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10 things to do in Basingstoke this summer

Read about 10 things to so in Basingstoke this summer

The Hampshire town of Basingstoke has plenty to see and do, both in the town centre and in the unspoiled countryside nearby. This summer there are lots of activities as part of the Made in Basingstoke festival, celebrating the connections with Jane Austen who lived nearby, and highlighting the creativity, food and heritage that’s on offer locally. If you’re visiting Hampshire and plan a visit to Basingstoke, here are some things to look out for this summer.

1. Follow the Sitting with Jane Trail

While Bath and Winchester are well known for their Jane Austen connections, not so many people are aware that Jane Austen was born at Steventon, just outside Basingstoke, where her father was the rector at Steventon church. To mark the Basingstoke connection and the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death this year, there’s a trail of painted book-benches that you can follow, in and around Basingstoke this summer.

Sitting with Jane in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sitting with Jane in Basingstoke

Each of the 24 benches in the Sitting with Jane Art Trail is decorated by a different artist, showing themes from her life when she shopped, danced, visited friends and wrote her novels in and around Basingstoke. I picked up a leaflet showing all the different locations of the benches with ten of them in the town centre and others in locations close to Basingstoke that had a connection with the author. There’s also a mobile app that helps you locate the benches and upload photos to share with your friends on social media.

I especially loved the bench in War Memorial Park showing Chatsworth House, which was used as the location for Mr Darcy’s home in the film of Pride and Prejudice and the Regency Doll’s House bench outside Goldings which lets us glimpse the domestic world that Jane Austen knew and wrote about. Many of the benches have quotations from Jane Austen’s writing, so take a closer look for insights into the society she observed and captured so beautifully in her novels.

Sitting with Jane in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sitting with Jane in Basingstoke

The Sitting with Jane art trail will be in Basingstoke until Thursday 31 August 2017 after which the benches will be auctioned for charity – so see them while you can. You’ll find more information on the Sitting with Jane website

Look out for these Jane Austen themed activities in Basingstoke this summer;

  • Retail and Romance: Jane Austen goes to the ball – an exhibition at the Willis Museum about the Basingstoke that Jane Austen knew when she came shopping and attended dances at the Assembly Rooms. 29 July – 7 October
  • The Basingstoke Jane Austen Statue: A new statue of Jane Austen to commemorate her connections with Basingstoke can be found outside the Willis Museum
  • Jane Austen Themed Afternoon Tea: Book for this special afternoon tea at the Red Lion Hotel

Discover what’s on in the centre of Basingstoke on the In Basingstoke Website.

I hope you enjoy the video below about things to do in Basingstoke this summer

If you can’t see the video above on things to do in Basingstoke this summer you can view it on YouTube here, or on my site here and click for direct download of video here

2. Getting foodie in Basingstoke

If you’re visiting Basingstoke for the day, you’ll be spoiled for choice of places to eat around the town centre. Within the Festival Place shopping centre, there are plenty of popular restaurants in the food quarter of Festival Square close to the Vue cinema. For a quick lunchtime bite I recommend Festival Street Kitchen, an independent street-food cafe who offer a different big pan dish each day, as well as tasty Burrito wraps with different fillings. The cafe is clearly popular with locals and as soon as the big pan was ready at 11.30am a queue started to form – once the big pan dish is sold out there’s no more until next day!

Festival street kitchen in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Festival street kitchen in Basingstoke

If you’re eating out in the evening, the old quarter of Basingstoke, called Top of the Town is the food hub for independent restaurants, and we tried a delicious Thai meal at The Lime Leaf (25 London St). The restaurant is in an old Tudor building on what was once the main street through Basingstoke leading to London, and if you sit upstairs you can see all the old oak beams. We ordered our meal from the well priced Early Bird menu (2 courses for £13.95) and I really enjoyed the Mussaman chicken curry with coconut milk, potatoes and peanuts with a big bowl of rice. In the same part of town there are some other good independent restaurants, such as Number12 (12 London St) serving steak and classic dishes and the popular Mayflower Chinese restaurant (1 May Place).

Lime Leaf in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lime Leaf in Basingstoke

Time for tea in Basingstoke?

If you enjoy meeting friends for afternoon tea, the Red Lion Hotel on London St serves a classic afternoon tea with scones and cream, a selection of sandwiches and cakes, as well as a new Jane Austen afternoon tea which includes a glass of Bucks Fizz.

