Glorious Gloucestershire

Beautiful villages, a Regency spa town, an ancient city, historic docklands, and some of England’s most picturesque open countryside are yours to discover and explore when you visit Gloucestershire.

Comprising part of the Cotswold Hills, the River Severn fertile valley, and the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire offers some of the most outstanding scenery anywhere in Britain.

Gloucestershire’s Countryside

On a clear day, one of the finest views across the spa town of Cheltenham and out toward the Malvern Hills beyond can be enjoyed from the top of Leckhampton Hill.

Gloucestershire’s countryside is gorgeous.

Cheltenham and the Malverns from Leckhampton Hill. Credit Nilfanion
Cheltenham and the Malverns from Leckhampton Hill. Credit Nilfanion
Cotswold countryside at Snowshill, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cotswold countryside at Snowshill, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Winding through the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the River Wye is the fifth-longest river in the United Kingdom and forms part of the border between England and Wales.

The view north towards Ross-on-Wye from Symonds Yat Rock, a popular tourist destination in the Forest of Dean. Credit Robert Hindle
The view north towards Ross-on-Wye from Symonds Yat Rock, a popular tourist destination in the Forest of Dean. Credit Robert Hindle

Above a disused quarry in Leckhampton, a peculiar-shaped limestone rock formation known as “the Devil’s Chimney” rises from the ground.

Legend has it that the Devil would sit atop Leckhampton Hill and hurl stones at Sunday churchgoers, but that God turned the stones back, driving the Devil underground and trapping him there forever.

Devil's Chimney, Leckhampton Hill, Gloucestershire. Credit Wilson44691
Devil’s Chimney, Leckhampton Hill, Gloucestershire. Credit Wilson44691

Reserved for royal hunting by Anglo-Saxon kings, the Forest of Dean is one of the last surviving ancient woodlands in England.

Covering almost 43 square miles, the name is thought to originate from the Viking settlements, referring to the region as “Danubia” meaning “land of Danes”.

Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Rising in the Cotswold Hills of Gloucestershire, the River Churn is the first tributary of the famous River Thames.

Much of the catchment basin of the River Churn is known to have been an important area of Roman settlement in the second to fourth centuries AD.

River Churn in Cirencester. Credit Mark Philpott, flickr
River Churn in Cirencester. Credit Mark Philpott, flickr
A walk from Coln St Aldwyns to Bibury. Credit Jon Mountjoy, flickr
A walk from Coln St Aldwyns to Bibury. Credit Jon Mountjoy, flickr

Gloucestershire’s Roman Beginnings

Founded in AD 97 by the Romans under Emperor Nerva, Gloucester is the county city of Gloucestershire.

Derived from the Roman name “Glevum” or “Glouvia” and the Anglo-Saxon word “ceaster” meaning fort, Gloucester was once a Roman colony for retired legionaries.

Statue of Nerva in Gloucester city center. Credit Nilfanion
Statue of Nerva in Gloucester city center. Credit Nilfanion

Granted farmland and called upon as Roman auxiliaries, legionaries built luxurious villas with exquisite mosaic floors.

Gloucestershire has some of the best Roman villas in Britain.

Orpheus Roman Pavement (replica) at Woodchester, Gloucestershire. Credit Pauline and John Grimshaw, flickr
Orpheus Roman Pavement (replica) at Woodchester, Gloucestershire. Credit Pauline and John Grimshaw, flickr

Including a heated and furnished west wing containing a dining-room (triclinium) with a fine mosaic floor, as well as two separate bathing suites—one for damp-heat and one for dry-heat—Chedworth Villa was an elite dwelling and one of the largest Roman villas in Britain.

Chedworth Villa, Gloucestershire, showing system for heated floors. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Chedworth Villa, Gloucestershire, showing system for heated floors. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014

Gloucester’s Medieval Gothic Cathedral

Originating in the 7th century as a church for the abbey dedicated to Saint Peter, Gloucester Cathedral has a Norman core with a 15th-century tower rising 225ft and topped by four delicate pinnacles—a local landmark visible for miles.

The cathedral cloisters were used for corridor scenes in several Harry Potter films, whilst the crypt featured in Sherlock’s Christmas special.

