April - October
Monday - Saturday 10-5
February & March
Tuesday - Saturday 10-4
The Westgate is closed
1st November - 31st January
The Westgate is one of only two surviving pieces of the city's wall. There is evidence which points to it having been built in the 12th century. Thoughout time it has had many purposes, the most outrageous being a coffee shop, but today it houses a museum about the city wall and the defense of the city. You can climb a very narrow staircase up to the roof of the Westgate where you can get a very nice view of the High Street and nearby Great Hall. Admission is free.
Months Open: 1 Apr-30 Sep, daily, 1000-1800; Oct, daily, 1000-1700.
Wolvesey Castle is the former residence of the Bishops of Winchester. It is in ruin, but some of the building is more in tact that other areas. Queen Mary and Philip of Spain held their wedding breakfast in the East Hall on July 25th 1554. They were married in the cathedral.
The river winds through Hampshire and flows through the heart of Winchester. The best place to access the river is on the High Street just at the Bishop on the Bridge pub. This river is unlike any river I have ever seen. First of all, it is very shallow. The water comes practically right up to the walkway that goes along it. It also runs VERY fast. It is hillarious to watch the swans and ducks trying to navigate their way through the fast moving waters. And because it is so shallow, they can literally stand in parts where the quick moving water rushes around their legs.
The walkway along the river extends about one mile through town from the High Street to Wolvesey Castle. It continues behind the college, but becomes more of a dirt trail from there on out. There are many benches along the walkway and often you can spot people feeding the ducks and walking dogs. By the way, English dogs are so well-behaved! Many people have their dogs off of the leash and they simply trot alongside their owners without even a care to any distractions around them. Everytime I saw a cute dog, I would hope that it would come up to me for a pet, but they never would. They literally igore everyone but their owners. It is quite different from America.
Winchester City Mill
The mill has recently been restored to working order. It was first built in medieval times and was restored for the first time in 1743.
National Trust members can enter for free.
On site is a mill-race and small island garden, restored water wheel and a National Trust gift shop.
Winchester City Museum
Location: Situated in the centre of Winchester between the High Street and the Cathedral
The museum tells the story of the town of Winchester from its humble beginnings during the Roman Empire through the present day. The exhibits include Roman tile and tools, information on Winchester's role as capital of Wessex, and diplays which outline its position as a thriving community throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
April to October:
Monday -Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 12pm to 5pm
November to March:
Tuesday - Saturday 10am to 4pm, Sunday 12pm to 4pm
Free (School parties should be booked in advance)
Winchester (01962) 848269
The buildings of this college were opened in 1393. William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor to Richard II, was the money and brains behind the college. The students today are called "Wykehamists." The buildings of this pretigious boys' school have a the feeling of Harry Potter's Hogwarts. There is a lot of history behind its walls.
A very informative tour of the school's facilities and grounds is available a couple of times a day for around 5 pounds per adult.
Abbey Gardens - A nice, relaxing spot
The Abbey Gardens are adjacent to the Winchester Mayor's official residence. It is a public garden and during the warm summer months is full of people sunning themselves on the lawn.
There is an abundance of open, green, lawn to sit upon and many beautiful flower beds around the garden. The gardens are attractive in all seasons. There is a play area for children and many park benches for resting. A nice thing to go is to pick up some fish n' chips from the nearby chip shop and enjoy them from among the flowers and greenery.
Theatre Royal - Winchester
The theatre went through a major refurbishment and re-opened in October 2001. We saw a performance of a one-man-show version of Bill Bryson's "Notes from a Small Island." This was a perfect piece for two yanks living in England to see. The book is all about Bryson's experience of being American and living in England. He travels all over the UK in the book and reports on all of his crazy experiences. The show was fantastic and we laughed so hard and so many of the all-too-familiar characteristics of the British.
The theatre books a variety of shows, including children plays, musicals and touring performers. See their website for their upcoming performance schedule.
Also known as the Old Bishop's Palace, Wolvesey Castle dates back to the 12th century and was the chief residence of the Bishops of Winchester. The last known important event to have taken place at the castle was the wedding breakfast of Queen Mary and Philip II of Spain on July 25, 1554. The castle was to be destroyed less than a century later, in 1646, during the English Civil War. However, the ruins of Wolvesey Castle have been preserved to this day and it is now possible to explore the castle's "rooms" free of charge. Interpretive pannels were set up throughout the ruins to explain what used to be there.
It's hard to explain the feeling of walking through the ruins of a 12th century castle, especially if you happen to be a North American like me and are not used to things being more than a few centuries old. Again, I wish my camera hadn't broken down when it did because it is quite a photogenic place. The grounds are open every day of the week, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
Winchester Cathedral, it won't get you down!
This massive and beautiful structure has been a place of worship for over 900 years. Built by the Normans and consecrated in 1093, the Cathedral serves as a religious and community center. Thousands of tourists flock there every year.
