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What the market town of Romsey has to offer

PUBLISHED: 16:10 15 December 2016 | UPDATED: 09:28 16 December 2016

Archant

As the market town gears up for Christmas along with the big boys, we went to see what it has to offer shoppers and tourists. The answer is a lot

What is it the estate agents say? Location, location, location. It counts for a lot, whether you’re selling or buying a home or choosing a community to live in. Romsey certainly ticks the location box, nestling seven miles from Southampton and 11 from Winchester. It’s close enough to commute and shop, but far enough to maintain its own identity.

The town is steeped in history of course and many famous names have made it their home over the years. We’re not talking about reality-TV famous here; former Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Florence Nightingale have all lived in or near Romsey.

But as Christmas approaches, Romsey wants to make its voice heard as a shopping and leisure destination alongside its bigger neighbours. And for a town of its size, it has a lot to offer, with independents surviving and thriving among the high street names.

The market town feel is very much alive here, with markets every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday in the Cornmarket. For shopping, there are an encouragingly wide range of independents, particularly around Bell Street, Church Street and The Hundred.

There are designer boutiques packed with clothes, shoes, handbags, scarves, jewellery and accessories galore. Department store Bradbeers has everything from cookshop to cosmetics, an award-winning lingerie department, fashion and furnishings.

If you’re all shopped out and just want some of that history, it’s right there in the town centre; opposite Romsey Abbey is King John’s House and Heritage Centre, with 750 years of history in 13th century King John’s House, a Tudor cottage and Victorian museum, with tea room and gardens thrown in.

Talking of gardens, Romsey has plenty to offer. Apart from those 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 a magnificent war horse memorial, unveiled by Princess Anne last summer. Just outside Romsey lie gardens of national and international importance. Sir Harold Hillier Gardens has 180 acres of seasonal planting displays including, in spring, a profusion of camellias and rhododendrons and a magnolia avenue. There are national plant and tree collections, great views, a children’s garden, a cafe and gallery and a lively events calendar. The National Trust’s Mottisfont Abbey is set in an idyllic location alongside the Test and is world famous for its walled rose gardens.

For lunch and snacks, there is plenty on offer, from Dish Deli and Kitchen on Latimer Street for breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea to ice creams at Sundae’s Child. Cafes include the Daisy Cake Company and Rum’s Eg cafe.

The evening is all about great food. With a long brewing history, Romsey has a good selection of pubs including The Three Tuns, which has a Michelin Bib Gourmand, and The Old House at Home, a 17th century thatched inn serving traditional pub grub. Stay at The White Horse, the town’s principal inn since medieval times, now a comfortable boutique hotel with 2AA Rosette brasserie right in the heart of Romsey.

5 things to see in Romsey

1. History: Romsey Abbey romseyabbey.org.uk

2. Gardens: Sir Harold Hillier Gardens hants.gov.uk/hilliergardens

3. Shop: Bradbeers bradbeers.com

4. Stay & eat: The White Horse thewhitehorseromsey.co.uk

5. Kids: Romsey Rapids valleyleisure.co.uk/centres

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