Gloucester Cathedral exterior. Credit barnyz, flickr
Gloucester Cathedral exterior. Credit barnyz, flickr

At over 1000 years old, Gloucester Cathedral is the oldest building in the world to have a solar array installed to reduce energy costs.

Gloucester Cathedral as seen from the Cloister. Credit David Iliff
Gloucester Cathedral as seen from the Cloister. Credit David Iliff
The Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire. Credit David Iliff
The Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire. Credit David Iliff

Designed between 1351 and 1377 by Thomas de Canterbury, the cloisters at Gloucester are the earliest surviving fan vaults.

The cloister of Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucestershire. Credit David Iliff
The cloister of Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucestershire. Credit David Iliff

Gloucester’s Docklands

Victorian ships once discharged their cargoes of corn from Ireland and Europe, timber from the Baltic and North America, and wines and spirits from Portugal and France.

Transferred to narrow canal boats, the goods were carried up the River Severn and through the inland canal network to the growing industrial towns of the Midlands.

A steam crane on the railway tracks by the North Warehouse in Gloucester Docks. Credit Nilfanion
A steam crane on the railway tracks by the North Warehouse in Gloucester Docks. Credit Nilfanion
Gloucester Docks. Credit Saffron Blaze
Gloucester Docks. Credit Saffron Blaze
Gloucester Docks. Credit kennysarmy, flickr
Gloucester Docks. Credit kennysarmy, flickr
Gloucester Docks Tall Ship Festival. Credit Nilfanion
Gloucester Docks Tall Ship Festival. Credit Nilfanion

Cheltenham Spa

Meaning “health and education”, Cheltenham’s motto “Salubritas et Eruditio” helped establish the town as a health and holiday spa resort since mineral springs were discovered in 1716.

Recognizing the commercial potential of its mineral springs, Captian Henry Skillicorne was regarded as “the founder of Cheltenham as a watering place”.

Building a pump room to regulate the water flow and an elaborate well-house with ballrooms and billiard room, well-to-do Georgian society flocked to Cheltenham.

Cheltenham High Street 1825 by Isaac Cruikshank
Cheltenham High Street 1825 by Isaac Cruikshank

Known for its elegant Regency buildings, tree-lined promenades and gardens, Cheltenham has remained a popular upscale shopping and entertainment destination through the Victorian era and up to the present day.

Promenade looking towards Hight Street Cheltenham, c.1895
Promenade looking towards Hight Street Cheltenham, c.1895

Regarded by many as among the finest Regency buildings in Britain, Cheltenham’s municipal offices were constructed during the reign of King George IV (1820 – 1830).

Cheltenham’s municipal offices. Credit Saffron Blaze
Cheltenham’s municipal offices. Credit Saffron Blaze

Since 1815, horse racing has been an important sport in Cheltenham, with £6m in prize money and over 700,000 visitors each year.

Cheltenham Racecourse. Credit Carine06
Cheltenham Racecourse. Credit Carine06

Cotswold Towns and Villages

Dozens of pretty villages and towns dot the Gloucestershire landscape.

Rising from the meadows of the upper River Thames is a range of rolling hills with a grassland habitat and a beautiful honey-coloured stone used to build villages, towns, and country houses.

Chipping Campden Post Office. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Chipping Campden Post Office. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Notable for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th century to the 17th century, Chipping Campden was a rich wool centre of the Middle Ages.

“Chipping” derives from the Old English “cēping”, meaning marketplace.

Built in 1627, the arched Market Hall stands proudly at the centre of town.

Chipping Campden market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Chipping Campden market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
A wine merchant in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
A wine merchant in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
14th-17th century buildings in the High Street of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk
14th-17th century buildings in the High Street of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk

Meaning “Farmstead on the Moor”, the delightful town of Moreton-in-Marsh has many buildings made from the local honey-colored Cotswold Stone, including several antique shops, art galleries, and hotels.

Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Swan Inn, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Swan Inn, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cotswold cottages, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cotswold cottages, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Known for its picturesque High Street, flanked by long, wide greens with the River Windrush running through it, Bourton-on-the-Water is known locally as the “Venice of the Cotswolds”.

