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A Few Great Things To Do in Winchester

I've been itching to get back to writing more travel posts as it's been a hot minute since my last one, but with the less than desirable weather for the most part of 2O17 thus far, it's made it difficult to be enthusiastic about photography out and about. That has instantly impacted my ability to think creatively too but now that the sunshine seems to be making a comeback, I thought I'd give you a run down of some great things you can do in and around the Winchester area just in case you're ever knocking around my neighbourhood and need a few pointers of stuff to do.

Architecture - Winchester Cathedral
Okay so naturally I need to start with possibly the main attraction in Winchester - the gorgeous Cathedral. As Winchester was the capital of Britain once upon a time, you can imagine just how grand and wonderful the cathedral is if you've never visited it before. I was lucky enough to graduate in the beautiful building, but it is open to the public every day and you can photograph both inside and out 'til your heart's content. At particular times each day, you can go up to the top of the tower and the views across Winchester are breathtaking. You can also get a guide whilst up there to give you a bit of background info and a history lesson if that's your sort of thing. To visit the cathedral there is a charge, but it is worth the look around. Outside of the cathedral is also gorgeous and the lawns make a great place to sit during summer with a picnic or visiting during winter will give you the chance to visit the brilliant Christmas market and ice rink. Nearby you also have the Great Hall (with the supposed Round Table of King Arthur), the King Alfred Statue, and the old St John's Hospital (right next to the statue!) if more history and architecture tickles your pickle. And of course, just roaming around Winchester's historic streets will be a delight for all you fellow architecture lovers - check out this post if I haven't convinced you enough already!

Nature - St Catherine's Hill
I really shouldn't need to mention this because lord knows I've blogged about it enough, but Winchester has some absolutely gorgeous spots when it comes to walks, hikes, and bike rides. A great thing about the city is that it is so small that if you walk for about 10-15 minutes in any direction from the city centre, you'll suddenly find you've left the hustle and bustle of the city behind and stumbled easily into scenic quiet countryside. An amazing spot to visit is without a doubt St. Catherine's Hill which is an old hill fort site that gives the most incredible views of the city and the surrounding area. There is a mizmaze at the top of the hill too and it is a must-visit spot for anyone who really loves nature. There's plenty of signs so you can follow set out routes, and there's notice boards detailing local flora and fauna. And an added bonus? There's usually cows or sheep roaming around the hill too so if you get a bit giddy about these cute farm animals like me (not even ashamed), then you'll definitely love this spot. If disability or having young children is something that is putting you off visiting the area - don't fret. There's a beautiful walk along the base of the Hill which is completely smooth tarmacked and wheelchair and pushchair friendly.

Another great walk with exceptional views is St. Giles Hill at the bottom of the city centre. Only about 15 minutes from the busy centre, St. Giles Hill provides a brilliant view up the winding main high street and also of the cathedral and the castle. Heading just outside of Winchester, you can find many great walks heading towards Harestock and Sparsholt too as well as gorgeous walks along the River Itchen towards Shawford. If you like clocking a few miles, especially in the summer like me, Winchester can give you so many picturesque options.

History & Culture - Many'a Museum!
Although I've already mentioned some historic hot spots in the "Architecture" section above, Winchester is so rich in historic culture that it's any history or archaeology nerds dream paradise. Not only do you have buildings like the Great Hall and the Cathedral minutes away from the city centre, there's also some fantastic free museums open to the public too. Winchester has a lot of medieval history and records but it also has some great evidence from the Roman, Victorian and World War eras. The Military Museum is a short walk from the city centre and is not only a great museum, but also a lovely place to wander around. Although a lot of the lovely tall columned buildings are actually peoples' homes, they provide a great backdrop for any photography aficionados and there's a beautiful water fountain right in the centre. If war history isn't quite your thing, head over to the City Museum right by the cathedral for a little more variety. This museum is fantastic - especially for families - as they tend to have activity days and also have volunteers dressed up as things such as Roman soldiers to educate kids in a fun and interactive way. The local library is also a sweet spot to visit as attached to it is the Discovery Centre. The Discovery Centre has an array of stuff going on at all times - Comic Con, talks and readings by authors, free movie nights, and taxidermy course to name but a few! If you're planning a visit to Winchester, it's worth keeping an eye on what they have going on each month.

