Across Hampshire during the Christmas season, there are so many wonderful places and events to visit that bring out the festive spirit. For this one, we’ll share our meanderings to one of our favourite areas, Winchester City, and the surrounding countryside.

Winchester Cathedral hosts an amazing Christmas market

Winchester, with its Christmas market on the Cathedral grounds, high street decorations, and magnificent tree by the Buttercross, is a magnet for locals and visitors alike. The market attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year and it’s hard to believe it only started in 2006. What makes this market so special is the way the historical settings blend with the Christmas market.

Enchanting scenes at Winchester Cathedral

However, what we love about Winchester at Christmas is the way you turn a corner and encounter an enchanting, Harry Potteresque street scene that is less crowded and we feel more magical than the main market. One of our absolute favourites is Kingsgate Village. Walk away south from the market, through the old wooden Winchester Cathedral Gates in Cathedral Close. You then pass under the arch of Kingsgate and usually there is a Christmas tree with twinkling lights and the delights of the Christmassy shops to enjoy.

If it’s open, it is always a pleasure to go up the old steps next to the arch and enter St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate Church, which as the name suggests, is a tiny church that sits above the archway itself. It has a serenity and simplicity that, even if you are not of the Christian faith, provides a peaceful haven for quiet contemplation. As you go under Kingsgate there are shops and the old bookshop, PG Wells. All will make you breathe in the spirit of Christmas, following in the footsteps of Jane Austen near the house she lived in.

Go window shopping and admire the festive displays

Many of the shops around the City are independent, so you can find some wonderful hand-crafted Christmas prezzies from independent businesses. You can find some great info on these along with regular seasonal events for families on the Winchester bid website –

You can cut around the back of the Cathedral to come out by Winchester Guildhall, which is usually lit up to bring magnificence to the south end of the High Street. Again, little alleyways provide a surprise.

Wintery scenes at Farley Mount

Winchester as a City is special because of its proximity to so much wonderful countryside… So, to bring a different kind of light and sparkle to end our mid-winter edition we head out to Farley Mount Country Park, a mere ten minutes from the City bustle. From the road, a gradual uphill trek leads to a left-hand track that takes you directly to Farley Mount Monument. This is a monument built by the owner for their very special horse in the 18th century.

The white chapel-like building occupies a perfect hill-top position on a small mound with incredible 360-degree views, including as far as Fawley on a clear day. What better spot to appreciate a winter’s landscape. The trig point marks one of the highest points in Hampshire at around 174 metres. The Country Park and surrounding areas offer many routes for walking and cycling at all times of the year.

We were lucky to have a day with hoar frost and sunshine to transform the landscape into a sparkling winter wonderland. Walking out when there is a hoar frost is quite magical. Ice crystals attach themselves to leaves, branches, or any object. The resulting thick, hair-like frost coats anything with an edge. Unlike snow, which blankets everything, the hoar frost makes each element glisten with a clear, icy coating of individual crystals. A photographer’s delight!

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