Footbridge over the River Windrush at the Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Credit Saffron Blaze
Footbridge over the River Windrush at the Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Credit Saffron Blaze
Bourton on the water, Gloucestershire. Credit Tanya Dedyukhina
Bourton on the water, Gloucestershire. Credit Tanya Dedyukhina
The Little Nook at Bourton on the water. Credit Tanya Dedyukhina
The Little Nook at Bourton on the water. Credit Tanya Dedyukhina
Lower Slaughter, The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Lower Slaughter, The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Once part of the second-largest area of a city in Roman Britain, Cirencester grew into a thriving market town in the Middle Ages, trading in wool and cloth.

Cirencester market place
Cirencester market place
Castle Street, Cirencester. Credit Jack, flickr
Castle Street, Cirencester. Credit Jack, flickr

Built in 1380 as a monastic wool store, the picturesque Arlington Row cottages were converted into weavers cottages in the 17th century and are a very popular tourist hotspot and photographers’ favorite.

Arlington Row, Bibery, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski
Arlington Row, Bibery, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski

Castles, Country Houses, and Gardens

Castle-building in Gloucestershire began after the 1066 Norman invasion, with fortified manor houses becoming more popular in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Sudeley Castle. Credit Wdejager
Sudeley Castle. Credit Wdejager

Built in the 15th century, Sudeley Castle replaced a much earlier 12th-century castle that was destroyed by King Stephen during the “Anarchy”—a civil war against his cousin Empress Matilda.

Severely damaged during the English Civil War, the current castle is the result of extensive Victorian restoration.

Sudeley Castle. Credit Jason Ballard
Sudeley Castle. Credit Jason Ballard

Dating back to the 11th century, Berkeley Castle is believed to be the scene of King Edward II’s murder.

His body is interred in a canopied shrine in Gloucester Cathedral

Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski
Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski
Berkeley Castle dining room, Gloucestershire. Credit Fiducial
Berkeley Castle dining room, Gloucestershire. Credit Fiducial

Built by Walter and Miles de Gloucester for the crown in the 11th century, St Briavels Castle was used to govern the Welsh Marches on the border of England and Wales.

Empress Matilda held the castle during the Anarchy and it later became a hunting lodge for King John and then a center for making crossbow arrows.

St Briavels Castle, Gloucestershire. Credit Thomas Tolkien
St Briavels Castle, Gloucestershire. Credit Thomas Tolkien

Hidcote Manor Garden is one of the best-known Arts and Crafts gardens in Britain.

Flourishing in Europe and North America between 1880 and 1920, Arts and Crafts was a movement of decorative and fine arts that began in Britain and advocated traditional craftsmanship of simple forms, with medieval, folk, and romantic influences.

Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Built in the 1860s in an Elizabethan style, the Victorian mansion of Westonbirt House replaced earlier buildings in the Georgian and Tudor eras.

Occupied by Westonbirt School—a girls’ boarding school—since 1928, the house and 210-acre grounds are open to the public on certain days.

Westonbirt School in Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Westonbirt School in Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Surrounded by 274 acres of formal gardens, the baroque Dyrham Park country house was built during the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Sumptuously decorated with wood paneling and tiles of Dutch Delftware, the artwork and artifacts include a collection of Dutch Masters.

Dyrham Park mansion in Gloucestershire hosting an MG Owners Club meet. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Dyrham Park mansion in Gloucestershire hosting an MG Owners Club meet. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Drawing Room at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Drawing Room at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Bedroom at Dyrham Park Mansion, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Bedroom at Dyrham Park Mansion, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Stanway House, Stanway, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Stanway House, Stanway, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Stanway House is a Jacobean manor house set in historic parkland with a recently installed fountain rising 300ft, making it the tallest gravity fountain in the world.

Rodmarton Manor, nr Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Credit Robert Powell
Rodmarton Manor, nr Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Credit Robert Powell

Churches and Abbeys

One of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain, Tewkesbury Abbey is also the second largest parish church in the country.

Formerly a Benedictine Monastery, it became one of the wealthiest abbeys of medieval England.

Tewskesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire. Credit Paul Pichota
Tewskesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire. Credit Paul Pichota
The decorated ceiling of Tewkesbury Abbey directly above the choir and altar. Credt Bs0u10e01
The decorated ceiling of Tewkesbury Abbey directly above the choir and altar. Credit Bs0u10e01

Housing the most complete set of medieval stained glass in Britain, the parish church of Saint Mary at Fairford is an example of late Perpendicular Gothic architecture characterised by slim stone window mullions and light but strong buttresses.

Parish Church of St. Mary, Fairford. Credit Mymuk
Parish Church of St. Mary, Fairford. Credit Mymuk

The style enabled larger windows than previously, allowing much more light into the building.

The Transfiguration of Christ. Stained glass window in St Mary's Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire. Credit Julian P Guffogg
The Transfiguration of Christ. Stained glass window in St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire. Credit Julian P Guffogg
The Last Judgment. Stained glass window in St Mary's Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire
The Last Judgment. Stained glass window in St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire

Known as the “Cathedral of the Cotswolds”, St John the Baptist parish church in Cirencester was financed by wealthy wool merchants.

Street in Cirencester with St John the Baptist parish church. Credit SLR Jester
Street in Cirencester with St John the Baptist parish church. Credit SLR Jester
Interior view of St John the Baptist parish church in Cirencester. Credit Daniel 2005, flickr
Interior view of St John the Baptist parish church in Cirencester. Credit Daniel 2005, flickr

Whether you visit for a day trip or a longer stay, you’re sure to fall in love with Gloucestershire again and again.

10 Reasons to Love Winchester—the Ancient City of Kings and Knights

Steeped in history and legend, Winchester is a reminder of Britain’s mythical past.

Soak up the gothic splendor of Winchester Cathedral, stroll along ancient river walks, laugh at street theatre, or relax over wine or a fine ale.

Winchester is an adventure in time.

Here are 10 reasons you’ll fall in love with Winchester.

1. Ancient Capital of England

Honored by a huge statue 17 feet high, Alfred the Great stands watching over the city he built on top of the old Roman settlement of Venta Belgarum.

Today it is known as Winchester—the Anglo-Saxon capital of England before London.

King Alfred's Statue, Winchester. Credit Odejea
King Alfred’s Statue, Winchester. Credit Odejea

Venta Belgarum means “Town of the Belgae”—a confederation of tribes mostly living in present day Belgium, but some living in southern England.

Following the Roman invasion of Britain, the Romans founded the settlement in around 70 AD and developed it into a major trading center with city walls, before withdrawing from Britain some 340 years later.

During diggings at the corner of Little Minster Street and Minster Lane in 1878, a beautiful Roman mosaic was discovered.

Depicting a dolphin, you can see the mosaic on display at the Winchester City Museum.

Roman Mosaic discovered in Winchester. Credit John W. Schulze, flickr
Roman Mosaic discovered in Winchester. Credit John W. Schulze, flickr

But Winchester’s history goes back much further to the Iron Age (1200 BC – 1 BC), with the remains of three hill forts all in the nearby vicinity—Oram’s Arbour, St. Catherine’s Hill, and Worthy Down.

St. Catherine's Hill in Winchester is an Iron age Hill Fort. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
St. Catherine’s Hill in Winchester is an Iron age Hill Fort. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

One day in 2000, a retired florist was out in the fields of Winchester hoping to get lucky with his metal detector and perhaps find something interesting.

Striking one of the most important Iron Age gold hoards for fifty years and valued at £350,000 ($457,000), he was a little more than lucky.

Housed in the British Museum, the Winchester Hoard is thought to be a lavish diplomatic gift dating from about 75-25 BCE.

Winchester Hoard. Credit Portable Antiquities Scheme, flickr
Winchester Hoard. Credit Portable Antiquities Scheme, flickr

2. Winchester Gothic Cathedral

Having the longest nave and overall length of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe, it comes as little surprise that Winchester Cathedral is the major landmark of the city.

Winchester Cathedral at Sunset. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Cathedral at Sunset. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Originally founded in 642 and known as the “Old Minster”, it was demolished by the Normans in 1093 and a new cathedral built in its place.

