Looking for a stronghold from which to rule his Saxon kingdom, Alfred the Great revived the Roman ruins of Winchester and transformed it into one of Britain’s most important cities. The streets are steeped in history from the spectacular medieval Great Hall with its round table (pictured), which legend links with King Arthur and his knights, to the magnificent cathedral, commissioned under the reign of William the Conqueror. Winchester College, founded in 1382, has dose connections with the cathedral and still dominates the city centre.
The Test Valley
The River Test is one of Britain’s most delightful chalk-stream rivers, famed for its excellent trout fishing. The river steadily carves its way through the manicured gardens of impressive estates, such as Mottisfont Abbey, now owned by the National Trust, and quaint villages of thatched cottages and flint-stone churches. At the heart of the valley is Stockbridge, a pretty town built along the banks of the river and lined with local shops and traditional tearooms. Nearby, the stately Houghton Lodge, which was originally built as a fishing lodge, is worth seeing with a stop for lunch at the Boot Inn in the village.
The Wykeham Arms
Although the Wykeham Arms sounds as if it might have been named after a Jane Austen character, William of Wykeham was, in fact, the founder of Winchester College. Born around 1323, he was no slouch, also achieving the titles of Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England. The historic pub, tucked between the famous school and Winchester Cathedral, was built in 1755. Standing on the corner of Kingsgate Street and Canon Street, it’s said the inn used to be a brothel – and also that Nelson once stayed the night (whether the two events coincided, we wouldn’t like to say). Today, it is a classic British pub – full of character, with luxurious, stylish bedrooms and top-notch food.
The Greyhound on the Test
At the heart of fishing country, the Greyhound on the Test is a charming country inn from which to explore the delights of the Test Valley. In the picturesque town of Stockbridge, the pub has been welcoming guests for over 600 years and, more recently, has won accolades galore, including Sunday Times Pub of the Year in 2015. The Greyhound has recently added three exquisite furnished bedrooms to its roster, bringing the total to 10, each combining impeccable style and sublime comfort.
On the edges of the New Forest, Chewton Glen is a beautiful country house hotel with over 130 acres of woodland, gardens and parkland extending down to the Solent coastline, as well as a rich literary history. Built in the early 18th century, the house first appears in documents in 1732 and hosted Captain Frederick Marryat during 1840 as he researched his famous novel The Children of the New Forest set in the English Civil War. Today, many of the hotel’s rooms are named after characters from the book, as well as the captain’s other novels. There are 70 rooms and suites in total, with 12 of them taking the form of the hotel’s famous luxury treehouses.