I was recently invited to stay at the Holiday Inn, Winchester which underwent a major £2.5m refurbishment programme in 2019 to expand its lobby and dining areas and add a luxury spa.
The hotel is located on the outskirts of Winchester in southern Hampshire, south west England. The city lies 60 miles south west of London with Southampton 12 miles to the north.
Winchester enjoys good rail access with South Western Railway operating frequent services from London Waterloo with journey times of approximately one hour. For those arriving by car, Winchester is located close to Junction 9 of the M3 motorway. The hotel is situated a few minutes drive from the city centre and with a bus stop on the main road close to the hotel it’s very easy to get around (Bus 64, half hourly service).
Arrival and check-in:
Check-in is from 3.00 p.m. and it was around two hours later when we arrived at the hotel. The hotel has a large car park, free to guests and we just needed to enter our registration number onto a tablet on the front desk counter.
The hotel has a large, contemporary styled open-plan lobby with comfortable sofas complimented by brightly coloured mis-matched cushions. We were greeted by a friendly receptionist who prepared our room cards quickly, confirmed our dinner reservations and offered us a bus timetable into the city centre.
We took the lift up to the first floor which has a large galleried balcony overlooking the hotel lobby. The hotel has 131 rooms comprising standard, executive and suites and we were booked into one of the executive rooms which was decorated in a neutral palette with stone coloured walls and an oatmeal carpet.
The work desk/dressing table was equipped with several sockets to charge our devices with both the desk and armchairs adding a splash of colour. The king size bed was extremely comfortable and, as with other IHG hotels came with a pillow menu enabling guests to request alternative pillows to suit their needs.
Other amenities included a flat screen television with satellite channels, bathrobes, slippers, a digital safe plus an iron and ironing board. I was pleased to find plenty of hangers in the wardrobe enabling us to hang all our coats, dresses and shirts without having to leave some items folded.
An added bonus of executive rooms is that as well as the usual hospitality tray, they also come equipped with a free mini-bar which is replenished daily containing complimentary soft drinks, water and best of all, bars of chocolate. Moving into the en-suite bathroom this had a full sized bath with power shower over, thick Egyptian cotton white towels and complimentary, fragrant Soak toiletries.
Dinner: The hotel’s Odyssey Restaurant welcomes both guests and non-residents to its large seating area which is cleverly separated into sections offering the choice of intimate dining alcoves or tables overlooking the open kitchen.
I like to watch the chefs preparing dishes and we found a table offering cosy banquette seating which was perfect for viewing the open kitchen. Dining in the hotel’s restaurant is relaxed with friendly, efficient service. The menu contains a variety of dishes from steaks to pizzas, all reasonably priced with a wine list to match.
We dined in the hotel on both evenings enjoying starters of tiger prawns followed by mains of juicy steaks, grilled salmon fillet and a steak and ale pie.
From the dessert menu we dithered on what to select as everything sounded tempting and our choices of sticky toffee pudding and chocolate and orange tart were both mouth-wateringly yummy.
Breakfast: This is served each morning in the Odyssey Restaurant and comprises a varied buffet selection of hot and cold dishes, pastries, yoghurts and fresh fruit.
In addition to the hot buffet, guests are able to order numerous items made to order including eggs benedict, omelettes and porridge. On the first morning I opted for eggs benedict which was cooked to perfection with the poached eggs lovely and soft, just as I like them.
On the second morning I opted for a traditional breakfast but rather than adding the scrambled eggs from the servery, I requested two poached eggs from the kitchen which were prepared straightaway.
Pizzeria, Bar and Coffee Shop: In addition to the Odyssey Restaurant, the hotel boasts a coffee shop serving drinks and snacks throughout the day, a pizzeria and stylish bar.
The spacious open-plan lobby offers a combination of cosy seating alongside high tables for working.
Wi-Fi throughout the hotel is fast, easy to connect to and reliable with a printer for guests use in the lobby.
Hotel Spa: A separate lift leads to the lower floor which comprises numerous meeting rooms and the luxurious ANA Spa.
I was given a guided tour around the facilities before my beauty treatment took place. The ANA Spa is one of the most beautiful and well equipped that I have visited and includes a Himalayan salt sauna, hydro spa, steam room, twin foot spa, relaxation lounge, treatment rooms, gym and cafe.
Numerous treatments are available and I’d opted to have a 30 minute neck, shoulder and back massage which was very relaxing and eased my muscles. Afterwards, I enjoyed my first ever Rasul treatment which begins with cleansing and exfoliating the skin before covering it in a clay mixture.
This was followed by time in the steam room and a cleansing rinse to wash away the clay, leaving my skin feeling silky soft and glowing. I really should indulge in these spa treatments more often as it was heavenly. I spoke to some girls in the relaxation room who told me they had booked to stay on one of the hotel’s Spa Breaks which sounded a lovely idea for a relaxing get together or celebration.
Car Park: In addition to parking for hotel guests, the hotel also offers overnight accommodation, parking and coach transfers for cruise passengers departing from Southampton. More details can be found here.
Out and About:
Start with a walk along Winchester’s historic high street, said to be Britain’s oldest which stretches from the Westgate Arch all the way down the hill to the small bridge over the River Itchen.
Visit the Great Hall which is one of the finest surviving aisled halls of the 13th century with its painted archways and marble columns. It once formed part of Winchester Castle founded in 1067 by William the Conqueror shortly after his victory at the Battle of Hastings. The Hall is dominated by the famous ‘Round Table’ linked to the ancient legends of King Arthur and his knights.
Explore some of Winchester’s interesting museums including the Westgate Museum which is located inside a surviving fortified medieval city gateway. Entrance is just £3 with joint tickets available with the City Museum just down the road.
The City Museum tells the story of Winchester which was England’s ancient capital and the seat of Alfred the Great. Arranged over three floors, the galleries document its origins from the Iron Age.
Explore Winchester City Mill now owned by the National Trust and free to visit. The City Mill is one of the oldest working water mills in the country and at weekends you can watch the flour being milled.
Explore the ruins of Wolvesey Castle now operated by English Heritage (entrance free). This castle was the main residence of the Bishops of Winchester throughout the Middle Ages and its extensive remains date from the 12th century.
Book a one hour guided tour of Winchester College which was founded by William of Wykeham in 1382 and is one of the world’s most famous independent schools. This fascinating tour covers the Chamber Court, Chapel, College Hall, Cloisters and parts of the 17th century school building including the kitchens and oak panelled dining room.
Last but not least visit the magnificent Winchester Cathedral. Notable events that have taken place there include the coronation of Richard I (1194) and the marriage of Queen Mary (1554).
Many of the ancient Kings of England are buried within its walls along with the author Jane Austin. Marvel at the intricate carvings on the choir stalls, the exquisite medieval floor tiles, beautiful stained glass and the 13th century bible font.
We were very impressed with the quality of the hotel and the level of service offered. The facilities are actually so good that I found this hotel to be better than some IHG Crowne Plaza hotels which are supposedly of a higher level than a Holiday Inn. Don’t be put off with its out of town location as its only five minutes from the centre of Winchester by car and a few minutes longer on the bus.
Details: Holiday Inn Winchester, Telegraph Way, Winchester, SO21 1HZ
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During our stay we were guests of the Holiday Inn Winchester and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.