Hampshire Holidays: A Weekend in the South Downs

Hampshire Holidays: A Weekend in the South Downs

Our home in the South Downs National park is undeniably a beautiful place- with rolling hills, ancient woodland, and idyllic viewpoints. Spanning two counties, the National Park is an extensive area with a lot to offer for everyone, from traditional villages for those seeking a quiet break from metropolitan life to hikers, mountain bikers and water sports enthusiasts looking to get outdoors.

For the Outdoor Enthusiasts

For those who seek fresh air, exercise and to break from routine, the South Downs provides the perfect escape. Fans of hiking, cycling and horse-riding alike can enjoy the South Downs Way, a 100-mile trail leading from Winchester to Eastbourne, through the heart of the National Park. This is, of course, an amazing way to view the National Park on foot, and at a slow pace, giving ample time to enjoy your surroundings. While the route can be completed over the course of a week or two consecutively, the various sections can also be tackled over the course of multiple weekends as a more manageable challenge.

Aside from the South Downs Way, there are a range of shorter walks for all abilities across Hampshire and Sussex, with beauty spots such as Old Winchester Hill, Butser Hill, Devil’s Dyke and the infamous Seven Sisters connecting to idyllic trails, cosy cafes and famous landmarks in the surrounding areas. Similarly, for mountain bikers, there are a range of designated trails throughout the national park, many mirroring the hiking routes of the park.

For the History Enthusiasts

With a rich history, the area boasts an array of attractions to interest both the curious and the experts alike. From Winchester and its many attractions- both heavy-hitters and hidden gems, to countryside museums such as the Weald and Downland Living Museum. With the national park being the home of Jane Austen, literary fans can visit her historic home just near Alton; the very house in which she wrote Pride and Prejudice.  Or learn about the county’s rural history with visits to museums such as Butser Hill Ancient Farm: An Open Air Archaeology museum which aims to teach about the past through reenactment, providing a great family day out while acting as a functioning research centre. Alternatively, the Weald and Downland Museum near Chichester boasts over fifty relocated historical buildings, to demonstrate what rural life was like in Sussex over the past thousand years- a great day out for children and adults alike.

Alternatively, there is a wealth of stately homes and historical houses in the national park- from Stansted Park near Chichester, set in 1800 acres of ancient woodland, the Edwardian house was once the hub of aristocratic society, and now offers visitors a chance to explore the house and its gardens, finishing off with a light lunch in the tea rooms, or picking up a souvenir at the farm shop on site. Also in Sussex, Petworth House boasts a full and varied day out for adults and children alike- with the large stately home playing host to a wealth of beautiful rooms and a gallery showing an extensive collection of art, featuring pieces from Gainsborough and more. Then, explore the 700 acres of grounds, including pleasure gardens designed by the renowned Capability Brown and an extensive deer park, in which you can walk alongside herds of deer.

Towns & Cities

The South Downs are home to a range of serene villages and bustling towns, both equally delightful places to pass a day. The market town of Petersfield plays host to an array of both high street and independent shops, restaurants and bars, and is a great place from which to explore the downs, next to the Hampshire Hangars and in proximity to beautiful country villages such as East & West Meon, Exton, Steep and more. Of course, no visit to the South Downs is complete without a tasting of the Finest English Fizz- as the closest railway link to Hambledon, this is the ideal place from which to visit our historic vineyard for one of our tours and tastings.

Further afield in Sussex, Arundel is a fairytale town that has witnessed over a thousand years of history- watched over by its prominent castle, which has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years. With an extensive castle and gardens, this is a fascinating day out. However, if your visit to the castle leaves time left for exploration, the town itself is home to an array of tea rooms, cafes, restaurants, bars and more- as well as a range of independent shops in which you can spend the day browsing.