Places to visit in the South Downs

Step straight off the train into the historic haven of Winchester, once the capital city of England. The City Museum is a good starting point, with plenty of artefacts and hands on fun for children too, the three galleries tell the story of Winchester's past from the Iron Age to the present. Features include mosaics and reconstructed Victorian High Street shops. Also central to the station, Winchester Cathedral and Wolvesey Castle are two impressive places to visit, the former very much still in use, and the latter a legacy of the 12th Century powerful and wealthy Bishop Henry of Blois.

Avington Park Historic House nestled in an unspoilt valley is an unmissable feature of the South Downs landscape. Once described by William Cobbett as 'one of the prettiest places in the County' the house boats a spectacular main hall, a traditional library overlooking the manicured lawns and a magnificent drawing room with a gold plasterwork ceiling. The name of the village alone is good enough reason to visit, and easy too, taking a train to Winchester and the local Velvet 67 bus service through English clichéd cuteness.

There is a strong association with well-known writers and artists who have drawn inspiration from this most English of landscapes. One of the world's favourite English authors, Jane Austen, was born in North Hampshire and you can take a Jane Austen literary tour, exploring the areas which influenced her creativity. Stop off at the church where her father was rector, the quaint villages mentioned in her letters and the country houses where she danced and fell in love.

If you love kite flying, then Ditchling Beacon, the highest point on the South Downs is the place to fly. You can walk there from Hassocks station for a fantastic day out, and on a circular walk that will bring you back to the station (and pub) or pop up there using the seasonal Breeze Bus from Brighton.

The Shipwrights Way long distance path links Alice Holt, where medieval timber was grown, to Portsmouth, a ship-building port, home of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory. Artist Richard Perry is working with local communities to create an art trail that tells the stories of the history, wildlife and hopes of the people living along the route, with twenty carved sculptures appearing along the 88kms path.

Glyndebourne is an institution and cultural highlight of the region, with world renowned opera productions set in the most exquisite location. Not only does it have a highly acclaimed festival from May until August every year, it has a diverse education and outreach remit, and is also wholly committed to environmental sustainability. Just outside Lewes, with excellent rail links, there is a free coach during the Festival and they also support lift shares.

Keep up to date with all events in the South Downs on the National Park Events Calendar.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about South Downs or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: GlennD] [Winchester Mill: © SDNPA/Anne Katrin Purkiss]