Around 1,300 years ago, the Anglo-Saxon settlement of “Hamtun” (today’s ‘Southampton’) grew and became a service hub for the areas of countryside around it.
That local country became known as “Hamtunscīr” and some centuries later, at the time of the Domesday Book, it was recorded in old English as “Hantescire”. This is why the county’s abbreviation is ‘Hants’ not ‘Hamps’ – something that’s puzzled schoolchildren for a long time!
In fact, sometimes in the formal archaic language used in ceremonies, the county is still referred to as “the County of Southampton”.
So, the county we know today as ‘Hampshire’ has a long and ancient pedigree including being home the city of Winchester – England’s first capital.
Of course, that was a long time ago and an interest in history isn’t a pre-requisite for a holiday in this beautiful county.
Located in the south-western part of England, Hampshire is a transition county from the south east to West Country. It has a long coastline with some lovely beaches and large stretches of beautiful countryside. As a result, in terms of geography, it offers visitors everything and that historic interest just adds a further dimension should you tire of the country and coast!
Many of the resorts and beaches along the coast are famous for a combination of natural beauty, spectacular views over the Solent and Isle of Wight or sometimes just sheer fun.
Now it has to be said that many of the beaches are fine pebbles rather than golden sand but they’re still great for a dip, beachcombing and water sports. Some, such as Southsea, offer a traditional British seaside day out. Others, such as Calshot Beach, offer a quieter and more naturalistic commune with nature.
Although once part of Hampshire, the now independent (in county terms) Isle of Wight is also very nearby with its legendary coastline. If you do take your caravan over though, remember to be sure that your touring caravan insurance is valid for journeys on ferries to non-mainland UK islands.
If you like peace and beautiful scenery, you’ll have plenty to choose from here:
- the South Downs and;
- the New Forest are both globally-famous national parks and the;
- North Wessex Downs is an area designated as being one of outstanding natural beauty.
The sense of rural tranquillity and stunning scenery is captivating and likely to tempt you out of the car and onto your feet for a good explore around. Pathways abound and there’s a delight round every corner.
We started off with history and it needs to be mentioned again. Arguably, few English counties can match Hampshire for its richness of historical interest waiting to be discovered.
The great towns of Portsmouth and Southampton have a long association with England’s maritime history and are fantastic to explore.
Inland, around almost every corner you’ll find a castle or stately home but leaving grandiose structures to one side, there’s also a people’s history to explore. For example, why not explore Jane Austen’s house (now a museum) in Chawton? You can also see where she’s buried in Winchester Cathedral.
For a great insight into bygone times but in a human setting, why not try the Westbury Manor Museum in Fareham? Something that’s even more charming is the 1642 living history museum (essentially a hamlet) near Gosport if you’d like to see how people were living at the start of the Civil War.
Ok, all the above is perhaps all well and good but what if you want to let off steam and go a little ‘loco’?
You won’t be disappointed! The county is rich in sheer fun for young and old alike, such as:
- Paulton’s Theme Park near Romsey – lots of rides;
- Marwell Zoo, near Winchester – gives you a chance for lots of close encounters with animals;
- Southsea funfair!
So, enjoy yourself in Hampshire. It’s something that’s very easy to do!