Tearoom at Willis Museum Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Tearoom at Willis Museum

In the Willis Museum in the heart of the old town is a pretty cafe tucked away at the back of the ground floor, serving tea, coffee, homemade cakes and local Hampshire produce. With a sparkling chandelier, marble fireplace and pretty floral wall paper, it is a setting that Jane Austen would have felt very much at home in.

I also enjoyed a coffee at the Proteus Creation Space on Council Rd which has a light and airy cafe, serving teas, coffees, home made cakes and sandwiches at lunchtime. The cafe is open daily except Sunday 9.30am-5pm.

In the Top of the Town area, look out for the markets on Wednesday and Saturday where there’s lots of fresh and local produce on sale – more information on the Top of the town website

Discover what’s on in the centre of Basingstoke on the In Basingstoke Website.

Cafe at Proteus Centre Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cafe at Proteus Centre

3. Getting creative in Basingstoke

When I visited All our own crafts, a pop-up shop within Festival Place, I found a hub of creativity with the work of up to 40 local crafters and artists on display in the shop. The shop started in 2014 and has since moved to several different locations around the centre, depending on where there is an empty shop that they can use for a few months. I met co-owners Kate Donohoe and Jackie Denham whose aim is to inspire people to try different crafts, as well as supporting the creative businesses of crafters in Basingstoke.

All Our Own Crafts in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

All Our Own Crafts in Basingstoke

While I was there I tried my hand at making a crochet butterfly, one of the different craft workshops that was being run for the Made in Basingstoke festival. The shop is currently closed for a summer break but will be returning in the autumn, when they will be running more workshops, so keep an eye on their website or Facebook page. Another local shop that often runs creative workshops is Vintage Treasures (4 Church Street) who specialise in 1950s vintage fashions and will be running a “Fashion in the 50s” workshop in August – keep an eye on their Facebook page for details of future events. If you’re looking for some family entertainment, check out what’s on at the Basingstoke Discovery Centre, the library and community hub that’s located within Festival Place – they often have creative and storytelling events, especially in the school holidays so check out what’s on here.

All our own crafts Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

All our own crafts Basingstoke

Look out for these creative activities in Basingstoke this summer;

  • Fashion in the 50s at Vintage Treasures Tues 1 August 7-9pm
  • Free Childrens Craft sessions in Basingstoke Discovery Centre Fri 4 Aug from 10am, Fri 10 Aug from 2pm
  • 21st Century Tale – A Festival Place writing competition encourages young writers to submit their 21st century tale – journals available from the information desk or from the Festival Place website.

Read more in my article Summer Festival Fun in Basingstoke

4. Discover Basingstoke’s Heritage Trail

Basingstoke was once an important staging post on the coaching route from London to Andover. While London Street in Top of the Town (Basingstoke’s Old Quarter) is now pedestrianised, this was once the busy main route to London. You can pick up a leaflet for the Town Trail which gives information about all the old buildings, some of which date back to Tudor times, in the heart of Basingstoke. When you walk around Wote St, London St, Church St and Winchester St, look out for the Heritage information boards that tell you about the history of what you’ll find nearby. Did you know, for instance, that the famous Thomas Burberry raincoats were originally made in Basingstoke and the company had their first showroom at 17 London Street? Look out for the Heritage Open days in September, with free access to many old buildings that are not normally open to the public.

For more information about what’s on check out the Top of the Town website.

Top of the town in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Top of the town in Basingstoke

Top of the town in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Top of the town in Basingstoke

5. Plenty of Shopping in Basingstoke

There are two adjoining shopping centres in Basingstoke, The Malls and Festival Place. You’ll find most of the top High Street Brands here in a light and airy covered mall, with plenty of places for refreshment, a sports centre, information desk and the Vue cinema.

Festival Place in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Festival Place in Basingstoke

I particularly liked the Festival Square part of Festival Place where they had made a Mediterranean garden area, with olive trees and floral plantings as well as a children’s sandplay area. There are some ceramic water features here, which are fun for children to splash around and cool off on sunny days, as well as cafe seating for the nearby Festival Street Kitchen. Both shopping centres put on summer activities and events, so check out what’s on on the events pages for Festival Place and The Malls There’s also plenty going on at the Basingstoke Discovery Centre which is situated within Festival Place.

