As the World Cup fever has started to pick up, fans all around are planning their itineraries in and around match locations in England. If you are planning to be there and cheer Team India, here’s a little something to see around Winchester in your free time. The place suits well for those planning to attend the matches to be held in The Rose Bowl, Southampton, hardly 20-minutes-drive away.
Calm, collegiate Winchester is a mellow must-see. The past still echoes strongly around the flint-flecked walls of this ancient cathedral city. It was the capital of Saxon kings and a power base of bishops, and its statues and sights evoke two of England’s mightiest myth makers: Alfred the Great and King Arthur (he of the round table). Winchester’s architecture is exquisite, from the handsome Elizabethan and Regency buildings in the narrow streets to the wondrous cathedral at its core, while its river valley location means there are charming waterside trails to explore.
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The top sights of Winchester are:
One of southern England’s most awe-inspiring buildings, the 11th-century Winchester Cathedral boasts a fine Gothic facade, one of the longest medieval naves in Europe (164m), and a fascinating jumble of features from all eras. Other highlights include the intricately carved medieval choir stalls, which sport everything from mythical beasts to a mischievous green man, Jane Austen’s grave (near the entrance) and one of the UK’s finest illuminated manuscripts. The excellent Tower and Roof Tours get busy – book well ahead.
The fantastical, crumbling remains of early-12th-century Wolvesey Castle huddle in the protective embrace of the city’s walls. Completed by Henry de Blois, it served as the Bishop of Winchester’s residence throughout the medieval era, with Queen Mary I and Philip II of Spain celebrating their wedding feast here in 1554.
Round Table & Great Hall
Winchester’s cavernous Great Hall is the only part of 11th-century Winchester Castle that Oliver Cromwell spared from destruction. Crowning the wall like a giant-sized dartboard of green and cream spokes is what centuries of mythology have dubbed King Arthur’s Round Table. It’s actually a 700-year-old copy, but is fascinating nonetheless. It’s thought to have been constructed in the late 13th century and then painted in the reign of Henry VIII (King Arthur’s image is unsurprisingly reminiscent of Henry’s youthful face).
Jane Austen’s House
A stone’s throw from Winchester Cathedral is the house where Jane Austen, one of England’s best-loved authors, spent her last six weeks before she died in 1817. It’s now a private residence. You can also visit her grave; it’s near the entrance of the cathedral, in the northern aisle.
Winchester City Museum
A people-centred canter through Winchester’s past with jewellery, mosaics, sculpture, coins and tobacco tins charting a narrative from the Iron Age, via the Romans and Anglo-Saxons, to the present day.