Fringe Box



Further Afield For A Day Out In Winchester

Published on: 17 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 18 May, 2016

In our occasional series on places to visit that are about a hour’s drive from Guildford, feature writer JILL BENSON takes a trip to Winchester

We arrived in Winchester on a bitter, white-knuckle sort of a day in February.

The Chesil Restaurant.

The Chesil Rectory restaurant.

Strolling into town, we came across one of the city’s best-preserved medieval buildings – the Chesil Rectory, now a rather classy, yet intimate, restaurant. With echoes of the recent TV production, Wolf Hall, the only lighting inside is by candlelight. (This can sometimes lead to difficulty in reading the menu – but more of that later!)

We doubled back past the Chesil and up the hill, keen to make the most of the daylight.

At least that was the plan, until the cold and curiosity drove us into the warmth of the Black Boy pub, where we were found interesting local ales, glorious open fires, and an extraordinary and eclectic range of stuffed animals, old wooden signs, bits of Surrey bus stops, and other paraphanalia hanging from the ceiling.

A wonderful place to snuggle into a sofa, read a newspaper, or just play cards.

King Alfred statue.

King Alfred statue.

However, after a while, I nudged the BF into action, and we made our way into the town centre. The statue of King Alfred, wielding his sword, and towering above us, looms large. (We are hoping he will keep an eye on our car!).

Just down from Alfred, our eyes are drawn to a building which dominates the street – a handsome, Victorian Gothic pile, known as the Guildhall. Embellished with ornate columns, decorated stonework and the ubiquitous clock tower, this was built to impress.

The Guildhall.

The Guildhall.

Visitors to the Guildhall can see several interesting oil and watercolour paintings spanning the 17th- to 20th-centuries.

But we are drawn back to a little bit of green, in the form of the Abbey Gardens, where the River Itchen flows past daffodil-lined banks.

The gardens are graced by a handsome red-brick Georgian house and a pretty herb garden. On a more idiosyncratic note, I am reliably informed that the men’s loos here (housed in a rather handsome building) play classical music! Classy…

Strolling up the High Street, we discover the handsome Elizabeth Frink statue – Horse and Rider – which stands beside a lime tree. Startling in its simplicity, and sheer presence, the sculpture has been a feature since 1975.

Jane Austen's house.

Jane Austen’s house.

On our way to Winchester College, we come across an attractive mustard-coloured building, which you could easily pass by. Above the doorway a blue plaque reads, “In this house Jane Austen lived her last days and died 18 July 1817”.

Winchester Cathedral.

Winchester Cathedral.

Daylight is fading fast, and so we make our way back to the magnificent cathedral. Passing through the precinct, we find the charming Bishop Garnier garden, tucked away to one side.  We are surprised, and amused, to find a stone fox in the garden. Perhaps you will find him, too!

We stop to admire the picturesque, wisteria-clad, Cheyney Court on our left, before passing through Kingsgate Arch. Nestling under the arches is a fine prints and book shop.

However, the BF has something else in mind, and so we make a beeline for one of our favourite watering holes in Winchester – the Wykeham Arms.

On such a cold day, this ancient pub offers roaring log fires, a warm welcome and some lovely real ales. It houses some of the original desks from Winchester College, and an eclectic range of traditional memorabilia celebrating the age of British heroes.

When I say how pleased we are there is no music, and also no young children, the barman remarks proudly, “Yes, no music, and no under-14s – only dogs!”

We round off our day by dining in the Chesil Rectory – voted Britain’s third most romantic restaurant by The Times. I think we would have preferred better lighting, as we could hardly see the menu, but the service was excellent, the food was very good in parts, and it was definitely an evening to remember.

Winchester has good road and rail connections, and you can drive from Guildford in an hour.

In addition to the pubs/restaurants already mentioned, we thought Fish Tale (near Alfred’s statue), and also Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage in the Abbey Gardens would be worth a try.

Hope you enjoy the city as much as we did. Happy wandering!

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Responses to Further Afield For A Day Out In Winchester

  1. Gordon Bridger Reply

    March 18, 2016 at 8:45 am

    A delightful town and an article with many good ideas but it was with incredulity that I failed to find any mention of its greatest and most famous building, the cathedral, one of the best in the world. It gets no mention. Why?

    Did the author miss it? Surely not. It’s a very big, Gothic style, building with lots of turrets and a green lawn just of the High Street.

    • Jill Benson Reply

      May 16, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      As Mr Bridger may now have realised, I tend to write about places visitors may have missed, rather than the more obvious ones.

      In fact, I did mention the cathedral – if only in passing – and featured a picture, too. Yes, the cathedral is beautiful, and I have enjoyed my visits there.

      It was kind of you to supply directions.

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    March 18, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    And what about King Arthur’s Round Table, a copy, but impressive, in the Great Hall.

    • Jill Benson Reply

      May 16, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      As with my reply to Mr Bridger (see above), I prefer to seek out some of the sights that are not on the tourist trail. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t visited the sights you both mention – far from it.

  3. Malcolm Fincham Reply

    March 19, 2016 at 12:07 am

    I think this was a most enjoyable and well written article but, with ‘tongue in cheek’, feel I must add that Peregrines have been nesting in one of Winchester Cathedral’s turrets for around eleven years and produced four chicks last breeding season. They have already reared 38 chicks together at the cathedral and have entertained onlookers with raising, feeding and defending their young.

    RSPB staff and volunteers are on hand at the Cathedral during breeding season to help visitors use the binoculars and telescopes available to get a close up view of the birds flying and perching on the high pinnacles and turrets of the cathedral.

    Well worth a visit.

    • Jill Benson Reply

      May 16, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      I’m glad Malcolm Fincham enjoyed my piece, and I would like to thank him for letting me know about the peregrines. Is the breeding season around about now?

  4. Stephen Mott Reply

    September 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Am I to believe that the “art” of the journalist’s Lunch has not been lost on Ms Benson and BF?

    Do I also detect a scheme as the two visits so far have been Chichester and Winchester?

    Surely the next stop should be Silchester where the only imbibing will be “virtual” (should cut down on expenses).

    And don’t forget to mention the Roman burial pit or Caesar Cavern …… a later version in Russia was renamed as the Tsar Chasm.

  5. Jill Benson Reply

    November 26, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Dear Mr Mott,

    I’ve just seen your response, which I enjoyed.

    By co-incidence I used to work in the ‘old’ Fleet Street for two national papers, where there was a fair amount of ‘imbibing’, but not by me, although I am certainly not a teetotaller. (Oh, dear, Google doesn’t like that one, but I won’t succumb to the American spelling.)

    I feel privileged to have worked in the days of ‘hot metal’ printing and ‘the stone’, etc., now gone for ever, and to have met some of the ‘greats’ from the world of journalism.

    Your comment on ‘expenses’ is an interesting one – no expenses have been offered, and I visit, research and write these articles entirely out of my own pocket.

    I’m not a fan of ‘virtual’, so Silchester if off the list, I’m afraid.

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