Festival Square in Basingstoke

Festival Square in Basingstoke

Look out for these events in the shopping centres in Basingstoke this summer;

  • Annual Punch and Judy Festival with shows throughout the day 27-30th July in The Malls Shopping Centre
  • Storytime for children 0-5 yrs at Basingstoke Discovery Centre Fri 4th & Fri 11th Aug 10.30am
  • Love Yourself Selfie in The Malls Shopping Centre Sun 6 Aug 11am-3pm
  • Family Fun at The Malls Shopping Centre – Fun and laughter in The Malls with rides, slides and workshops – Check The Malls Website for details

Read more in my article Summer Festival Fun in Basingstoke

6. Getting cultural in Basingstoke

Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke

There’s a thriving arts and theatre scene in Basingstoke with Anvil Arts running the Haymarket Theatre, The Anvil and The Forge. The main theatre on Wote St is The Haymarket which was once the Corn Exchange building, becoming a cinema in 1913 and then a theatre in the 1950s. The Anvil is a music venue, while the Forge hosts smaller scale productions and both are close to the station, while the Haymarket is in the Top of the Town. If you’re visiting Basingstoke, it’s worth checking out what’s on at the different venues which host a wide variety of productions and performers – see what’s on here.

Also worth checking out is the Proteus Creation Space, a dynamic creative hub in the heart of Basingstoke, based in a beautiful Victorian building. They host theatre shows, events and exhibitions, and you can often see interesting productions from emerging artists. Check out what’s on at the Proteus Creation Space website.

7. Visit the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery in Basingstoke

Willis Museum in Basingstoke

Willis Museum in Basingstoke

I especially enjoyed a visit to The Willis Museum in the old part of Basingstoke, housed in what was once a Town Hall and Corn Exchange. During my visit, works were underway outside to install a new statue of Jane Austen, to comemorate her connections with Basingstoke. This has now been unveiled and you’ll find Jane’s statue at the heart of the town that she knew so well. On the ground floor of the museum is the Sainsbury Gallery with regularly changing exhibitions – while I was there it was an exhibition of printmaker Angie Lewin. Soon this will be replaced by a Jane Austen themed exhibition that runs 29 July – 7 October 2017 entitled Retail and Romance: Jane goes to the Ball . This free exhibition examines the world of Basingstoke that Jane Austen knew, from dances in the Assembly Rooms to the gossip and gowns that she mentions in her letters.

Jane Austen Statue in Basingstoke

Jane Austen Statue in Basingstoke

Upstairs at the museum are the permanent galleries, which trace the history of Basingstoke from Roman times to the present day. On the way up the stairs, you’ll encounter a Roman gentleman who will tell you about the impressive stone burial casket he commissioned which was found nearby, and upstairs you’ll learn about how the rural poor lived in the 18th century and how Basingstoke’s character changed in the 1960s as it became a popular place to move from London.

Discover what’s on in the centre of Basingstoke on the In Basingstoke Website.

Willis Museum in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Willis Museum in Basingstoke

8. Step back in time at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke

After visiting the centre of Basingstoke, I decided to check out some of the things that are on the edge of town or a short drive away and found Milestones Museum on the leisure park just off Churchill way. It feels a little incongruous to find a heritage attraction like this on a leisure park among an aquadome, ice rink, bowling alley and indoor skydiving, but the Museum has lots of fun things to see in a large hangar and of course you’ll benefit from plenty of free parking. As you enter you get a view from above of the whole building which is a little like walking through the town streets of a hundred years ago, with old fashioned buses and cars, parked on the cobbled streets in front of shops and businesses.

Milestones Museum Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Milestones Museum Basingstoke

You can go inside the shops for a look around at what they are selling – in lots of places, the voices of the past will tell you their stories of how people lived in yesteryear. A lot of the things on display have a connection to Basingstoke, like the Thornycroft cars that were made in a factory nearby. I rather wished that the sweetshop had been open so I could buy my penny’s worth of sherbert lemons, as I used to do as a child.

If you go: Milestones Museum, open daily except Monday Adults £11, Children £7.30

Discover what’s on in the centre of Basingstoke on the In Basingstoke Website.