The building and its grounds are very accessible from the city centre and all public transportation. Entrance is by a suggested donation of £3.50 per adult. There is a fee for the library and museum of £1.00 per person, but all of the tours are free. The guided tours are led by local Winchester senior citizen volunteers. All are very knowledgeable, however not all are good at leading tours. It is hit or miss with the guides. If you are lucky enough to get a well-versed guide, they will tell you all about the amazing history of the structure.
Upon entering, you will find yourself in the nave. The nave is where the community gathers to worship. It is the longest nave in all of Europe. The nave is flanked by two long hallways on each side which are filled with graves and memorials to various town residents, bishops, priests, and military persons. The most visited of these memorials is Jane Austen's, which is highly recognizable because it is always adorned with flowers. The nave and hallways are architecturally styled in the second Gothic movement. This, however is not the original architecture. Luckily for us today, both the crypt and the transcepts have been left in the Norman style with its large, simple arches.
One of my favorite sections of the cathedral can be found just inside of the left transcept. Inside of the Holy Seplicure Chapel you can now see original Medieval paintings depicting the removal of Christ from the cross. In the mid-1960's while cleaning the paintings, a crack in the plaster was discovered. The preservationists peeled off the plaster to reveal an even older painting beneath the one that they were working on. The plaster had preserved the paint for hundreds of years, it is in remarkable condition.
- Religious Travel
- Museum Visits
- Budget Travel
Winchester's Great Hall
If travelling to Winchester, the Great Hall should be your first stop after visiting the Cathedral. It is in this location that you will find King Arthur's Round Table. The Great Hall and its accompanying architecture is free of charge to visit. There is a shop on the grounds, which sells books and trinkets relating to the castle and the town. The Great Hall is the only standing part of the castle which once stood on the grounds.
Building of the castle was begun in 1067 by William the Conqueror and was developed by successive kings. Oliver Cromwell had the castle destroyed, but left behind the Great Hall. You can also see the remains of some of the castle towers.
Today the Great Hall houses the famous Round Table, the Garden of Queen Eleanor, and two gates which commemorate the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana. The table, which hangs on the wall now, was once a functioning table. It has been taken down on occasion and wood samples from it have been carbon-dated to the time that King Arthur should have been king.
Of course, Arthur held the throne during the bleak times of the Dark Ages, when there was no written history recorded. All that we know from that time comes from word of mouth passed down for hundreds and hundreds of years. While we do know that there was a King Arthur, the facts about his knights and their table are not that clear. We do not know for sure if this table was Arthur's and we do not know what it is used for. The painting on the table includes the names of all of the knights and a portrait of Arthur, which if you look closely, also resembles another English King. King Henry VIII commissioned the painting on the table during his reign and he requested that Arthur's face be made to look exactly like his. So that when he brought in visitors to view the table, he would stand beneath it, allowing the visitors to see how much he "resembled" the great and famous King Arthur.
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Walk along the river............
......because it really is rather pretty. It's called the 'Weirs Walk', because there is a weir. Obviously!
The Romans re-cut the channel of the river Itchen, to reduce flooding in their town. It's a particularly clear and fast-flowing river, with fish and ducks (and fishermen too, which one doesn't really expect to see in a town centre), prettily overhanging trees and lush banks (on the private-garden side).
It's a nice, gentle circular sort of walk, from or to the main town centre, taking in the Cathedral Close, Wolvesey Castle and Winchester College buildings as well as some rather nice town-council planting. Worth a stroll, whatever time of year you visit (it's tarmac, so no need to worry about muddy shoes).
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
Take a walk along the River Itchen
To get from the Guildhall to Wolvesey Castle, we took the path that goes along the River Itchen. Although it is just a short walk, it is quite scenic - we got to walk past the historic City Mill and we then walked along "The Weirs", a riverside promenade nestled between the river and the ancient city walls. The lush vegetation and the historic character of the place truly made this short stroll quite pleasant!
- Hiking and Walking
- Historical Travel
Nice place to live.
If you are visiting Winchester to see the military museums, most of them are in what was formerly the army barracks complex known as Peninsula Barracks. The Army have been gone since 1985, but the buildings still remain.
Named for the Peninsular campaign in Spain and Portugal against the French, the buildings were in military service for many years. During World War II, American troops were stationed there prior to D-Day, and Churchill reviewed them on the square.
Most of the buildings are private residences and, as the picture shows, very pleasant they are too!
- Historical Travel
Start your visit at the Winchester Guildhall
As soon as we got off the train, my friend Sylvia and I headed for the tourist information centre located at the Winchester Guildhall. We found all the information we needed to plan our day-trip there - a map of the city centre, tour hours, and restaurant recommendations. During Summer (May to September), the centre is open everyday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm (11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sundays). The guildhall is located near all the attractions, which makes it the best place to start your visit!
(If you wish to get a head start, you can also order a free visitor guide off their Website).
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