Squat and square, the tower is 150 ft tall which pales in comparison with Salisbury Cathedral’s 404 ft spire—just 25 miles to the west of Winchester.

Winchester Cathedral showing west end, central tower and longest Gothic cathedral nave in Europe. Credit WyrdLight.com
Winchester Cathedral showing west end, central tower and longest Gothic cathedral nave in Europe. Credit WyrdLight.com

Some speculate that Winchester Cathedral may have later had a spire if funds had been available since spires were highly desirable.

But the current tower is the second after the first collapsed in 1107—an accident blamed on the impious William Rufus (William the Conqueror’s heir) who was buried in the Cathedral.

It’s possible this “bad omen” halted any plans for a spire that would reach to the heavens—which might have looked like the image below.

What Winchester Cathedral might have looked like with its spire intact
What Winchester Cathedral might have looked like with its spire intact
The ceiling of the Choir in the ancient Cathedral of Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The ceiling of the Choir in the ancient Cathedral of Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Cathedral Choir looking west. Credit David Iliff
Winchester Cathedral Choir looking west. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Winchester Cathedral as viewed from the west looking towards the choir. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Winchester Cathedral as viewed from the west looking towards the choir. Credit David Iliff

Honored as a beautiful statue, Saint Joan of Arc stares in vain at the Chancery Chapel of Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, a man who helped condemn her to death by burning at the stake in 1431.

The statue of Joan of Arc is in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The statue of Joan of Arc is in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The High Altar of Winchester Cathedral. Credit David Iliff
The High Altar of Winchester Cathedral. Credit David Iliff

Spire or no, Winchester Cathedral is beautiful inside and out, and whether out for a stroll in the grounds or a guided tour, the setting is absolutely magical.

Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard
Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard
The 15th century Cheyney Court and Priory Gate in the Close of Winchester Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 15th century Cheyney Court and Priory Gate in the Close of Winchester Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

3. Winchester Castle and King Arthur’s Round Table

At one time, Winchester had a castle, of which only the Great Hall still stands, but it houses one of the greatest artifacts from Arthurian Legend—The Round Table.

Symbolizing equality since a round table has no head, by the close of the 12th century, it came to represent the chivalric order of King Arthur’s court and the Knights of the Round Table.

Great Hall, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Great Hall, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Normal poet Robert Wace said that Arthur created the Round Table to prevent quarrels among his barons, none of whom would accept a lower place than the others.

Arthur increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.

King Arthur's Round Table at Winchester Castle
King Arthur’s Round Table at Winchester Castle

In Celtic lore, warriors sit in a circle around the king or lead warrior.

British cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth says that after establishing peace throughout Britain, Arthur “increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.”

The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail by Évrard d'Espinques, 1475
The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail by Évrard d’Espinques, 1475
King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, 1903
King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, 1903

4. Winchester College

Claiming the longest unbroken history of any school in England, Winchester College was established in 1382 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and chancelloer to Edward III and Richard II.

Founded in conjunction with New College, Oxford, it was meant to prepare students to attend Oxford University.

Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge would later follow the same model.

The 14th century Middle Gate tower and Chamber Court of Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 14th century Middle Gate tower and Chamber Court of Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Be sure to pop into the Wykeham Arms pub for a bite to eat and a pint of delicious local ale.

You can even sit at old school desks from the college, complete with ink wells.

Inside the Wycham Arms pub with old school desks. Credit Kake, flickr
Inside the Wycham Arms pub with old school desks. Credit Kake, flickr

An independent boarding school for boys in the British public school tradition, according to Tatler Magazine, 35% of leavers in 2015 had places at Oxford or Cambridge; most of the rest attended other universities, including those in North America.

Performance like that doesn’t come cheap, with fees of £38,100 per year (almost $50,000 per year).

The 14th century cloisters of Winchester College Chapel. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 14th-century cloisters of Winchester College Chapel. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
West Hill with Winchester College Chapel beyond. Credit Herry Lawford, flickr
West Hill with Winchester College Chapel beyond. Credit Herry Lawford, flickr
The Chapel of Winchester College in Hampshire was completed in 1395, and the organ in 1403. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Chapel of Winchester College in Hampshire was completed in 1395, and the organ in 1403. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

5. Jane Austen’s House

Living in Chawton, Hampshire, about 18 miles north-east of Winchester, Jane Austen started feeling unwell early in the year of 1816.

