*This is a collaborative guest post
Basingstoke is perhaps one of Hampshire’s most understated and underrated towns. Often remembered for being an “overspill” for Londoners in the 1960s, this forgotten gem is so much more than its recent past. Even Google missed us off the map once and replaced the town’s name with “town centre!”
Over thousands of years, this once small market community has become a hive of thriving businesses and is humming with creative energy and a rich cultural heritage to boot.
You can follow in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, discover Jane Austen’s birthplace and stomping grounds, wander around luscious green spaces, and so much more.
If you haven’t guessed it already, we love Basingstoke and here are 5 reasons why we think you should too:
Spectacular glimpses into the past
Basingstoke is full of mementoes and sites from the past, and what’s more brilliant, you don’t have to go very far before you can see them for yourself!
One of the best places to explore and discover Tudor England is at the National Trust’s The Vyne. Built on a cluster of medieval buildings, the house has hosted Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and later Jane Austen, as well as a Speaker for the House of Commons and has acted as a shelter to WWII evacuees.
Within its walls, you can find exquisite period furniture, various tapestries and paintings. But one of the biggest standouts has to be the 4th-century Roman ring, the Ring of Silvanus. It is said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s celebrated masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings – and when you see it for yourself, you’ll understand why!
Venture to the small village of Old Basing, and you can explore Basing House, one of Tudor England’s richest and grandest palaces. Built for Edward VI, Queen Mary I and Elizabeth I’s visionary treasurer William Paulet, the house has seen many visitors over the years, including both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
Despite the house being burned down after a siege at the height of the English Civil War, you can explore the site’s extraordinary Great Barn today, where you can still see the scars of war etched into its walls and get an in-depth look into what life was like throughout the centuries through the state of the art exhibition.
Quirky and memorable experiences
Basingstoke is home to one of the top-rated escape rooms, Exciting Escapes. Not only is this a fully immersive, live-action game that throws you in at the deep end, but this is an experience that you are unlikely to forget!
You have 60 minutes on the clock to journey back in time to the Cold War, uncover a diplomatic scandal or even wrestle your way through the WWI trenches! With seven unique escape rooms to choose from and some of the most mind-bending and exhilarating games in the UK, this is not to be missed.
So if you fancy yourself a detective, the hero or simply want to escape reality for the afternoon or evening, then this is the experience for you!
The life and times of Jane Austen
Jane Austen is perhaps one of the most influential female novelists of all time, and guess what? Basingstoke is her home town.
Nestled in the heart of the Old Town, you will find the Willis Museum marked by the mesmerising bronze statue of Austen herself that was unveiled back in 2017, 200 years after her death.
Stepping inside the museum, you will discover peculiar and fascinating objects including a hair from Copenhagen, the 1st Duke of Wellington’s horse at Waterloo and a wedding cake from the Victorian age! From Roman pottery fragments from nearby Silchester to rare 18th century Delftware, Willis Museum offers a unique museum experience.
Make sure you check out Sainsbury Gallery while you’re there, and marvel at all the exquisite exhibitions showcasing fashion, photography, paintings and pop culture.
Premier performing arts venue!
Anyone who has ever stepped foot in Basingstoke will be well acquainted with the spectacular performing arts venue, The Anvil, and unsurprisingly, its also shaped like its namesake!
The venue first opened its doors in 1994, and has since hosted hundreds of thousands of spectators as well as some of the best UK and international acts on its stage. From comedians to opera and symphony orchestras, to touring bands and artists, you’re guaranteed a great night out at The Anvil no matter if you’re young or old.
Famous acts to grace The Anvil’s stage include stand-up legend Sarah Millican, survivalist Ray Mears, pop sensation Sophie Ellis-Bexter and 80s icon Gary Numan. With a wide range of events throughout the year that range from family-friendly pantomimes to Shakespearean plays, there really is something for everyone at The Anvil.
Open spaces that bring you closer to nature
Amongst the hubbub and bustle of the town, Basingstoke is home to several parks and green spaces which offer a breath of fresh air to locals and tourists alike.
The Green Flag award-winning Eastrop Park is a blissful haven right on your doorstep. Only steps away from the train station, you can enjoy a picnic by the pond before tucking into one of the Boathouse Cafes delicious cakes!
If you’re lucky, you might spot a kingfisher darting along the River Loddon’s banks. Or take to the water for a unique view of the park and hire a pedal boat, where you can take in all the sights and sounds of this beauty spot.
Just visited the Willis Museum? Make sure you check out Basingstoke’s other Green Flag-winning park, War Memorial Park. There you will find a fantastic tree trail that explores the Georgian estates roots, an aviary and a terrific bandstand.
Don’t forget to wander around the historic grounds at The Vyne whilst your there. Home to John Chute’s 18th century walled garden, and with its impressive ancient woodland and medieval fishpond, you can soak up all of the atmosphere of the past while celebrating the future.
Basingstoke is a vibrant town that is well worth a visit. From its rich history and heritage to modern day exhibitions and more, it’s time for you to fall in love with this spectacular town! Why not plan your visit today!