Here’s an A to Z of things to do in Hampshire to provide plenty of inspiration to plan your next trip…
Hampshire is beautiful and it’s the home of Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I love my home county, it’s naval heritage and country villages. It’s well situated, just a short distance from London, Brighton, Bournemouth and the South West.
Here’s some ideas for your next day out, grab a cup of tea because this is a long read!
Most of these are tried and tested days out but there’s a few on my bucket list still to do…
A is for Alresford Watercress Festival
Alresford Watercress Festival is a time honoured tradition to celebrate Hampshire’s most famous peppery leafed product. Once a year the streets are lined with market sellers, watercress food produce and plenty of food stalls.
It is crazy, not only is it busy, so go early and leave the whole day but, there’s watercress eating competitions, Morris dancers and music. Last time I went I drank Watercress juice, ate a Watercress burger, bought a lot of homemade jam, sampled a lot of watercress gin and I held an owl and lived my best Harry Potter fantasy!
Usually the festival is in May time but, if in the rare case of a global pandemic, check their website to see the date that year.
B is for Butser Ancient Farm
I’ve always wanted to go to the Beltain Festival and the Burning of the Wickerman at Butser Ancient Farm and I thought this year would be my year but alas, the global pandemic strikes again.
This ceremony out in the woods is positively occult and it looks like so much fun! If you like putting the lime in the coconut and midnight margaritas then this slice of ‘Practical Magic’ is for you. Music, dancing, and the actual burning of a giant wicker man to herald summer’s arrival.
It’s on my bucket list and I’ll be booking tickets for next year!
The farm has plenty of other activities and it’s worth looking at the events calendar to find out what’s on – there’s music, storytelling and plenty of talks and re-enactments for the history lovers in your life. There’s also astronomy events too! I like the look of the events a lot, they’re a bit quirkier than other places I’ve been to.
C is for Camping
Camping. It’s kind of a bit of a hit or miss for me. It’s either totally amazing or THE WORST THING EVER.
I like my creature comforts and I’ve found that I like glamping (glamorous camping) the best.
If you’re hiring for an event or a big group gathering or reunion Beautiful Bells has a wide selection of tents and various levels of dressing them. They operate all over Hampshire, and the team are so lovely and accommodating – I’ve used them personally for a special occasion and had such a fantastic experience.
We have some very fancy glamping sites in the county in the most glorious settings. I’m desperate to try The Glade at Avington near Winchester and Adhurst Yurts in Petersfield. Also, the yurts at The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight and Tom’s Eco Lodge’s, also on the Island, look brilliant.
Away from the city the stars are much clearer and it’s the perfect opportunity to switch off from everything and everyone. ‘Oh sorry, I had no reception this weekend…’ 😉
Seasonal Side Note… C is also for Christmas Markets
We’re lucky to have some incredible ones in Hampshire. Winchester Christmas Market is magical and very famous, my top tip is to try and go in the evening or week days because the weekends are crazy busy!
D is for Distilleries
Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke is one of the most famous distilleries in Hampshire and is a really fun experience in a unique mill setting with some crazy architecture.
I’ve not been for a couple of years but I had a wonderful time when I went and would love to go back again and not drive this time, for obvious reasons.
E is for Exbury Gardens
Hampshire is blessed with beautiful gardens and Exbury Gardens is up there with the best the county has to offer. It also has a place for afternoon tea, a tiny train and is great for walking.
You’ll also want to check out…
- Sir Harold Hillier Gardens – worth going when the art trail is on, take your walking shoes with you!
- Stansted Park which also has a tea rooms, a fantastic farm shop and garden centre.
- Hinton Ampner, which has a stunning house to look around and lots of walking trails.
F is for Festivals
Hampshire has its fair share of festivals. But the rise of Victorious Festival has been meteoric and the line up is pretty ace each year.
G is for God’s House Tower
Recently renovated this museum, music and arts space is the new kid on the block in Southampton. God’s House Tower is home to some great local exhibitions, historic art, talks, sculpture and some of the best views of the city. It also has a built in Hoxton Bakehouse, a local bakery-cafe-coffee house that serves awesome caffeine, the best pastries and bread I’ve ever had.
Read more in my post ‘ART, COFFEE AND HISTORY AT GOD’S HOUSE TOWER IN SOUTHAMPTON‘.
H is for Hurst Castle
I will forever have fond memories of Hurst Castle and Hurst Spit. The first time I visited, my Mum and I bunked off school and work and enjoyed a day of quality time together totally beating the Monday blues.
Ride the tiny ferry across the water to adventure time at the castle. This is the place to go for a long walk to stretch your legs and blow all those cobwebs away when the weather is good. If the tide is low and you decide to walk along the spit, don’t forget to check the tide times!
The views of the Solent are incredible.
