I can happily say I love London, but from time to time I equally love to escape the hustle of the Big Smoke and go enjoy some time out in the countryside. Breathing in fresh air and marvelling at what the countryside has to offer in the UK. I recently spent two days in Winchester to explore and find some cool things for you to see and do in Winchester.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO:
WINCHESTER CITY MILL
Its good to start in the city centre, I would advise starting off at the King Alfred the Great statue, which sits proudly on The Broadway in the city centre. You can then walk a couple of minutes to the Winchester City Mill, which is the oldest working watermill in the county. Here you can learn about the building’s fascinating history and see how the stone-ground wholemeal flour is produced using the power of the River Itchen. The entry fee is only £4 for adults and £2 for kids and I do recommend you see it. It’s a little treasure, that you won’t find everywhere else.
You can even support the mill, by buying a pack of flour at the end of your visit. From the 15th – 24th December, there will be carol singing, festive baking and a few other surprises for guests.
(Photo supplied by PR MediaCo)
You can book yourself into a tour of the Winchester Cathedral and discover 1000 years of history and remarkable architecture. You can also marvel at the art and well kept historical items, the Cathedral is an absolute beauty to see and if you have time you may want to attend a service.
CHRISTMAS MARKET AND ICE RINK
Just outside of the Cathedral, solely for Christmas there is an ice rink and Christmas market. A lot of people flock to the Christmas market in Winchester, I was there on the 24th November and it was heaving, so much so, I could barley walk. So I would suggest if you go on a Saturday, head there early in the morning. I managed to pick myself up a beautiful crystal, shaped as a cave from the crystal stand and I was pleased to find the prices in Winchester are cheaper than in London. The Christmas market is on until the 20th December.
NEARBY THE CATHEDRAL
Next to the Cathedral, you will also see Jane Austen’s house and Winchester collage, a lot of people book the guided tours, to discover the oldest public school in England. The Wolvesey castle is a beauty to see (pictured above). Tours start up again next year, but in the meantime you can marvel at the architecture.
The tourism information centre is in the Winchester Guildhall, on the Broadway, they are very helpful in giving advice on where to go and the best way to get there. I had the pleasure of speaking to the ladies there and also visited the wine festival which took place upstairs, where I got to sample some of the local wines.
You can walk in the footsteps of one of the greatest romantic poets, John Keats and feel inspired as you do so with the Keats’ walk. You can book in a two hour guided tour with Visit Winchester. A fun fact for you: Keats visited the very beautiful Winchester in 1819 and walked between St Cross and the city every day during his stay. This was the inspiration for his poem, “To Autumn“.
WHERE TO STAY
LAINSTONE HOUSE HOTEL
Now I must say we were very lucky to stay at The Lainstone House hotel and anyone who knows The Lainstone House hotel will know why. This hotel is pure luxury, class and style, with fifty individually beautiful rooms and suites. It is a beautiful 17th century country house just two miles from Winchester city centre (about a 15mins drive).
I stayed in a luxurious junior suite and the highlight for sure had to be the freestanding bath, with a TV in the bathroom, so yes on my last night it was a night of me-time and pampering.
They offer fine dining in their restaurant: The Avenue. An elegant restaurant you can dine in for lunch or dinner. The chefs combine the finest local ingredients with produce from their own garden, which you can visit in the luxury grounds. On my second morning, I walked the grounds, where I saw the Kitchen garden, tennis courts, pet cemetery and my ultimate favourite the Aviary / Falconry area where I got to see three of their beautiful owls. I also read in their brochure there is a helicopter landing pad, just in case you decide to skip the train in favour of a helicopter.
The hotel also has its own cookery school called SEASON, offering a variety of food masterclasses, I enjoyed a couple of hours in SEASON, where myself and other guests got a one to one with chef Sylvain Gachot, on how best to cook beautiful canapés. Sylvain was throughly entertaining on the night, educating us along with throwing in few jokes for good measure. They offer half day or full day masterclasses, an evening class only costs £50 per person, great value for what you get.
Lainstone house hotel is currently offering 20% off a stay in the hotel, in their winter sale, so don’t miss out – www.exclusive.co.uk/lainston-house
WHERE TO EAT:
LAINSTONE HOUSE HOTEL
Even if you don’t stay at The Lainstone House hotel (a crime if you ask me) then you should definitely treat yourself to their fine dining. I of couse had to try out the A La Carte menue. For my starter I had the scallops, presented beautifully, it was a melt in your mouth dish, fresh, tender and delicious.
For the main I choose the sea bass, nicely charred skin with tender fish to tuck into, another winning dish, my only complaint would be I wish it was a larger plate. of course its fine dining so no can do, but my Gwaaad when food tastes this good, please can I have some more!
The dessert was the perfect finish to the meal. I opted for the Bounty bar, milk chocolate cremeux with coconut ice cream. This chocolatey dessert, hit my sweet spot in a second, it had nice biscuit crunch to it and the coconut ice cream complemented the bounty bar perfectly. The service was exceptional and I certainly felt spoilt, it was very overwhelming, the food was that good!
The Lainstone House Hotel also offers Afternoon tea, I passed a room where it was packed full of ladies for a private Afternoon tea session (it was ever so fancy).
While in the city centre I visited Kyoto Kitchen, a Japanese restaurant. I tried the nigiri sushi, the toppings ranged from mackerel, tuna, octopus and my favourite mellow yellowtail. The dish was pleasant and was beautifully presented. I enjoyed the Winchester roll, where fresh wasabi leaf is wrapped around rice and slivers of locally smoked trout. You could taste how fresh it was and how flavoursome, definitely a dish to talk about. They are have an impressive sake list as well to try out.
You can try fresh wasabi here, which comes with a sharkskin grater and if you cant get enough of fresh wasabi, I’m pleased to say you can also book yourself into a tour of the wasabi farm, thanks to the Wasabi Company.
THE CHESIL RECTORY
Although sadly I didn’t have time to visit The Chesil Rectory, it is highly ranked as a great place to eat for great British dining. It is Winchester’s oldest commercial property and one of the city’s best preserved Medieval buildings.
Having only spent two days in Winchester I can easily say I didn’t of course cover everything, but wanted to give you a nice taster to whet your appetite, you won’t be disappointed with the beauty of its history and countryside walks. Needless to say I will be back to explore some more.
Written by Nyla Sammons
Photography by Nyla Sammons