Hampshire

Hampshire is a large county on the South coast of England, famed for its national parks, stately homes and maritime history, accessible from London in a couple of hours by road and rail.

The coastline includes two of Europe’s largest ports, Southampton and Portsmouth, home to almost two thirds of the Royal Navy. Inland you will find the national parks of the South Downs and the New Forest which together make up some 45% of the county.

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Hampshire Overview

Welcome to Hampshire

The New Forest is a popular destination for those seeking to walk, ride and enjoy the fresh air. Alternatively you can take in the scenic drives through Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst to see the deer and ponies before visiting the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu or the magnificent Exbury Gardens and steam railway.

Hampshire is a county of contrasts; you can experience the city buzz where the cosmopolitan cities of Southampton and Winchester, the former capital of England, provide excellent shopping opportunities, historic experiences and numerous restaurants, whilst the more tranquil locations of The Vyne near Basingstoke, Broadlands, the Beaulieu River and Romsey and Mottisfont Abbeys are great places to step back in history.

Hampshire is well known for its military connections; tourist attractions include the famous Portsmouth dockyard with tours of HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, the Mary Rose and other naval history. Nearby you will find the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower. Heading into Winchester, you can discover the Winchester Military Museums in the shadow of the Winchester Great Hall and the nearby Cathedral.

The county of Hampshire is a large county in South England with a population with approximately 2 million residents.

The county borders Dorset, Wiltshire, East Sussex, Berkshire, Surrey, the English Channel and the Solent with views across to the Isle of Wight.

Hampshire’s county town is Winchester, the former capital city of England, with other large populations at Southampton, Portsmouth and Gosport.

The county has miles of coastline, pretty towns and villages such as Alton, Andover and Petersfield, together with two National Parks – The South Downs and the New Forest.


History

It is believed that Hampshire has been continuously inhabited since the end of the last Ice Age. Numerous hill forts sprung up throughout the Iron Age, many still visible across the landscape today with perhaps Danebury Rings being the most important. You can visit the Museum of the Iron Age at Andover.

The King Alfred statue in Winchester is a monument built to celebrate the repulsion of the Vikings and subsequent stability in the region.

The Norman Conquest saw England’s capital transfer from Winchester to London. The Solent coast and specifically the ports of Portsmouth and Southampton have been well defended over the years with the development of a series of fortifications such as Portchester Castle built by the Romans, Hurst Castle, Netley Castle and Calshot Castle built by Henry VIII to more recent reminders of conflict against Napoleon and the World Wars.

No mention of Hampshire is complete with reference to its maritime links. The Mayflower and Titanic have both been hosted at Southampton, whilst Portsmouth is home to almost two thirds of the Royal Navy fleet including the new flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest vessel ever built for the Royal Navy.


Places to Visit in Hampshire

Hampshire is a haven for military enthusiasts and day trippers alike. The naval theme is celebrated at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, an outstanding collection of museums, historic ships and numerous attractions and activities. You can tour Nelson’s HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860 Britain’s first iron hulled armoured battleship, take in a harbour tour and explore the history of the Royal Navy. The historic Mary Rose takes you back in time as you explore the flagship of Henry VIII’s fleet.  Close by you will find the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower.

Whilst in Portsmouth you can head for the Emirates Spinnaker Tower. Rising 170m from the Gunwharf Quays you can take in the breath taking South Coast views. Feeling energetic – on some days you can abseil 100m down the tower!

Heading north you will find strong Army connections at Andover, Aldershot where you can visit the Military Museum and Middle Wallop, home to the Museum of Army Flying where can explore over 40 aircraft and take in the archives, medals, uniforms and other military equipment.

Winchester on the edge of the South Downs National Park was once the capital of England and today you enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of this cosmopolitan city and its numerous attractions. Take a tour of the magnificent Winchester Cathedral one of the largest in Europe. Famous burials at the cathedral include Jane Austen, Cnut the Great and Ecgberht King of Wessex. You can explore what remains of Winchester Castle at the Great Hall, and visit the museum to learn about the history of Winchester. Close by the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum and The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum are further testament to Hampshire military links. A relaxing walk along the River Itchen will bring you to the Winchester City Mill where you can experience the mill in action and maybe take home a bag of flour!

The New Forest is an escape to the great outdoors with its heathland, forest trails and wildlife giving you a great opportunity to either relax or blow the cobwebs away with a walk, cycle or horse ride. You may spot deer, otters, owls or the famous New Forest pony as you make your way through the greenery. The New Forest is home to a number of visitor attractions including Buckler’s Hard where Henry VIII’s warships were built, the Exbury Gardens and the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

Hampshire is ideal for those seeking to explore stately homes and houses with Chawton – Jane Austen’s home, The Vyne near Basingstoke, Mottisfont Abbey, Broadlands , Beaulieu Palace House and Stratfield Saye House among the attractions.

Looking for a family day out?

Marwell Zoo and Birdworld on the border with Surrey are great fun and an opportunity to meet the animals. Hampshire has a preeminent position in amateur sailing with a huge number of yachts taking to the water from the River Hamble and into the Solent. The many coastal parks provide great opportunities for just watching the boats with spinnakers flapping or windsurfers floating over the waves.

Hampshire has an array of annual events, including the Winchester Cocktail Week, the Alresford Watercress Festival, Hampshire Food Festival, the Southampton Boat Show and the Farnborough International Airshow.

Want to find out more? Click here to read our guide on things to do Hampshire.


Getting There

Despite its southerly position Hampshire is well connected to the rest of the country. The county is served by Waterloo and Paddington stations with a journey time around an hour and half. The road network provides access to the county from London via the M3 and M27.

The ports of Southampton and Portsmouth provide a ferry gateway to and from Europe. Hampshire is also served by air at Southampton.

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What to see and do…

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Harrow Wood Farm Caravan Park

Harrow Wood Farm Caravan Park, Poplar Lane, Bransgore, Hampshire, BH23 8JE

The Cricketers

Cricketers Inn, Longparish, Andover, Hampshire, SP11 6PZ

Rock Up Hampshire

Whiteley Shopping Centre, Whiteley Way, Whiteley, Fareham, Hampshire, PO15 7PD

Gilbert White & The Oates Collections

Gilbert White's House, High Street, Selborne, Hampshire, GU34 3JH

Paultons Park

Ower, Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 6AL

Woodington Lakes Trout Fishery

Romsey Road, Wellow, Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 6BG

Hawk Conservancy Trust

Sarson Lane, Weyhill, Andover, Hampshire, SP11 8DY

Glen Orchard Holiday Park

Walkford Lane, New Milton, Hampshire, BH25 5NH

Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium

Telegraph Way, Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 1HZ

Marwell Zoo

Marwell Wildlife, Colden Common, Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 1JH