Having once been the center of William the Conqueror’s kingdom, Winchester (pop. 32,000) revels in its storied past. Duck under the archway, pass through the square, and behold the 900-year-old Winchester Cathedral, 5 the Close. The 169m long cathedral is the longest medieval building in Europe; the interior holds magnificent tiles and Jane Austen’s tomb. The 12th-century Winchester Bible also resides in the library. (857 225. Cathedral open daily 7:15am-5:30pm; east end closes 5pm. Suggested donation £3.50, students £2.50. Free tours 10am-3pm.) About 25km north of Winchester is the meek village of Chawton, where Jane Austen lived. It was in her cottage that she penned Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion, among others. Many of her manuscripts are on display. Take Hampshire bus #X64 (M-Sa 11 per day, round-trip £5.30), or the London and Country bus #65 from the bus station (Su); ask to be let off at the Chawton roundabout, and follow the signs. (0142 083 262. Open Mar.-Dec. daily llam-4pm; Jan.-Feb. Sa-Su only, call for hours. £4, seniors £3, under-18 50p.)
Trains (08547 484 950) arrive at Winchester’s Station Hill, at City Rd. and Sussex St. from London Waterloo (lhr. 3 or 4 per hr. £20) and Portsmouth (lhr. every hr. £7). National Express buses (08705 808 080) run from London via Heathrow (lhr. 7 per day, £12) and Oxford (2%hr. 2 per day, £6.80). The tourist office, the Guildhall, Broadway, is across from the bus station. (840 500; www.winchester.gov.uk. Open May-Sept. M-Sa 9:30am-5:30pm, Su 11am-4pm; Oct.-Apr. M-Sa 10am-5pm.) Just a lOmin. walk from town is the Farrells B&B , 5 Ranelagh Rd. off Christchurch Rd. With large, well-kept rooms, friendly owners, and furniture a mother would rave about, this B&B feels instantly welcoming, (fax 869 555. Singles £22, with bath £25; doubles £44.) The YHA Winchester , 1 Water Ln. is located in an 18th-century watermill, and offers creative bed arrangements between the mill’s roof beams. (853 723. Kitchen available. Lockout 10am-5pm. Curfew 11pm. Open from late Mar. to early Nov. daily; late Nov. to early Mar. weekends only. Dorms £11, students £10, under-18 £7.) Royal Oak , on Royal Oak Passage, next to Godbegot House off High St. is yet another pub touting itself as the UK’s oldest. The locally brewed hogshead cask ale (£1.75) is delicious. (Pub food £3-6. Open daily llam-llpm.) A Sainsbury’s supermarket is on Middle Brook St. off High St. (Open M-Sa7am-8pm, Su llam-5pm.) Postal Code: S023 8WA.