gentlemen of Winchester would promenade around St Giles’ Hill. Definitely worth a visit, although the walk up is steep!

9. Chesil Rectory

The Chesil Rectory is another iconic landmark of Winchester. It dates back to between 1425 and 1450, and is the oldest commercial property in the city. During the Reformation, Henry VIII took over the Rectory and gave it to his daughter, Mary. When Mary got married to King Philip of Spain, she gifted it to the city as part payment for her lavish wedding (which was held at Winchester Cathedral).

It was left to deteriorate, to the point when it was nearly demolished, before being rescued and restored in 1892. It is now an award-winning restaurant, and definitely a must-go on your list of places to eat.

10. END: The Guildhall, King Alfred’s Statue & Abbey Gardens

King Alfred is considered the first King of England. Before him, England was split into kingdoms with different rulers, with Winchester as the capital of Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom). King Alfred is credited with successfully integrating the kingdoms to ‘create’ England. He is also credited with achieving peace with the Danes, who the Anglo-Saxons had continuously been at war with. King Alfred is buried at Winchester Cathedral, and his statue at the bottom of Winchester’s high street is both an iconic and symbolic landmark to the city.

Just in front of King Alfred’s statue is the Guildhall, and behind this, Abbey Gardens. St Johns House overlooks this too, as does the Mayor’s house. The Guildhall was built in 1873, and was built upon the site where a nunnery had been situated since before 899AD (built and founded by King Alfred’s wife, Aelswith). The nunnery later become known as St Mary’s Abbey, and its garden are where this route ends.

There are many more historical spots around Winchester, not to mention all the quaint side streets, but this route covers a fair few of them.

Best Brunch Spots in Winchester

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1. The Winchester Orangery & The Greenhouse

The Winchester Orangery

This gorgeous café sits in The Square with a front patio area that gives you some of the best brunch views of Winchester Cathedral. In the summer, the front windows fold away and they offer delicious cocktails, wines, beverages and platters in the evenings.

Brunch menu highlights include full English, waffles, toasties, and the usual light bites like Eggs Benedict. Their smoothies are also highly recommended, and they serve locally roasted River Coffee.

Vegan options available and dog-friendly.

The Greenhouse

The recently opened Greenhouse on Stockbridge Road is The Orangery’s sister café. Offering a similar menu to the Orangery but with different scenery, The Greenhouse is another excellent brunch option, particularly if you’re closer or can’t be bothered to navigate central Winchester!

2. Josie’s

Sitting at the top of town, opposite Winchester Discovery Centre, Josie’s has been a long-term favourite to Winchester residents.

You can’t book Josie’s, and the queue on a weekend can be rather long, so a handy tip is to download the WalkUp app and ‘join the queue’ through there.

Menu highlights include mouth-watering pancakes with additions like streaky bacon, maple syrup, fruit, or banoffee, loaded toasties and sandwiches, and (my personal favourite) fully loaded wraps ft. fillings such as streaky bacon, tater tots, halloumi, scrambled egg, sausages… There are also plenty of vegan options available.

You can also find Josie’s in Romsey, Bishops Waltham and Petersfield.

3. The Square by Coffee Lab

Almost opposite The Winchester Orangery you’ll find The Square. The Square offers indoor and outdoor seating so in the summer its a real favourite for many. The courtyard to the rear has recently been revamped, and is a lovely setting for a relaxed weekend brunch. In the winter, they offer outside heating so you can still enjoy the fresh air.

In conjunction with Coffee Lab, The Square does an excellent coffee, and its brunch menu contains the usual suspects like smashed avo on sourdough, and yogurt and granola bowls.

As well as excellent coffee and brunch options, The Square also sells freshly baked bread and pastries. There is also Coffee Lab on Little Minster Street, serving cakes, pastries and sandwiches if you’re after something on-the-go. Coffee Lab also offers a workspace area if you’re after a change in working scenery to one with delectable coffee and cake.

Vegan options are available at both The Square and Coffee Lab.

4. The Ivy

With its glamorous décor and beautiful cocktail menu, The Ivy is a fail-safe option. Its menu changes every season, which means there’s always something new to try, but fair warning, if you want breakfasty-brunch options as opposed to lunchy-brunch options, you’ll need to order before the clock strikes 11am.

The beauty of The Ivy too, is that you can book ahead. Much of Winchester’s brunch options are walk-ins, so if you want to be sure to get a table somewhere then book ahead at The Ivy.

There is both indoor and outdoors seating depending on what you are looking for, and plenty of vegan options available.

5. Forte Kitchen

Recently renovated, and with the newly opened Hatch downstairs, Forte Kitchen is set to be a firm Winchester favourite. Lockdown threw a spanner or two at Forte Kitchen, but their new menus look a thing of beauty and I know from pre-renovation-experience that you won’t be disappointed if you go.

Good coffee, a well varied menu, and set in a light and airy room with high ceilings, the atmosphere is wonderful too.

6. The Dispensary Kitchen

The Dispensary Kitchen

Nestled in a duck egg blue building behind the City Museum, the Dispensary Kitchen offers scenic views of the Cathedral and some excellent brunch options.

As well as cakes, pastries, and the classic avocado on toast, it also does an exceptional coffee and burger.

Dispensary Kitchen is also dog-friendly and has plenty of vegan options.