The county town of Hampshire, Winchester was once the capital of the kingdom’s of both Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror. Now a small, peaceful place, signs of its history are visible everywhere, from the stunning cathedral, whose construction began in the eleventh century, to the ruins of the twelfth century castle, and the narrow, winding streets lined with Regency and Elizabethan architecture.
Jane Austen spent most of her life in or near Winchester and is buried in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral. Her home at nearby Chawton is now a museum dedicated to the author.
Hampshire’s south-west section is taken up by the New Forest National Park. Formerly a royal hunting ground (having been requisitioned by William the Conqueror in 1079), the New Forest is a pretty area of woodland and heath, dotted with traditional towns and villages and criss-crossed by many walking and cycling paths, where wild ponies and deer wander freely.
The harbour city of Portsmouth on Hampshire’s south coast isn’t going to win any awards for looks, but it’s spruced up Quayside contains the fascinating ‘Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’, comprising two hugely impressive historic vessels – Nelson’s HMS Victory and Victorian HMS Warrior – the brand new Mary Rose Museum, housing the remains of Henry VIII's sixteenth century warship, while it undergoes its final phase of restoration, and several other interesting museums about Britain’s maritime history.