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Hampshire Flag

Sharing a border with five other counties, as well as the Solent separating it from the Isle of Wight, Hampshire is one of England’s largest counties. With its fair share of historical sights and countryside, including the New Forest and the South Downs National Parks and three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, plus a mix of market towns and big cities, Hampshire offers plenty of days out and things to do for everyone.

Days out in Hampshire

Hampshire is certainly a county you can explore, whatever your interests and is full of activities, attractions, and family days out. Best known for its port cities of Southampton and Porstmouth, as well as historic Winchester, Hampshire offers a good blend of history and culture alongside contemporary style, whatever you choose to do.

If you’re visiting Southampton, be sure to check out the Solent Sky Museum to see some legendary aircraft, as well as the SeaCity Museum. Or, while you wander the main shopping area, make a stop at the Bargate, Southampton’s Grade I listed, medieval gatehouse.

Just 20 miles away is Hampshire’s other port city, Portsmouth. Famed for its naval history, this is where you’ll find Nelson’s warship, the HMS Victory and the Mary Rose Museum where you can visit the Tudor shipwreck. Or take a bird’s eye look at Portsmouth with panoramic views from the top of the iconic 170-metre Spinnaker Tower.

Winchester, once England’s capital city, provides plenty of history. The famous cathedral is a dominant sight and features the longest medieval nave in Europe. The 13th-century Great Hall is also well worth a visit to see the legendary Round Table of King Arthur. And just outside the city, you’ll find Marwell Zoo, home to hundreds of animals and endangered species in 140-acres of parkland, and the inspirational Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium.

You can discover more about the literary great at Jane Austen’s House in the village of Chawton or visit 18th-century naturalist, Gilbert White’s House in nearby Selbourne village. The National Motor Museum at historic Beaulieu, near Brockenhurst, is always popular, but a trip to Romsey will certainly tick boxes for young and old. There you‘ll discover Broadlands, the iconic country home of Lord Mountbatten, together with Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World for rides and attractions.

Topography, geology, and climate

Full of hills, rivers, a slice of green belt land, and natural land and coastal features, Hampshire’s geology offers something of everything. But they come together to create a diverse county that delivers a characteristic mix of land qualities and soil types.

Much of northern Hampshire is a general mix of slight acidic loamy and shallow lime-rich soils, both freely draining and offering low to medium fertility. This is capped with a mix of base-rich loam and sand soil types. The south of the county is predominantly made up of base-rich loam and clay soil types with patches of high acid sand and loam soils. Areas including Portsmouth and Hayling Island are rich in naturally wet loam and clay soils.

Despite its coastal position, Hampshire is far enough removed to be protected against extreme weather coming in from the Atlantic. Following other southern counties with its milder climate, it has an average high hovering around 22ºC (71ºF). However, temperatures in the winter months can be lower at around 2ºC (35ºF) and medium to heavy snowfall is not uncommon. Annual average rainfall across the county is around 760mm (30”).

Hampshire’s parks and gardens

Alongside its attractions, history, and stunning Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Hampshire has plenty of tranquil locations and gardens to enjoy. Using the milder climate to its advantage, these gorgeous formal and informal gardens are a joy for horticulturalists and gardeners to explore, while giving everyone a pleasant, family day out.

North Hampshire

A superb restored garden is on display at The Manor House in Upton Grey, near Basingstoke. Hidden beneath undergrowth and weeds for decades, new owners of an almost derelict Manor House discovered what was once a Gertrude Jekyll masterpiece. The entire 4.5-acres has now been fully restored to its former glory and includes a formal garden with fine displays of roses, peonies, lilies, delphinium, poppies, and dahlias, all bordered by a Yew hedge, plus a wild garden and kitchen garden with attractive herbaceous borders.

North of Basingstoke in Sherborne St. John, National Trust property, The Vyne, is a 17th-century stately home and popular wedding venue with beautiful gardens and grounds to explore. The Walled Garden features a vast collection of seasonal fruits, flowers, veg, and hops, a magnificent dahlia collection, and a pollinating ‘mini meadow’. The Summerhouse Garden has a fantastic display of beds and borders, and there’s also a wild garden, orchard, and ornamental lake to enjoy.

West Green House Garden in Hook, near Basingstoke, features a fine example of a classic walled garden, complete with Wisteria-covered entrance. Designed by Australian garden designer, Marylyn Abbott, the many borders and beds are separated by gravel pathways and lead to the Lakefield complete with a lake, pond, and garden follies which are surrounded by swathes of daffodils and fritillaries during the spring. There’s also the Chinese-inspired ornamental Garden of The Five Bridges. Collectively, they make for a wonderful visit.

South Hampshire

Perhaps the most well-known National Trust property in Hampshire, Mottisfont Abbey, near Romsey, has gardens that never disappoint, whatever the season. From the spring spectacle of blossoms and daffodils, the magnificent early summer display inside its famous walled rose garden, to bursts of late summer and autumn colour in the herbaceous borders and stunning winter garden with its hardy shrubs and perennials giving a late splash of colour. You can also take in the waterways and great trees in Mottisfont’s surrounding parkland.

Also near Romsey, the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens are set in 180-acres and are famous for the magnificent exhibition of flowers throughout the year, as well as their tree plantations and arboretum. Pay a worthwhile visit and make your way through a stunning display of camellias, rhododendrons, and magnolias, alongside glorious herbaceous borders. Wander through the Hydrangea Walk and Peony Border, as well as the peat and bog gardens, to discover thousands of varieties. With activities for children, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy.

Just a few miles east of Winchester, near Alresford, the National Trust’s Hinton Ampner is a country house with 500 years of history and 12-acres of splendid gardens. Designed as a series of ‘garden rooms’, each area has individual plants, flowers, and characteristics on display together with colourful borders, terraces, and impressive topiary. The standout highlight is the garden’s collection of over 100 varieties of rose whose fragrance is hard to beat when they’re in full bloom.