The first word that comes to mind when you step out in Christchurch is old. Not in relation to the blue rinse set that frequent the teahouses (and with the oldest population in the UK, you’d better believe there are plenty of them), but because Christchurch, on the south coast of England, is the kind of old that makes the local bingo club look like a day-care centre.
Remnants from Norman times litter the town, and structures and traditions that date back almost as far are commonplace. The Monday Market began in 1149 (and featured rather less jam and doilies than it does now), while the Ship Inn, the oldest pub in Christchurch, was once favoured by smugglers (as opposed to today’s nine-to-five set). Located at the confluence of the Avon and Stour rivers, Christchurch, unlike some of its residents, has only got better looking with age.
CHRISTCHURCH’S TOP 10
10. Ye Olde George Inne This public house has been around since the 14th century. Luckily, the beer is somewhat fresher!
5. Red House Museum Check out the fashion, culture and politics of times gone by.
9. The Town Bridge This 15th century bridge is still in use, and an excellent example of the craftsmanship of the time.
4. Constable’s House Within the Castle grounds are the remains of the Constable’s House, which boasts one of only five remaining Norman chimneys in the country.
8. Christchurch Priory Overlooking the town, it was a gift from King Henry VIII.
3. Christchurch Quay A picturesque waterside location, from here you can take a historic ferryboat to Wick.
7. Place Mill This Anglo-Saxon watermill gets a mention in the Domesday Book, which means it’s been around since at least 1085.
2. Wick This pretty village lies just across the river from Christchurch and is full of quaint tearooms and historic sites.
6. Highcliffe Castle Built between 1831 and 1835, it is a fine example of Gothic revival architecture.
1. Christchurch Castle Built in Norman times, it is getting on for 1,000 years old. Talk about a fixer-upper!
May brings the Christchurch Food and Wine Festival, with both traditional and innovative fare to sample.
The Bournemouth Kite Festival in September will see spirits flying high.
Also in September, the Autumn Equinox Ghost Walk will test your mettle. With buildings this old, there have to be at least a few ghosts around…
WHEN TO GO
· Christchurch is in the enviable (and rare) position of being an English city with mild winters and warm summers.
· Winter temperatures only drop to 4 to 8°C (39-46°F).
· Summer temperatures average around 22°C (72°F) – perfect for sightseeing and enjoying the outdoors.
· Canridebuses are an excellent way to get about town. They leave regularly and – wait for it – on time!
· If you’ve decided to really get in the spirit of tourism at one of the many old city centre pubs and have missed the last bus, a taxi is your best bet. They’re not cheap, but they are safe and reliable.
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