Winchester, UK, is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination for those seeking to find a day or weekend away trip that offers a variety of attractions. Located in the South of England in Hampshire, this city was England’s ancient capital and was the former seat of King Alfred the Great. King Arthur’s Round Table is a bonus attraction. No matter if you are looking for a quiet weekend or something fun to do with the family, you will be able to meet your needs in Winchester.
This cathedral was built on the site of the 7th-century Old Minster, and you can still see the original foundations. Winchester Cathedral itself dates back to the 11th century and has undergone many renovations since then.
It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe and has many features inside that draw tourists including a Romanesque section of a wall from 1093 and late-Gothic fan vaulting from 1394. It also houses bronze statues from 1635, 11th century wrought iron Pilgrim’s Gate and tombs of several Saxon kings.
There are also many murals from the 16th century and the wooden chair where Mary Tudor sat during her wedding to Philip II of Spain in 1554. You can also visit the Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher which contains 12th century Romanesque wall paintings. The Winchester Bible is housed in the Cathedral Library and the tomb of the writer Jane Austen is nearby.
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Highclere Castle is more commonly known as Downton Abbey from the TV show. It sits on a 1,000 acre park which has majestic views overlooking the North Hampshire Downs. There is a gothic saloon with leather wall coverings, a state dining room with historic portraits, and a library which contains over 5,000 rare books dating back to the 17th century.
Some of the rooms, including the drawing and smoking rooms were featured prominently on the TV show and will be of interest to fans. There are private tours available and you can even book a dining experience or private reception in one of the rooms.
Winchester Castle’s Great Hall
The original Winchester Castle was built in 1067, but only ruins remain today. It was demolished in 1647 and then restored in 1683. So much history has taken place in Winchester Castle and today all that is left is the Great Hall which was built in 1236. Here you can see marble columns, old stained-glass windows, and open wooden trusses. There is also a tabletop along the back wall which is supposedly where King Arthur held his Round Table. There are guided tours to help you appreciate all the great history in this place.
Winchester College has close ties with New College in Oxford and was founded in 1382. Flint Court and Chamber Court are both perfectly preserved and worth the trip. The Seventh Chamber is said to be the oldest schoolroom in the entire country.
The school has a chapel that still has the original vaulted timber roof, medieval stained glass, and the misericords. Many generations of scholars have carved their names in the pillars that you can explore today. Guided tours are used to explore this building since it still remains in use today. This tour also includes the Winchester College treasury where you can see a large collection of ark and antiquities.
College street leads to Wolvesey Palace and offers breathtaking views of the medieval wall which encircles the cathedral grounds. You can see the remains of a bishop’s palace, pass ruins of a castle, and see the Abbey Gardens. You can also see the King Alfred memorial and the bridge over the River Itchen.
A bit longer of a walk will lead you to take High Street to GuildHall and Butter Cross which contains niches with statues of saints.
Wolvesey Castle (Old Bishop’s Palace)
This English Heritage property will give you access to the ruins of what used to be the resilience of the Bishops of Winchester. Audio tours can be downloaded beforehand to give you the full history of the place including the wedding breakfast in the East Hall of Queen Mary and Philip II of Spain.
A path around the ruins will lead to the River Itchen to a place called Catherine’s Hill which is the site of a 3rd century fortress, the foundations of a chapel, and a turf maze. You can also access Westgage which used to be a prison in the 17th century, but it is now a museum with interesting exhibits and excellent views of the city.