Milestones Museum Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Milestones Museum Basingstoke

9. The Vyne near Basingstoke

Also close to Basingstoke is The Vyne, a 16th century country house that was built for Lord Sandys who was Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VIII. The house is managed by the National Trust and is set in beautiful countryside, the portico entrance overlooking the lake. From the car park you walk through the garden, with a pretty summerhouse surrounded by lawns and flower filled herbaceous borders.

The Vyne near Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Vyne near Basingstoke

This summer is rather special, as the whole of the roof is being replaced and the National Trust have cleverly turned this into a special attraction by allowing visitors to go up to a platform and look down on the work in progress. Your ticket gives you timed entry, with only a limited number looking around the house at any one time, so on busy days it’s best to arrive early to make your tour.  The house is notable for the visit paid by King Henry VIII and his wife Anne Boleyn in 1535 when they stayed here on their royal progress around England, incurring huge expense as well as honour on their host. If you go into the Tudor chapel, you can hear the sounds and music of the high mass that would have been sung at the time when Henry visited, and there are beautiful panelled rooms that also date back to that period.

The Vyne near Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Vyne near Basingstoke

It was fascinating to be allowed up above the roof which is currently shrouded in a canopy of scaffolding and plastic sheeting, looking down onto the red roof tiles which are being carefully removed and replaced one by one. The number of people allowed on the roof is limited at any one time, so you may have to wait a while before you are awarded your yellow safety vest and sent up in the lift. After your visit to the house and roof, it’s a lovely place to spread out your picnic on the lawns in front of the lake or have refreshments in the tearoom courtyard.

If you go: The Vyne, Adults £11.90, Child £5.90, Family £28.80. Open daily 11-4 for house, 10-5 for garden.

The Vyne near Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Vyne near Basingstoke

10. Where to stay in Basingstoke

If you’re looking for a comfortable hotel as a base to visit Basingstoke and tour the beautiful Hampshire countryside, I recommend The Hampshire Court Hotel where I stayed. It’s situated on the edge of Basingstoke, a 10 minute drive from the centre of town, with ample parking so ideal if you are travelling by car. This modern four star hotel is part of the QHotels group which has 26 hotels throughout the UK, with rooms set around a courtyard, which is beautifully landscaped with walkways and plantings of lavender and grasses.

Hampshire Court Hotel in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

I had a very spacious room on the 1st floor which was decorated in restful shades of soft green, with light wooden desk and coffee table. The comfortable sofa in my bedroom, with magazines laid out on the table, made a nice area to relax and I also enjoyed the view from my window over the courtyard.

Hampshire Court Hotel in Basingstoke

The large bathroom had both bath and shower with luxurious ESPA toiletries and I felt very spoiled with the spacious size of the rooms as well as a separate lobby area with wardrobe and tea making facilities. Breakfast was served buffet style in the dining room on the ground floor overlooking the courtyard and had a good selection of pastries, cereals, healthy fresh fruit and yoghurts as well as hot options for those who like a hearty English breakfast. I noticed that there were gluten free cereals and other dietary options clearly marked as part of the buffet.

Hampshire Court Hotel in Basingstoke Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Hampshire Court Hotel in Basingstoke

I’d happily recommend this hotel as a base for business or leisure when visiting Basingstoke. For more information or to book: The Hampshire Court Hotel 

See more photos from this trip to Basingstoke

Visitor Information for Basingstoke

There’s plenty going on this summer in Basingstoke during the Made in Basingstoke Festival – discover what’s on in the centre of Basingstoke on the In Basingstoke Website.

Read more in my article Summer Festival Fun in Basingstoke

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Read about 10 things to do in Basingstoke this summer

This article is a collaboration with the Made in Basingstoke Festival who kindly hosted my stay in Basingstoke. Some of the activities mentioned were provided on a complimentary basis.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Victoria
    July 25, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    Thank you for giving us a mention!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    July 28, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Lots of wonderful places around Basingstoke, including Old Basing and fabulous Hampshire countryside. Clearly, as a history lover I need to revise my views of the modern town, which I recall as rather windswept. But then I was mainly in and out of the corporate office blocks!
    [email protected]´s last blog post ..Memorial to Edward I

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      July 28, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      @Mike I think a lot of people know Basingstoke for going there to work but it has more to it than that

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