When her uncle died leaving nothing of his fortune to his relatives, her condition deteriorated and by mid-April she was bed-ridden.

Jane Austen's house in Chawton, Hampshire (The Jane Austen Museum). Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire (The Jane Austen Museum). Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Suffering agonizing pain, her sister Cassandra and brother-in-law Henry brought her to Winchester for treatment in May.

She lived here, at 8 College Street, Winchester for the last few weeks of her life.

Jane Austen's house on College Street Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen’s house on College Street Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen's House. Credit Mike Peel
Jane Austen’s House. Credit Mike Peel
Jane Austen's House. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Jane Austen’s House. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Click here to see Jane Austen’s House in Winchester

On 18 July, at the age of 41, Jane Austen, one of the most prolific writers of the Regency Era, passed to another place free from pain.

She is buried in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral.

Jane Austen's memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
Jane Austen’s memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

6. Ancient City Walls, Streets, and the River Itchen

When you enter Winchester through one of the medieval arched gateways, you get a buzz—a feeling that this is going to be special, that you are traveling back in time to a land of Anglo-Saxon Kings, Knights, Bishops, and peasants.

In short, Winchester has atmosphere.

The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk

Parts of the medieval city walls still stand, strong and imposing, forever protecting the city inhabitants.

Sat here, time stands still, allowing your mind to wonder how many travelers passed this way on pilgrimages to the magnificent cathedral.

Winchester's Medieval City Wall. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester’s Medieval City Wall. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Fortunately, advances in city architecture have left Winchester largely free from blight.

It’s a city with relatively few brutal buildings from the 60’s and 70’s and has remained beautiful for hundreds of years.

High Street, Winchester c 1890s. Credit Alwyn Ladell
High Street, Winchester c 1890s. Credit Alwyn Ladell

The town clock still reminds you what time it is regardless of how many carry mobile phones.

The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

There’s time to enjoy the simpler things in life.

Shopping in the High Street, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Shopping in the High Street, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

The Victorians appreciated aesthetics—their gothic revival architecture blended with the medieval to keep the mythical past alive.

The Guildhall (Town Hall) in Winchester was built in 1871. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Guildhall (Town Hall) in Winchester was built in 1871. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Great Minster Street, Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Great Minster Street, Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
St. Swithun's Bridge Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
St. Swithun’s Bridge Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
River Itchen, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker
River Itchen, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker

Powered by the River Itchen, the old City Mill is probably the country’s oldest working watermill, with over a thousand years of history.

Water Mill, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker
Water Mill, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker

7. Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty

Founded in the 1130s by Henry de Blois—the Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Winchester, and grandson of William the Conqueror—the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Credit barnyz, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Credit barnyz, flickr

Built on the scale of an Oxbridge college, the almshouses are the largest medieval examples in Britain.

St. John's almshouses in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
St. John’s almshouses in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Since at least the 14th century, and still available today, a ‘wayfarer’s dole’ of ale and bread has been handed out at the chapel.

The sustenance was supposedly instigated to aid pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.

Handing out Wayfarer's Dole at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Handing out Wayfarer’s Dole at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Spencer Means, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Spencer Means, flickr
The nave facing east, the late Norman church of the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
The nave facing east, the late Norman church of the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

8. Street Theatre, Fairs, and Farmers Market

Just as our medieval forebears enjoyed street entertainments, so too do Winchester residents who gather on the cathedral lawns or the High Street to celebrate street theatre during the summer festival season.

Entertainers in the Close of the 11th century Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr, flickr
Entertainers in the Close of the 11th century Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr, flickr
Unicycle jugglers entertain the crowd in the Cathedral Close. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Unicycle jugglers entertain the crowd in the Cathedral Close. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Winchester hosts one of the UK’s largest farmers’ markets, with about 100 stalls of fresh locally grown produce.

The market at Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The market at Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

During the Christmas holiday season, hundreds of children holding paper lanterns process along the High Street to the Cathedral Close to mark the opening of the Christmas Market and Ice Rink.

