Discover Ancient History in Winchester, Pomp and Pageantry in Royal Windsor | TravelResearchOnline


Discover Ancient History in Winchester, Pomp and Pageantry in Royal Windsor

With the effectiveness of our vaccination programme bringing a release from lockdown ever nearer, it’s not unreasonable to think of September as a very good month for UK-bound travel. By then, your garden-loving customers won’t have been to our shores for around 18 months, and my top story reveals that no fewer than 6 world-class flower shows and festivals can help you to profitably turn that to your advantage!

This week’s focus sharpens on the cathedral city of Winchester, just 30 minutes north of Southampton and 1 hour from London Heathrow. It ticks all the boxes for a 2 to 3-night pre- or post-cruise extension. I’ve also highlighted how Royal Windsor’s proximity to London Heathrow works well for the first 2 nights of any UK tour or Dover, Harwich or Southampton departing cruise.


A Colourful Bouquet of Flower Festivals

We have a saying: You wait ages for a bus and then 3 come along at once! So it is with 6 Garden Festivals and Flower Shows in September, and they’ll thrill your green-fingered clients. The Flower Show at Wisley, the flagship for the Royal Horticultural Society (7th-12th September), the Leeds Castle Festival of Flowers (11th-15th September) and the Winchester Cathedral Flower Festival combine as a memorable 7-nighter. Other options include the Winchester event and the rescheduled Chelsea Flower Show (21st-26th September), while another starts with Chelsea and includes the brand-new Japanese Festival at Kew, opening on 2nd October.

Credit: Visit Winchester

Travelling Through Anglo-Saxon and Medieval England

A fascinating full-day tour that starts at the 13th century Great Hall, where the Round Table closely associated with King Arthur has hung for over 700 years, and the adjacent Queen Eleanor’s Garden, a representation of the medieval garden visited by Kings and Queens of England. The riverside route then follows in the footsteps of the 18th century poet John Keats as it heads for the 12th century Hospital of St Cross (see video), the oldest charitable institution in the country, where you’ll receive Wayfarer’s Dole, a medieval tradition of a small cup of beer and a morsel of bread.

Discover One of Europe’s Finest Cathedrals

Spend the afternoon at the spectacular Norman cathedral and walk down the aisle that’s been peopled by many of England’s early Kings, Queens and Bishops who were baptized, enthroned, and buried here. See their Kings and Scribes: Birth of a Nation permanent exhibition, which explores 1000 years of history, and enjoy English Afternoon Tea in the Refectory before attending Choral Evensong at 5.30pm (daily, but not on Wednesdays). Between 15th-19th September, the cathedral will be transformed by striking and fragrant floral displays and elaborate decorative schemes, with a Flower Festival that brings together an experience for all the senses.

Credit: Winchester Cathedral

Gardens, Gin, and Downton Abbey

A side trip from Winchester can include a morning visit to the RHS Partner Garden at Houghton Lodge, often described as ‘a little piece of heaven’, a pub lunch, and a stroll through the fragrant and colourful National Collection of Old-fashioned Roses. Plus tea and cakes at the former 12th century Augustinian monastery at Mottisfont (see video)—wonderful on a warm summer’s afternoon. During the drive to London, enjoy a sampling at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery or some weaving at Whitchurch Silk Mill, on your way to Highclere Castle and a Downton Abbey flourish to close the day.

Britain’s Finest Ornamental Garden and a Carriage Ride

Instead of joining the weekday mobile carpark slowly winding its way into central London where your rooms are unlikely to be ready, make the 20-minute hop to nearby Royal Windsor and fortify yourself with a cup of coffee or tea (plus full English Breakfast?) at the colour-filled, world-renowned Savill Gardens (see video). Then take a short horse-drawn carriage drive and see Windsor Castle from the Long Walk. Once checked in, I can also set up a wonderful Welcome to England English Afternoon Tea cruise on the River Thames. Doesn’t that get your tour off to a really good start?

They’re Changing The Guard At Windsor Castle

This is one of the great sights in Windsor. To see the actual ceremony, you need to pay to enter the Castle and watch it in the Lower Ward. Then, take a closer look at the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House (an exquisite masterpiece in miniature), and the magnificent St George’s Chapel, one of Britain’s most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings. Time your visit for the early afternoon and stay on for Choral Evensong at 5:15 daily, excluding Wednesdays, or for a Sunday morning so that you can attend one of the Morning Worship services. This is something very special.

Windsor For A Three Night Stay

A leisurely visit to Hampton Court Palace is just 45 minutes away, and it’s just over 1 hour to Blenheim Palace where a visit can be followed by an ‘Alice meets Harry’ walking tour of the Oxford Colleges. It’s also less than 45 minutes to the filmmaking magic, the breath-taking sets of the Great Hall, Forbidden Forest, and Diagon Alley at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London—The Making of Harry Potter. Families will also be thrilled by the huge number of interactive rides, attractions and live shows at the Legoland® Windsor Resort, the UK’s favourite Kids Theme Park.

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at or email him at

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