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Things to do in Romsey

PUBLISHED: 10:01 22 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:01 22 March 2016

Romsey Abbey dominates the market town

Romsey Abbey dominates the market town

Emma Caulton

The picturesque market town of Romsey is compact yet full of treats - a great destination for time out, says Emma Caulton

The Posh Shop

If shopping is your bag, Romsey packs a lot in. For a start this is a quaint market town with proper weekly markets every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday in the Cornmarket. Plus its selection of good quality independents offers individual style for both self and home. Browse Bell Street, Church Street and The Hundred for finds. There are irresistible designer boutiques. Regatta has labels such as 120%Lino, Marella and Sportmax. Anya has hip Candice Cooper shoes and stylish Paul Smith bags. There are accessories such as ornate scarves from Jam Gallery and gorgeous jewellery at Offord & Sons. For menswear, Royle & Cavendish has casual labels like Weird Fish while Cavendish impresses with Ralph Lauren and Georgio Armani - plus alterations, repairs and made to measure. Department store Bradbeers has everything from cookshop to cosmetics, award-winning lingerie department, fashion and furnishings. Consortium is an enclave of shabby chic with Lloyd Loom chairs, old chests of drawers and patchwork quilts. There are ‘lifestyle’ stores offering a mix of goodies such as Bergman & Brown (desirable metallic tote bags and pom-pom-trimmed throws) and Just a Little Bit Different, which only opened last year, with an eclectic selection from coffee to candles. And don’t miss Kit & Caboodle’s two temptingly colourful shops stuffed with kids’ stuff and gifts. 


Discover

If you want to take a break from shopping, right in the centre of town, opposite Romsey Abbey, is King John’s House and Heritage Centre. This is an oasis: 750 years of history in three buildings - King John’s House, dating from the 13th century, a Tudor cottage and Victorian museum. History feels alive. There is also an old-fashioned tea room and truly delightful gardens. Look out, too, for a programme of craft workshops.


Lunch

Foodie Romsey has whatever takes your fancy. Dish Deli and Kitchen on Latimer Street serves up breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea with an emphasis on local produce. For the most amazing ice creams visit Sundae’s Child. Ice creams are made on the premises daily and an ever changing list of weird and wonderful flavours includes the likes of liquorice and pear, and raspberry jam doughnut! Cafes include the Daisy Cake Company in candy pink and sugar mouse white, and Rum’s Eg cafe on the first floor of this gallery-style arts and crafts shop - for homemade soup among the artwork.


Homes & Gardens

Romsey is good at gardens. Apart from the garden ‘rooms’ of King John’s House there are the Memorial Gardens – five acres of public park bordered on three sides by the River Test. There’s a restored bandstand, children’s playground, and the most recent addition is a magnificent war horse memorial, unveiled by Princess Anne last summer. But just outside Romsey are the big guns: gardens of national and international importance. First: Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. This must-visit is 180 acres of dazzling seasonal planting displays including, in spring, a profusion of camellias and rhododendrons and a magnolia avenue. There are national plant and tree collections, stunning views, a children’s garden, a lovely cafe and gallery space and a lively events calendar. Second: Mottisfont Abbey. Set in an idyllic location alongside the Test, this National Trust property, crafted from a Medieval priory, is known worldwide for its walled rose gardens. However it is becoming a year-round destination, partly for its art exhibitions. This expanding role has been celebrated with the opening in January of a new welcome centre including an eight metre long artwork.


Play

Finish off the day with a splash at The Rapids for family fun with flumes, bubble seats, pirate galleon, sprays and currents. If you want a more relaxing experience there’s also a steam room, sauna and beauty treatments.


Eat, Sleep, Relax

There are opportunities to enjoy an organ recital or a concert at Romsey Abbey (one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in southern England), including the London Welsh Male Voice Choir and City of Southampton Orchestra. Otherwise an evening in Romsey is a chance to tuck in to some great food. Unsurprisingly for a town that has a history of brewing, Romsey has a decent selection of pubs including The Three Tuns, which has a Michelin Bib Gourmand, and The Old House at Home, a thatched inn dating from the 17th century and serving up traditional pub grub. There’s also a restaurant with rooms, Berties, known for its modern British food. What is more unexpected is the variety of cuisines available including a well-established French bistro, La Parisienne, authentic classical Thai at Suan Thai, and tasty modern Indian food at Nat Raj. Turn in for the night at The White Horse, a comfortable boutique hotel with 2AA Rosette brasserie offering new grill menu and dishes inspired by local, seasonal ingredients, right in the heart of Romsey. All exposed beams and character, it has been the town’s principal inn since medieval times. Some of the surviving timbers are thought to date from 1450, but the ancient stone cellars suggest it could have been hosting visitors to Romsey Abbey as early as the 12th century.


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