Hampshire Life - - Inside -

En­joy the ul­ti­mate mini­break in the city

Is this the ul­ti­mate city break? Winch­ester has it all: from an­cient his­tory to space ex­plo­ration, plus cafes, cock­tails, cul­ture and coun­try­side… But with so much to do, choices

are go­ing to have to be made, says Emma Caulton


De­ci­sions, de­ci­sions. Winch­ester is a TARDIS. Where are you go­ing to go - past or fu­ture?

For his­tory nerds a visit to Winch­ester Cathe­dral is ob­vi­ous. Guided tours in­clude the soar­ing 15th cen­tury stone screen, 12th cen­tury wall paint­ings, richly coloured stained-glass win­dows by pre-Raphaelite artist Ed­ward Burne-Jones and the largest sur­viv­ing spread of Me­dieval dec­o­rated floors in­side any build­ing in Eng­land. There are tours down to the crypt, with its con­tem­pla­tive sculp­ture by Antony Gorm­ley, and up the tower for dizzy­ing views over the rooftops.

Cross the Cathe­dral’s in­ner close, past Cheyney Court with its in­sta­grammable jet­tied tim­bered gables, un­der Pri­ory Gate and Kings­gate – one of two re­main­ing Me­dieval city gates. This one has a small church over it, St Swithun-up­onKings­gate, aka St Cuth­bert’s in An­thony Trol­lope’s novel The War­den. Turn­ing left into Col­lege Street there is an­other lit­er­ary con­nec­tion - the house where

Hamp­shire’s best-known au­thor, Jane Austen, died. Fur­ther along is the en­trance to Winch­ester Col­lege where oc­ca­sional tours ex­plore the Col­lege’s me­dieval heart in­clud­ing its 14th cen­tury Gothic Chapel which makes an ap­pear­ance in the film of Les Misérables.

Other places wor­thy of pon­der­ing times past in­clude: the 12th cen­tury ruins of Wolvesey Cas­tle, once one of the greatest Me­dieval build­ings in Eng­land; City Mu­seum which in­cludes a unique record of Winch­ester

– a scale model of the city in

1870; and West­gate Mu­seum, the sec­ond sur­viv­ing Me­dieval gate­way, this one with fine painted ceil­ing made for the visit by Mary Tu­dor and Philip of Spain on their mar­riage in Winch­ester Cathe­dral in 1554. There’s also the Great Hall; this fine 13th cen­tury aisled hall is all that re­mains of Winch­ester Cas­tle and is home to what is said to be the Round Ta­ble of Arthurian leg­end. At the other end of the city cen­tre, the National Trust is un­der­tak­ing a ma­jor con­ver­sa­tion project at Winch­ester City Mill, the coun­try’s old­est work­ing wa­ter­mill. Work is due to be com­pleted late Septem­ber with new visi­tor fa­cil­i­ties in­stalled over win­ter in­clud­ing a café with pro­duce made from the Mill’s own ground flour. Mean­while milling demon­stra­tions con­tinue Wed­nes­day, Satur­day and Sun­day.

Bud­ding space en­gi­neers will pre­fer ex­plor­ing the shiny space age dome and pyra­mid of Winch­ester Science Cen­tre & Plan­e­tar­ium on the city’s out­skirts. This lead­ing science and dis­cov­ery cen­tre has the largest stand­alone plan­e­tar­ium cinema in the UK and a new at­trac­tion Ex­plorer:Space, of­fi­cially launched in July by NASA Astro­naut Michael Foale. It’s an im­mer­sive space ex­pe­ri­ence de­signed to wow fam­i­lies by tak­ing them on an epic ad­ven­ture through the uni­verse with ex­hibits en­com­pass­ing cod­ing to ro­bots, atmospheric pres­sure to space flight. Mean­while the 360° full­dome plan­e­tar­ium of­fers an ex­cit­ing pro­gramme with films, such as Faster than Light, a new film nar­rated by Sean Bean, and pre­sen­ter-led shows where the plan­e­tar­ium is used as a flight stim­u­la­tor.


Café cul­ture in Winch­ester is thriv­ing with plenty of great places to re­lax over coffee and cake. Among them are: Café Monde and Coffee Lab, both in The Square with out­side seat­ing (the orig­i­nal Coffee Labs can still be found nearby on Great Min­ster Street and St Thomas Street); Raw­berry for healthy juices and veg­gie bites; Cho­coco for to­tally in­dul­gent Choco­late Af­ter­noon Tea; Cor­ner House with eclec­tic draw­ing room style; and Bridge Street Patis­serie, Winch­ester’s old­est coffee shop. I’m also hear­ing good things about Cop­per Joes among the mil­i­tary mu­se­ums in Penin­sula Square.


Shop­ping or scenery?

