Things to see and do in Basingstoke
PUBLISHED: 10:52 13 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:52 13 June 2017
It won't be difficult to get busy in Basingstoke for a summer break, suggests Emma Caulton. There is so much to see and do
Usually when we take time out, we choose to get away from it all. Sometimes, however, somewhere that’s got it all going on is a better fit, especially for families. Basingstoke may not be an obvious destination (it doesn’t have the looks of a typical staycation for starters with its modern spires and mirrored towers), but this is a place that is more about doing than viewing. And with something for sporty types, shopaholics and history geeks, the main difficulty is how to fit it all in. If you’re a family, Basingstoke Aquadrome is a fun place to start. This pool complex includes lagoon pool, flumes, rapids, waves, spa and interactive water features. It’s in Basingstoke’s leisure park which houses activities such as ice-skating and ten pin bowling in warehouse-sized units. Not pretty, but practical. More unexpected opportunities include ‘sky diving’ on a cushion of air in a wind tunnel, skiing on Skiplex slopes, surfing without the wet stuff and free climbing on a rotating climbing wall (no ropes, no harness, no heights) at iFLY.
Shop until you stop for lunch. Basingstoke is brilliant for the fashionista. Don’t scoff. This was the birthplace of Burberry, and that wardrobe classic, the trench coat. Festival Place is a light-filled mall with brands including H&M, Top Shop and Zara. Other treats include Hotel Chocolat and Lush. Feeling peckish? Try Festival Square. Finds among the more familiar names include Festival Street Kitchen, with daily big pan specials, and good value Coal grill and bar. Outside is an amphitheatre for picnicking. Beyond are sporadically splashing fountains that entice children to dare to get wet and Eastrop Park - a verdant oasis with paddling pool and boating lake.
For shopping, don’t restrict yourself to Festival Place (good as it is). John Lewis has opened at Basing View, while independents such as Vintage Treasures can be found in the area called ‘Top of the Town’. Wine buffs should track down Berry Bros & Rudd’s splendid warehouse shop in Houndmills. Housed in the former bottling hall, there’s a range of more than 300 wines and spirits, plus bin-ends with reductions of up to 30 per cent.
Just because Basingstoke has the appearance of a 1960s new town doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a past. Milestones Living History Museum (also on the Leisure Park) reveals Hampshire life in bygone days with street scenes, railway station and more, in a hangar-like structure (perfect for grey days).
Discover a grander past north of Basingstoke at Sherborne St John. Here is The Vyne, a Tudor mansion built for Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain now in the care of the National Trust. The house is currently under wraps while the roof is being repaired, but visitors can take a unique rooftop adventure (see page 18) and down below in the 16th century chapel, there’s a new ‘soundscape’ of a Tudor Lady Mass, as Henry VIII would have heard it almost 500 years ago, with prayers, chants, and clink of thurible chain – very atmospheric.
Eat & sleep
In the town centre there are cuisines for every taste including Japanese-inspired, Indian, Mexican and Thai. Surrounding villages yield an abundance of good country pubs, from Crown Inn in Old Basing (Good Food Guide regular) to recently renovated Mole Inn at Monk Sherborne.
For fine dining try The Glasshouse, 2AA Rosette restaurant at Oakley Hall, Oakley. Oakley Hall was built in 1795 by Wither Bramston (after his marriage to Mary Chute of The Vyne). Jane Austen was a frequent visitor and Oakley Hall is thought to be referenced in Mansfield Park. It has great rooms too.
Hampshire Court Hotel in Chineham, part of Q Hotels, is set around a suntrap courtyard and has five indoor tennis courts, two pools, exercise studios and gym.
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