The Christmas lantern Parade at Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Christmas lantern Parade at Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

9. Walking, Cycling, and Surrounding Countryside

Whether you’re working off a big evening meal with a pleasant stroll or engaged in a more active pursuit, Winchester’s walks are a delight for the senses.

From the City centre, there is a lovely 20-minute walk along the riverside footpath to the ancient Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse.

The Water Meadows riverside walk in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Water Meadows riverside walk in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

How much more enjoyable does it get to soak up Winchester’s sights than on a bicycle made for two?

A couple cycle past Winchester Cathedral on a bicycle made for two. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
A couple cycle past Winchester Cathedral on a bicycle made for two. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Hampshire’s countryside, towns, and villages are some of the prettiest in Britain, with fields of green and bright yellow stretching for miles.

An ancient Roman road that is now a footpath will take you on an adventure from Winchester Cathedral to Salisbury Cathedral—this is “Pillars of the Earth” country.

Canola (rapeseed) crop near Winchester. Credit, Neil Howard
Canola (rapeseed) crop near Winchester. Credit, Neil Howard
The Duckpond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Duckpond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Hampshire is one of the best counties to see gorgeous thatched cottages.

Thatched cottage in Easton near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Thatched cottage in Easton near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Click here to see thatched houses in East Stratton, near Winchester
Cottage by the village pond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cottage by the village pond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Road through the Crab Wood, near Winchester, UK. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Road through the Crab Wood, near Winchester, UK. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

10. Cafes, Pubs, and Restaurants

Winchester boasts some of the oldest pubs in Britain.

From debating the best way to grow prize roses to who will win the county cricket championships, there’s not much beats a glass of wine al fresco.

Time to talk over a glass of wine at La Place Bistro. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Time to talk over a glass of wine at La Place Bistro. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Pubs
Winchester Pubs

Delightful pubs and restaurants abound in Winchester.

Whether you’re looking for a delicious lunch at the Chesil Rectory—Winchester’s oldest house—or something French for evening upscale dining at the Hotel du Vin, Winchester is sure to be one of your best and favorite memories.

Chesil Rectory is the oldest building in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Chesil Rectory is the oldest building in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Hotel du Vin, Winchester. Image credit Hotel du Vin
Hotel du Vin, Winchester. Image credit Hotel du Vin

York Minster – the Magnificent Medieval Cathedral of Northern England

The Largest Gothic Cathedral in Britain

In 1215, Archbishop of York, Walter de Gray ordered the construction of a Gothic structure for the north of England to rival Canterbury Cathedral in the south.

Gothic style was about soaring to the sky, and therefore Heaven, with pointed arches, lots of light and ornamentation.

Instead of starting from scratch, the new Gothic form was built on and around the existing Norman Minster dating from 1080—the foundations of which can be seen today.

Declared complete and consecrated in 1472, York Minster has survived wars, plague, political upheaval, structural crisis, and local rebellion … and lived to tell the tale.

South entrance to York Minster. Credit Nick Ansell
South entrance to York Minster. Credit Nick Ansell

To this day, the most significant building rising above York is the 800-year-old medieval Minster.

York Minster. Credit Tim Green
York Minster. Credit Tim Green
York City Center. Credit Peter Czerwinski
York City Center. Credit Peter Czerwinski

The term “minster” is given to churches established in the Anglo-Saxon period as missionary teaching churches. Today, it’s used as an honorific title.

York Minster. Credit Saste
York Minster. Credit Saste

Developed during the Gothic period (12th—16th c.), “flying buttresses” were arched structures used to support the walls of medieval cathedrals.

York Minster flying buttresses. Credit the noggin_nogged
York Minster flying buttresses. Credit the noggin_nogged

The Largest Expanse of Medieval Stained Glass in the World

When it comes to stained glass, York Minster is in a class of its own, with some of the finest examples of medieval stained glass in the world, dating as far back as the 12th century.

Completed in 1408, the Great East Window in the Lady Chapel is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.

The size of a tennis court, the Great East Window was created between 1405 and 1408 by master glazier John Thornton and shows intricately detailed scenes from the book of Genesis.