Coun­try­side is so close to the city cen­tre you may man­age both. St Giles Hill pro­vides the op­por­tu­nity to work off lunch and en­joy views across King Al­fred’s statue and Cathe­dral. There are

also river­side walks along the River Itchen and through the wa­ter mead­ows - thought to have in­spired Keats to write his ode To Au­tumn.

How­ever, shop­pers are in for a treat. Tucked among im­pres­sive names on the High Street (spot Space NK and

The White Company) is the oc­ca­sional in­de­pen­dent such as Jeremy France Jewellers with on-site work­shop for be­spoke com­mis­sions as well as cov­etable pieces like Fope’s con­tem­po­rary mesh chains. Oth­er­wise Idio­syn­cratic indies are found on the side streets. Eclec­tic Hound on The Square and The Man­tique on Parch­ment Street are both sar­to­rial troves for orig­i­nal menswear. Ex­plore Jewry Street for John Lewis of Hunger­ford, the orig­i­nal painted kitchen company, hand­craft­ing bed­room and kitchen fur­ni­ture in­clud­ing tra­di­tional stools in shades of pink and yel­low. You’ll also find Con­sor­tium with cool vin­tage fur­ni­ture and wear­able fashion from Mint Tea Bou­tique (on the first floor). Mean­while South­gate Street has be­come re­ally in­ter­est­ing with the re­cent ar­rival of Sass & Edge fashion bou­tique, Car­tridge Fine Art - a glam mash up of the flam­boy­ant, the strik­ing and the iconic, check out images from Terry O’Neill’s ar­chives recre­ated as di­a­mond dust silkscreens (one client is Clau­dia Schif­fer), and Blubambu sell­ing in vogue eco home­style in­clud­ing chairs from re­cy­cled oil drums, hand­blown glass from Bali and re­claimed teak rein­vented as unique crafted fur­ni­ture.


Choose from a cinema con­verted from an old army chapel with arm­chairs, plenty of leg room and bar, or Theatre Royal, the only sur­viv­ing cine-va­ri­ety theatre in the coun­try. Its var­ied pro­gramme in­cludes Le­viathan (18 Septem­ber), an ath­letic and imag­i­na­tive dance per­for­mance based on Moby Dick by mul­ti­award-win­ning chore­og­ra­pher James Wilton; ra­dio comedy clas­sic The Goon Show (22 Septem­ber); and Dame Es­ther Rantzen in con­ver­sa­tion (23 Septem­ber).

But eat­ing and drink­ing is prob­a­bly Winch­ester’s big draw. This foodie hot spot has at­tracted top names. Brasserie Blanc is cel­e­brat­ing its tenth an­niver­sary in the city, Rick Stein opened his first restau­rant out­side Corn­wall here, around the same time Hugh Fearn­ley Whit­tingstall opened River Cot­tage Canteen in re­stored Abbey Mill. They have re­cently been joined by The Ivy.

But Winch­ester’s in­de­pen­dent eater­ies are su­perb. There’s Miche­lin-starred and dis­tinc­tively dif­fer­ent Black Rat, Good Food Guide-rec­om­mended Ch­e­sil Rec­tory, also cel­e­brat­ing ten years this sum­mer and com­bin­ing re­fined com­fort food with vin­tage chan­de­liers in this 15th cen­tury Me­dieval build­ing. Plus, there’s Ky­oto Kitchen for con­tem­po­rary Ja­panese and Three Joes for tasty sour­dough piz­zas - just opened on Great Min­ster Street. For pre- or post-din­ner drinks, try se­duc­tively dark Cabi­net Rooms (op­po­site the Theatre) serv­ing se­ri­ously good cock­tails, The Green Man (op­po­site the Cinema) for great wines by the glass (good nosh, too), and Incog­nito, a drink­ing den chan­nelling Phileas Fogg in the base­ment of St John’s House.


Take your pick from two cool and comfy B&Bs: Han­nah’s, stylish home from home hid­den off Parch­ment Street, and char­ac­ter­ful and quirky The

Black Hole on Wharf Hill. Two charm­ing pubs with rooms in­clude The Old Vine, an 18th cen­tury inn over­look­ing the Cathe­dral with lux­u­ri­ous suites and The Wyke­ham Arms, voted Town Pub of the Year 2018 by The Good Pub Guide. Not for­get­ting the orig­i­nal Ho­tel de Vin, a bou­tique ho­tel in an el­e­gant 18th cen­tury town­house with bistro, court­yard gar­den and cos­set­ting rooms.

LEFT: Winch­ester from St Giles Hill in the early evening sun ABOVE RIGHT: Be warned, the guided tour of the Cathe­dral tower in­cludes a steep and nar­row climb

ABOVE: Idio­syn­cratic style in Winch­ester: hand­blown glass and re­cy­cled oil drums as art­work at BlubambuBE­LOW: Warm­ing posh bistro grub at Ho­tel du Vin

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