One last place I need to mention here is the planetarium. I know. I'm not going to waffle on about this place too much as I haven't actually visited it yet (I know, I'm disgusted with myself too), but if you're willing to drive out of the city centre for 10 or so minutes, the Science Centre with it's planetarium showings would undoubtedly be an experience to remember.

Entertainment - Marwell Zoo & Hillier Gardens
As great as Winchester city centre is, there's also a lot to see and do just outside of the city. When it comes to "entertainment" I guess I prefer the more *adventure day out* sort of thing that a trip to the theatre or going to a bar. Sure, Winchester has a great theatre which covers everything from panto to adult comedy shows and it has many old English pubs to boot, but I need to give a quick shout-out to two of my fave more "family friendly" spots. Marwell Zoo Is a 10-15 minute drive from Winchester (or a regular shuttle bus ride away during peak times) and is honestly one of the best zoos I've ever visited. I know not everyone agrees with zoos existing, but Marwell has so much open space and animals aren't crowded that I feel I can't help but like it. It has a great range of different animals there from giraffes, to meerkats, to various species of monkey and is obviously extremely family friendly offering different routes depending on whether or not you can walk a long way or not. The zoo has a little train to get you from A to B too in case you're accompanied by little legs and the park offers a variety of photography courses and out of hours experiences too. You can even get married there!

Another more *nature-esque* place I love is Hillier Gardens. The gardens are closer to Romsey than Winchester but again, jump in the car for 15 minutes and you're there in no time. If you want a gorgeous spot for a picnic or want to go somewhere for an art class - this is the place to be. The gardens are stunning and peaceful to walk around - no matter how busy they get - and there's lots to see despite it essentially being just a very large garden! The place is stooped in history and any avid plant lover will enjoy a look around. They often have activities on for children and adults too so there should be something to keep everyone happy. They also have a little café, art gallery and shop, a gift shop, and a garden centre if you want to take a piece of the place home with you.

Food & Drink - Mighty Good Grub
When it comes to food and drink, Winchester has got pretty much everything covered you could possibly need. It's got your favourite chains such as Zizzi, Ask Italia, Wagamamas etc. but it also has some utter gems when we're talking independent establishments. Whether it's breakfast, a quick light bite at lunch or a full 3 course dinner you're after, you can find it all in various independent spots throughout the little city. My favourite spot for a greasy fry up English breakfast or some pancakes is definitely Ruby Reds. This little American-style diner is not only extremely reasonably priced, it's quick, relaxed service. They also do amazing burgers, burritos and hot dogs for lunch and dinner and often have "if you can eat all this we'll give you a voucher" competitions running. They also have great afternoon deals and deals for students so you get a lot for your buck. If you want a fresh smoothie or delicious milkshake, you need to head to Ginger Two for Tea for a typically English breakfast/afternoon tea style set up and want the best roast dinner of your life? Head up towards Sparsholt to The Plough.

The Plough is one of my most favourite spots and Matthew & I are regulars there as it's at the end of our street (and by that I mean it's a good 45 minute walk along beautiful country lanes) but it's always worth the walk. The food there is delicious and sitting outdoors in the garden is so peaceful even when the place is super busy. Rain or shine, that pub has never let me down and although the prices are a little steeper and you have to book your table in advance because boy oh boy does this gastro pub fill up quick, it's all worth it. And I know I know, I hear ya fellow pizza worshippers... Fancy a 2O inch pizza with crazy cool toppings like pork crackling, Turkish lamb & mint yoghurt, or butternut squash and chilli? Head over to Pi, a woodfired, made to order little pizza joint that never disappoints. This gem is tucked away behind the train station and I'll be honest - Winchester is worth the trip just to come and sample it's delights.

Of course there's loads of amazing places and sites I haven't even mentioned here that are worth a look in Winchester (especially when it comes to food oink oink) but I just wanted to give you a glimpse into why I love this place so much and why I'm happy and proud to call it my second home. A lot of the places I've mentioned I've reviewed or written about on NB before and the others? Trust me, posts on them all are coming this way in the near future. But for now, I hope you've all decided that Winchester is worth a visit and y'all are planning your trips to my home city right now.

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