A weekend in Winchester
PUBLISHED: 11:29 03 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:32 03 October 2013
The ancient capital of England charms visitors and locals alike, with its array of independent shops, hidden lanes and cutesy cafés. Natalie French shares ten of the best places and events to add to your itinerary
One independent shop you can’t miss is The Hambledon on The Square. Step inside this über-cool emporium and lose yourself amongst the fabulous books, funky wrapping paper, quirky kid’s toys and lust-worthy BeckSondergaard scarves.
Since opening in September 1999 the shop has been changing and expanding and now proudly boasts a new, grown-up, bath and beauty department to add to the womenswear, menswear and homeware departments.
Stationery fiends should make their way to the Tudor rooms at the rear of the building, where you can browse the beautiful books and check out the temporary pop-up project space – showcasing Hudson shoes in September; Christy’s Hats in October and All things beautiful Christmas in November and December.
Located in the heart of the city, you’ll find the perfect Georgian retreat. Hotel du Vin is a boutique townhouse which exudes understated chic. All 24 rooms are named after world-famous vineyards such as Pommery and Villa Maria. Go for the opulent Courvoisier Suite and you can soak away the evening in a sumptuous roll top bath, found at the foot of the emperor-sized bed.
The hotel’s intimate appeal extends to the cosy Hotel Du Vin Bistro, drawing room and champagne bar, as well as the pretty walled garden and candle-lit leather smoking bothy.
Room (only) from £149, breakfast from £10.95 per person. For booking information visit www.hotelduvin.com.
South Downs Way National Trail This iconic route runs all the way from King Alfred’s statue at the bottom of Broadway, Winchester to the Western End of Eastbourne Promenade. Covering 100 miles of tranquil countryside the trail boasts spectacular views from the South Downs ridge. Highlights include: Winchester Cathedral, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age Monuments, plus you’ll pass plenty of pretty villages – offering the perfect opportunity to refuel with a hearty pub lunch. Not only is the South Downs Way the only National Trail to lie entirely within a National Park, you will also be following in the footsteps of folk from over 8000 years ago. The route takes an average of eight days to complete on foot, and three days by bike, but you can always complete small sections if you only have a day or so spare. Visit www.national trail.co.uk/southdowns to plan your route.
Winchester Comedy Festival After last year’s sell out show, Winchester’s Comedy Gala returns to the Theatre Royal on October 5, with a line up of some of the best acts on the comedy circuit including: Isy Suttie; Katherine Ryan; Paul McCaffrey and Jared Christmas. The four day Comedy Festival also welcomes: hilarious comedy puppeteer, Nina Conti – who appeared on Let’s Dance for Comic Relief with her cynical monkey puppet, Monk; rapper with a twist, Doc Brown and Simon Evans, known for his bitingly observational wit. Even the kids (6 years +) can get in on the action at the Comedy Club 4 Kids on October 6...guaranteed belly laughing, just without the rude bits! The Comedy Festival is on from October 3 – 6 at Theatre Royal, Jewry Street. Head to www.winchester comedyfestival.co.uk for information on times and prices.
Fancy checking out the UK’s official largest Farmers’ Market? Well, on the second and final Sunday of each month head to Middle Brook Street in Winchester for 95 stalls of foodie heaven. Savour the finest local produce the county has to offer: from watercress to buffalo steaks, whilst meeting the colourful characters that create the mouth-watering produce. Not only does Winchester fly the flag as the biggest Farmer’s Market, it was also voted best in the country by the Guardian Food Magazine – and some Saturdays you can also find the market taking pride of place in Winchester Cathedral Close. To find out more visit www.hampshire farmersmarkets.co.uk
Meander through the charming cobbled alleyways and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with the magnificent medieval Cathedral – worth a visit for the beautiful architecture alone. Book a crypt tour to see British sculptor, Anthony Gormley’s solitary life-sized man contemplating the water held cupped in his hands. If the heavens have opened, the crypt can flood, leaving the ‘Sound II’ up to his knees in water. Until September 30, the Cathedral will also be home to a solo exhibition by world acclaimed potter, Julian Stair. Quietus: The Vessel. Death and the Human Body features a series of funerary works, from cinerary jars to life-size sarcophagi, which draw upon the symbolic language of the ceramic vessels and offer an alternative means of engaging with this challenging subject. To look at opening times and for visitor information visit www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk.
The Lazy Lunch
Just a stone’s throw from the Cathedral, you’ll find The Old Vine, a delightful Grade II listed 18th century Inn, which makes the perfect stop for a lazy lunch. Order a pint of real ale or a glass of fine wine and make your way to the sunny, flower-filled terrace to feast on a delicious tapas-style lunch: crispy baby squid with sweet chilli sauce; home-made local smoked paté with capers, dill and lemon and a Mezze plate of falafel, olives, fresh tomato, shallots and coriander salsa and hummus.
To see the full menu visit www.oldvinewinchester.com
In-the-know locals flock to Ginger Two. Tucked just off the High Street on St. Thomas Street, you’ll spot smug Wintonians munching toasted teacakes in this cutesy cafe, or collecting their ritual Latte Macchiato to go.
This Hampshire Fare member’s menu extends beyond coffees and cakes: they now do gorgeous afternoon teas – as well as a glass or two of vino. Loyal locals and sweet-toothed tourists alike, will be pleased to hear that owners Jane and Mark Stayman plan to open another shop, Ginger Gelato, in the early Autumn, serving Italian ice cream, crépes, smoothies and milkshakes.
Visit www.gingertwofortea.co.uk to find out more and purchase some of their witty prints that adorn the walls.
Scholars and Angels Sculpture Exhibition
A unique opportunity to enjoy the work of respected sculptor, Peter Eugene Ball, in the beautiful setting of the Schools Medieval Chantry. Scholars and Angels mingles the sacred and devine with more secular witty pieces to create a stunning exhibition.
Sunday 15th September – Thursday 3rd October, daily at 10.30am, 11.15am, 2pm and 3pm. Saturday and Sunday 2pm and 3pm. Free admission. Winchester College, College Street, Winchester, 01962 814638
A Nice Cuppa Char
Tea aficionados will love Char. Sniff your way around this enchanting tea-shop on the High Street, marvelling at row-upon-row of perfumed infusions - from Jasmine Pearls to Moroccan Mint. Char promise to provide the best teas from China, India and around the world – offering you the chance to discover a delightful new brew to kick start your day. Char’s most popular selling variety, is their own breakfast tea, aptly named ‘Winchester Breakfast’ – a rich and malty black Assam tea.
Visit www.charteas.com to buy online and browse the range.
Winchester City Mill will become the atmospheric setting for an autumn photography exhibition from September 28 to October 26, showcasing stunning landscapes and dramatic scenes, many from the south east region, by award-winning photographers. Landscape, nature and fine art photographer, Terry Tucker, will exhibit his ‘Dusk ‘til dawn’ series – images from near sunset to sunrise; whilst local artist, Louise Lobban, uses pinhole photography and camera-less-image-making to create ‘miniature’ landscapes of elements of the interior of the Winchester City Mill, itself. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchester-city-mill to find out more about admission.
The patisserie pit stop: For the best pear and almond tart in town, make your way to the Patisserie on the Bridge. If the sun is shining, opt for a take away tart and stroll around the corner along the riverside - a great place to watch the world wander by whilst you devour delicate pastries.