Winchester is well known for the Great Hall of its castle, which was built in the 12th century
It is famous for King Arthur’s Round Table, which has hung in the hall from at least 1463. The table actually dates from the 13th century and is of considerable historical interest and attracts many tourists. The table was originally unpainted, but was painted for King Henry VIII in 1522. The names of the legendary Knights of the Round Table are written around the edge of the table surmounted by King Arthur on his throne.
Presently, Winchester is an attractive and peaceful cathedral city deep in the southern English countryside, located conveniently close to both London and Southampton.
A visitor staying in London but with a day to spare and a desire to see more of England could do much worse than simply to hop on a train to Winchester (which gives good views of the southern English countryside) and spend the day wandering around Winchester.
To See & Do
- The Winchester Great Hall and King Arthur’s Round Table, The Castle open daily 10AM-5PM, admission free but donations encouraged – the only remaining part of Winchester Castle is the Great Hall, built in the thirteenth century by Henry III. This is the home of the world famous Arthur’s Round Table.
- Winchester Cathedral, admission £6 – a Norman cathedral begun in 1079, containing the Winchester Bible and featuring the longest Gothic nave in the world. An interesting fact is that the Cathedral was built on rafts floating on a peat marsh. For 800 years the raft was able to carry the weight but, by the 19th century, the Cathedral was in danger of collapse and the foundations were rebuilt by a diver working under water; look out for the statue and story of the Winchester Diver if you visit. The Cathedral is the venue for regular recitals and concerts, and hosts a Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Summer Series. The famous English novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester in 1817 and is buried in the cathedral. A statue by British artist Anthony Gormley is to be found, somewhat unexpectedly, in the Crypt of the cathedral, and is not to be missed. Dean Garnier Garden, Cathedral Close, open daylight hours, admission free – this garden lies on the site of the dormitory of the Benedictine Monastery and offers splendid views of the Cathedral. Pay special attention to the stonework, and how the medieval builders suffered from problems with subsidence.
- The old City Centre, with its narrow pedestrian streets and overhanging medieval buildings. Of especial interest are the Pentice, a group of old shops arcaded at the front, and the Butter Cross, dating back to the 15th century. Always open. Free.
- The River Itchen, a crystal clear chalk-upland stream that flows through multiple channels in central Winchester, seemingly just to surprise visitors by its tinkling presence at every turn. Always open. Free.
The Legend of King Arthur – Locations & Activities