I is for Isle of Wight
I could write a million posts for the Isle of Wight, it’s the cherry on top of Hampshire’s cake. There’s so much to do, beautiful historic houses, walking and bike trails and loads of lovely places to eat. And, that ferry ride gives you that holiday feeling.
Here’s some hints for initial research…
Head to Ryde and Appley Beach for miles of white sands and that South of France vibe and Shanklin Old Village for chocolate box village views and ice cream, Osbourne House for recent Royal History and Cowes for sailing fun and foodie feasts.
Those places are great starting places for your research and I promise to write more on this wonderful island off the South Coast.
J is for Jane Austen
Hampshire is the true home of Austen. To get your literary fix you can visit Chawton, a charming village in the countryside that has Jane Austen’s home and Chawton House, her brother’s home ten minutes away which Jane spent a lot of time at.
Split your day and do both homes and revel in the places an icon drew inspiration from. It’s the perfect day out for any Austen fan.
Read a bit more about both of these places here…
K is for King Arthur’s Round Table
Head to the Great Hall at the top of Winchester High Street to see ‘King Arthur’s’ round table preserved in all its glory. The hall is seriously impressive.
It’s not a long experience but, there’s plenty to do in the city so you won’t be stuck for other things to do.
Read my full blog for more details… ‘KING ARTHUR’S ROUND TABLE IN THE GREAT HALL, WINCHESTER‘
L is for Lavender Fields
It’s magical site to behold and smells incredible. Although it’s an internet cliche, there’s something wonderful about seeing the fields in full bloom.
I always pick up some plants to remember my trip and I have the prettiest white lavender which I bought on my Mum’s birthday. It’s a lovely memory to have and that’s what these awesome experiences are for.
M is for Maritime History
Well hello sailor! The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth offers some of the most exciting historic experiences.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth offers some of the most exciting historic experiences.
Stand onboard HMS Victory and see the very spot Nelson fell when he was shot. You can also explore HMS Warrior from the Victorian era, HMS M.33 from the First World War, and HMS Alliance from the Cold War era at The Royal Submarine Museum.
N is for New Forest
The New Forest has so many places to visit, Brockenhurst, Beaulieu and Lyndhurst are all gorgeous and just a few of the many wonderful forest destinations you could visit.
Head to Brockenhurst for incredible food from The Pig, a restaurant with rooms, as well as the lovely pub The Huntsman of Brockenhurst. It’s also great for camping, cycling and hiking. It’s very similar to Lyndhurst which is also great for walking and cycling trails.
But my favourite place is Burley, home to witchcraft and the most excellent ice cream shops and a fudge shop of dreams. It has an apple festival each year which I go to with my family that has cider, scrumpy, apple cake and well, you get what I mean. And, while it’s truly tiny, to me Burley is perfectly formed.
O is for Old Portsmouth
On days with good weather I’d also recommend stepping through the hot walls to the other side to walk along the pebble beach, watch the boats and enjoy the sun trap.
P is for The Pig
My favourite restaurant with rooms in Hampshire. Get a slice of luxury, the most amazing locally sourced food and incredible cocktails at this bolt hole in Brockenhurst. I’ve been many times and I just love it there.
I won’t bang on but, because I’ve already mentioned it once or twice in this guide, just trust me on this one. Book in advance and visit, you won’t be disappointed.
One day I will stay at The Pig for a glorious weekend and I cannot wait for that day to come. The pennies are being saved…
Q is for Quality Hampshire Strawberries
Yeah, yeah I was struggling for Q but, this is a goodie.
Pick-your-own farms are all over the county but, my favourites are in the New Forest and Titchfield.
I head to Goddall’s Strawberry farm in the forest, Hollam Nurseries in Titchfield and Pickwell Farm in Bursledon to fill punnets with juicy ripe red berries.
There’s literally nothing better than fresh British heritage strawberries for pudding that you’ve picked yourself. Unless Chris Hemsworth served them to me. That’s the only way that situation could improve.
R is for Mid-Hants Railway aka The Watercress Line
The Mid-Hants Railway aka The Watercress Line is a great way to explore the cute villages along the route and spend a day pottering about exploring the countryside.
Alton, Alresford, Ropley, Mediated and Fourmarks are all along the line and the stations look like you’re on a film set.
At Ropley that’s actually a reality, the famous 118 year old Handyside Bridge features in the Harry Potter films was moved from London’s King’s Cross Station and now its home is Hampshire.
It’s a super English day out. I mean a ‘Chocolate Box’ postcard sending wholesome day out.
S is for Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
My favourite time to visit Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is when they do ‘Art in the Park’. It’s a series of installations around the park, there’s a rough trail to follow but most of them you have to hunt around for, so it ends up being a good walk too.
The gardens are big, so comfortable shoes are a must. I love it here, it’s so beautiful.
