Coming in from the cold is always a pleasurable experience, especially when the place you’re coming to is full of squishy sofas and a cat warming itself by the fire.
Tucked away on a quiet mews between the terraces of Parchment Street in central Winchester, you’ll find Hannah’s. Once a stable, and later a dance hall, the building has been operating as a B&B since last August, and makes a great base for exploring. Alternatively, you could just curl up by the fire.
Despite the neutral colour scheme, the decor has plenty of character - entry to the building is through a huge arched door, and in the corner of the dining room is a grand piano on a miniature stage, complete with footlights. In the living area one wall is given over to bookshelves on which volumes are arranged in higgledy-piggledy fashion, with seating around the fireplace and an honesty bar in the corner.
The three bedrooms each come with a smart TV loaded up with on-demand services such as Netflix and Spotify. The room I stayed in, No 41, is snug in size, but with a very big, comfortable bed backed by a shabby-chic white wooden headboard.
Neat little design touches pepper the room: drawers of different shapes and sizes are attached to the wall in place of shelves, and a reclaimed front door leads to the bathroom, in which you’ll find a striking shower made of copper pipes. Climb up the very steep wooden staircase/ladder in the bedroom to a free-standing bath on the mezzanine floor.
Served at one of the three huge dining tables, breakfast starts with fresh juice and homemade granola with yoghurt in old-fashioned miniature milk bottles.
Next comes toast and homemade jam, followed by a full English, with sausages and bacon from the local farm shop and tea specially blended for Hannah’s by a local supplier.
Hannah McIntyre, having moved between London, the New Forest and Winchester for the past few years, bought the building for her B&B in 2012. She then spent 11 months supervising renovations that saw the roof stripped to its rafters, and the entire interior gutted - a photo book on the communal coffee table charts the whole process. Hannah now lives in a flat adjoining the B&B with her cat, Leyla, who often wanders into the guest living room.
Winchester, the old Saxon capital of England, has historic architecture to rival the likes of Cambridge or York, and almost all you’d want to see is within walking distance. The main attraction is the Gothic cathedral (winchester-cathedral.org.uk) where you can climb the tower, tour the crypt, or visit Jane Austen’s grave.
In the medieval Great Hall of Winchester Castle (hants.gov.uk/greathall) hangs what was once thought to be King Arthur’s Round Table. The table, in fact, only dates to around 1290 - at least six centuries after the legendary leader - but it’s still a sight in itself, colourfully decorated with a Tudor rose added during King Henry VIII’s reign.
If you’re not in the mood for serious sightseeing, simply wander the cobbles and admire Winchester’s pretty mishmash of buildings, or stroll along the River Itchen by the water meadows.
Despite its diminutive size, Winchester is well-stocked with dining options, including the Michelin-starred Black Rat (01962 844 465; theblackrat.co.uk) and a new Rick Stein outpost (01962 35 35 35; rickstein.com) - his first beyond Cornwall.
The latter only opened in late October, and when I visited for lunch a month later it was fully booked, with a delicious menu of seafood and fish, such as turbot hollandaise and chargrilled Dover sole. The city is also home to the original Hotel du Vin (0844 748 9267; hotelduvin.com), where the bistro remains an atmospheric spot for dinner, dishing up French classics amid dim lighting and vintage-style prints. Needless to say, there’s a great wine list.
If all you’re in the market for is a decent cuppa, Walker, Austen and Alexander (01962 851 888; walkeraustenandalexander.co.uk) is a modern café specialising in tea served with a timer set to ensure the perfect brew.
Hannah’s, 16a Parchment Street, Winchester S023 8AZ (01962 840 623; hannahsbedandbreakfast.co.uk). Doubles from £185 a night, including breakfast.Reuse content