Including free things to do in Winchester
With it’s vast landscape and stunning views, St Catherine’s Hill in Winchester is a great day out for the whole family. You don’t have to walk to the top of the hill either to get the best views of Winchester.
This stunning land is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the general public who want to enjoy everything this beautiful chalk downland has to offer.
If you are looking for ideas on what to do on your walks with the kids then A Suffork Mum has some ideas here.
Car parking in Winchester
You can find St Catherine’s Hill on Garnier Road, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9PA.
Parking is completely free on Garnier Road just before the bridge over the river. The postcode for the card park is SO23 9PA. If the car park is full then keep driving over the bridge and there is a few places on the side of the road.
As a national park, the nature reserve is free to visit but does accept donations as a thank you.
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St Catherine’s Hill Winchester Walk
This 47 hectares nature reserve offers the whole family stunning views, historic interest and grazing animals. Walking on the trail you could see anything from butterflies in wildflowers to cattle and sheep throughout the whole year.
Close to the South Downs, the River Itchen flows at the bottom and is a great place to spot ducks and swans. You wouldn’t believe how clear the water is!
The best walking trails if you have younger children start parallel to the Itchen Navigation, right by an iron age watermill. It is rocky, uneven and walking boots or wellies are advised as it can flood with the River running right next to the path.
There are loads of kissing gates and other entrances that cross through the grass and to the valley. Be careful if you do leave the path as it can be boggy.
If you follow this path then it takes you right past St Cross Church and through fields as far as you can see. The city streets of Winchester are really close, not that you would know it as you can hardly hear any traffic at all. You can walk for miles while still seeing the hill in the distance.
From the Garnier Road car park, take the path that leads directly to the hill. These walks are not for the fainthearted but are great fun for the whole family.
St Catherine’s Hill History
This 220ft climb up to St Catherine’s Hill does involve some wooden stairs that help guide you to this amazing hillside.
At the top, the earthworks of an Iron Age fort can be found, which historians think could be the buried ruins of a Norman chapel. The copse of beech trees are a great place to play hide and seek too or even to get out of the hot sunshine on a summer’s day.
On the way down, keen spotters may be able to see the Mizmaze that is great for all ages to enjoy.
See how much wildlife you can spot from the great height of the hill. There are so many paths to enjoy that you can visit over and over again and not take the same one twice.
The best time to visit St Catherine’s Hill, Winchester is in the summertime when the grass is shorter and the wildflowers really come out and shine. Bring a picnic and see how many butterflies you can spot enjoying the long flowers.
The wintertime is fun too. Make sure you pack your wellies and dress warmly even if you aren’t tackling the hill as the breeze does follow the river.
We went a day after a lot of rain so the River Itchen had burst it’s banks near the start of the trail which was great given that the kids wanted to puddle jump.
Dogs are welcome but on leads as the wildlife is left to roam as it pleases.
If you are looking for something to pair St Catherine’s Hill with for a full day out then make sure that you have a look at Jane Austen’s house. It’s a small independent museum that celebrates the life of the author and the books she wrote.
You could also head into the city of Winchester and enjoy the amazing views of Winchester Cathedral. Looking around this amazing building and its park is free of charge but touring the inside does come at a price.
For Winter days, make sure you visit one of Winchesters’ many free museums. Our two favorites are City Museum and Westgate Museum which are right in the center of the city. They both offer insides into our amazing history which also includes a debtor’s jail and Victorian time artifacts.
The Adjutant General’s Corps Museum The Guardhouse is great too. This museum is in the Guard House of Peninsula Barracks in Winchester and is great if your kids are learning about The Second World War. It holds personal accounts of the time plus the Queens own driving permit which is on loan to the museum
The Great Hall and King Arthur’s Round Table is also a must stop. Right in the center of Winchester, this crown jewel is steeped in history. Look around the great hall and let your kids run outside to the full view of the city center.
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During the summer months, make sure you walk along to Wolvesey Castle. It may be pieces now but it has hosted many a royal back in its day and boosts some of the most stunning views of the local area.
St Catherine’s Hill really is a great place to visit for the whole family. Get out and get some fresh air while enjoying everything Winchester has to offer.
If you enjoyed this post and would like some more ideas on things to do in Hampshire then head over to the Things To Do section here on Things To Do In Hampshire With Kids where you’ll find over 50 day out ideas in Hampshire that the whole family will enjoy. You could also pop over and follow our Facebook page here or our Hampshire days out Pinterest boards for lots more ideas on what you can do as a family in Hampshire; Days Out For The Kids in Hampshire and Cheap and Free Days Out in Hampshire.
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