T is for Trails
Hampshire is full of beautiful walking and cycling trails. Great for long Sunday walks that end with a pub lunch or a country walk with cider stops. It makes for a wobbly walk home and don’t forget a torch especially if we’re heading into Autumn.
If you’ve not explored the area, here are a few of my favourites to get you started.
- The Hampshire Strawberry Trail
- A large figure of eight around Hamble River Valley and the historic strawberry growing region
- 28 miles but can be broken down into smaller loops
- The Meon Valley Railway Trail
- A totally flat 10 mile stretch, good for all abilities
- Detour off to the local villages along the path for excellent cider and pub lunches
- St Catherine’s Hill
- Spectacular views of Winchester from the top of a big hill
- Steps and gentle gradients up to the top, walk can either start from the bottom, from Winchester central or further
- Lepe Loop
- Lepe beach is gorgeous and such a great place for some salty fresh air in your hair and a paddle
Oh and let’s not forget about the country parks, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are brilliant for walks, picnics and
I could go on for ages, there’s so many nice walks for all abilities but I’ll stop there and do another post soon on this. I’ve got a few more gorgeous walks to share with you to make the most of your weekends.
U is for Uppark House and Garden
Uppark House is a beautiful 1500s house, full of art and stunning garden trails with views of the South Downs, the Spinnaker Tower and the Isle of Wight.
This is a National Trust property and Hampshire has lots of great estates like this to explore. Other great houses and gardens to explore are Hinton Ampner, Mottisfont and The Vyne. I’ve visited all of these and they are charming.
V is for Vineyards
I’ve been enjoying the sparkling wine from Hambledon at The Pig (See ‘P is for above’!) for years – it’s delicious. They also do lots of events like crab and wine nights which are very popular.
Hattingley Valley is a relative newcomer to the region, and I remember going to events they sponsors before the grape was ready and having a sip or two the year the first wine was released.
If you like wine there’s plenty of tours to the many vineyards, and you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to the Napa Valley. Hello Costa del Hampshire!
W is for Winchester
Get to know the UK’s previous capital city better. See statues like King Alfred and the Buttercross and spend time walking around Winchester Cathedral and look out for the final resting place of Jane Austen.
Winchester has plenty of great independents and restaurants and is just a lovely place to wander over the old cobble stones.
Here’s a few to get you started…
- ‘HOXTON BAKEHOUSE‘
- ‘BENTO FACTORY – JAPANESE, KOREAN AND VIETNAMESE FOOD‘
- ‘BREAKFAST AT THE WINCHESTER ORANGERY‘
- ‘BREAKFAST AT FORTE KITCHEN‘
X is for Extreme Sports
Ok, so X is another stretch, like Q was. But here I am trying my best, so stay with me.
Hampshire is great for all kinds of extreme sports thanks to a stellar coastline, plenty of beaches and lots of forest. Whether you fancy a mountain bike trail or want to learn to ski or even ride a rib at a trillion knots per hour across the Solent there’s something for every thrill seeker.
My particular penchant is for paddle boarding – a slightly slower sport and maybe not exactly extreme but this is my list and I am qualifying it.
There’s so many places to go for a paddle, the Hamble and Itchen rivers are close to the cities or you can venture to the New Forest.
Y is for Yoga
Hampshire has lots of great yoga studios, instructors doing yoga in the park, on the beach and holding retreats.
Yoga’s a great addition to any training program to help promote flexibility and strength and stay injury free. It’s also fun to do with friends and great for improving well being and taking some time out for yourself.
Read all about my experience doing ‘GOGA WITH MUCKY BUCKET FARM‘.
Z is for Marwell Zoo
Well what else would Z be?! Marwell Zoo is not just for kids, I’m sorry but it’s not.
I’ve been to a lot of zoos including the famous San Diego Zoo in California! But, Marwell’s got charm and space like no other. Make sure you’ve got your walking shoes on because there’s a huge park to get round.
I’ve been visiting since I was a teeny tiny baby and my Nan and Grandad have had a season ticket for as long as I can remember. It’s the place my boyfriend and I had our fourth, or was it fifth date and it holds such a special place in my heart.
It’s also got some major new developments which I’m yet to see! I can’t wait to have a look round again when I can, I’ve heard the new additions are incredible and can’t wait to get a visit in the diary.
Who knew there could be two things I love for the letter Z, if the zoo is not for you, take a trip to Selbourne and hike up the famous zig zag steps and walk. It’s an amazing location and perfect for Instagram and I’m going to be taking a trip there as soon as I can – it’s been on the bucket list for ages.
Day Trip Ideas
I really hope this inspires you to make plans for your next trip or to try something different.
Hampshire is a great place to explore and my list of things to do in the county has grown again.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these or if you have any suggestions of your own of places to try. I love discovering new places to go and experiences to try.