The Great East Window. Credit striderv, Andrewrabbott, flickr
The Great East Window. Credit striderv, Andrewrabbott, flickr

In the below detail, Saint John (bottom left) is instructed by an angel to write down what he saw in his vision and send it to the seven churches of Asia.

John Thornton’s clever design combines all seven churches into one image, each represented by an archbishop standing in a shrine-like building.

The Seven Churches of Asia in the East Window at York Minster. Credit Andrewrabbott
The Seven Churches of Asia in the East Window at York Minster. Credit Andrewrabbott

Commemorating the union of the royal houses of York and Lancaster following the Wars of the Roses, the Rose Window in the south transept dates from about 1500.

The Rose Window. Credit Keith Laverack
The Rose Window. Credit Keith Laverack
York Minster Rose Window. Credit Tony Hisgett
York Minster Rose Window. Credit Tony Hisgett

The Five Sisters Window in York Minster’s North Transept is the only memorial in the country to women of the British Empire who lost their lives during the First World War. Each lancet is over 52 feet (16 m) high.

Dating from the mid-1200s, the window was removed during the First World War to protect it during German Zeppelin raids.

The Five Sisters in the North Transept. Credit Archangel12
The Five Sisters in the North Transept. Credit Archangel12

The Great West Window contains a heart-shaped design colloquially known as ‘The Heart of Yorkshire’.

Built between 1338 and 1339, it shows the hierarchy of the Church as you look up the window.

At the base level are eight Archbishops of York, with their Apostles above, followed by panels showing the life of Christ and the Virgin—the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, and Ascension. The top panels show Mary sitting beside Christ in Heaven.

The window is known as ‘the heart of Yorkshire’ due to the shape of its upper stonework.

The west window. Credit David Iliff
The west window. Credit David Iliff

The Widest Gothic Nave in England

York Minster’s nave is the widest Gothic nave in England and has a wooden roof (painted so as to appear like stone) and the aisles have vaulted stone roofs.

The nave of York Minster looking towards the West Window. Credit David Iliff
The nave of York Minster looking towards the West Window. Credit David Iliff
The nave of York Minster, David Iliff
The nave of York Minster, David Iliff

The Chapter House

Windows cover almost all of the upper wall space of the highly decorated Chapter House, filling it with light.

Innovative design and a light wooden roof meant that the buttressed walls could support the ceiling without the need for a central column, creating a beautiful open space.

The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff
The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff
Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House

Grotesques

Grotesques are fantastical or mythical figures used for decorative purposes. Gargoyles are forms of grotesque that include a drainage spout to help prevent heavy rainwater running down the face of the building.

York Minster is covered with grotesques inside and out.

York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff

Current stonemasons working on the finishing touches of the York Minster restoration have carved sometimes amusing grotesques doing unusual things.

This chap will eventually be baring his derriere to all and sundry from a lofty position above the city, affixed to York Minster.

The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell
The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell

The 11-ton Great Peter Bell

The clock bells ring every quarter of an hour during the daytime and Great Peter strikes the hour.

York Minster. Credit Manuamador
York Minster. Credit Manuamador

Great Peter is the name of the northwest tower’s bell, weighing in at almost 11 tons. The six other bells that ring every quarter of an hour weigh 3 tons each.

Before Evensong each evening, hymn tunes are played on a baton keyboard connected with the bells, but occasionally anything from Beethoven to the Beatles may be heard.

York Minster's 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
York Minster’s 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff

Reformation and Restoration

The English Reformation led to the looting of much of the cathedral’s treasures and the loss of much of the church lands.

Queen Elizabeth I was determined to have all traces of Roman Catholicism removed from the cathedral. Tombs, windows, and altars were destroyed.

York Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson
Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson

During the English Civil War the city was besieged and fell to Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1644, but York Minster was spared damage thanks to the influence of parliamentary general Thomas Fairfax.

In the 1850s services were suspended as the cathedral slumped deeply into debt.

York Minster, late 1800s
York Minster, late 1800s

To date, tens of millions of pounds have been spent on restoration work, but the results speak for themselves. York Minster will continue to reach to the skies for millennia to come.

The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft
The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft