ON opening the heavy green front door the sweet alcoholic musk in the background gives the place away.
Since the mid-18th century The Wykeham Arms, in Kingsgate Street, has been quenching the thirst of both citizens and travellers - and now delivers a few extra treats along the way (sausages at six o’clock anyone?).
Truly a feast for the eyes, it encapsulates all the eccentricities of Winchester under one roof, with an extensive collection of pewter and silver tankards wallpapering every inch, peppered with a mish-mash of picture frames and no explanation of who’s who.
Not to mention the desks reclaimed from Winchester College, with individual lamps, newspapers tucked underneath and stains telling tales of a few too many good nights.
The bar in the centre, the restaurant stretches out behind in an ‘L’ shape including the garden, met in each corner by cosy wooden pub tables filled with chattering friends and families.
It won Fullers Best Pub of the Year in 2006, 2008 and 2012, and Good Pubs Guide Town Pub of the Year last year, which once inside is no surprise.
Also a hotel, the extensive wine list starts at £18 a bottle, with beers and ales starting at £3.60.
Manager Jon Howard it is a history hunter’s dream.
“I think the first thing you think when you come through the door is that it’s a bit like a museum,” he said.
“I would hope that very shortly after people would feel properly greeted and welcomed – our hospitality and service is key.”
With faded rugs covering bare floor boards and low doorways, it could easily feel dingy and cluttered – but is brightened by the hum of chatter and warmth exuding from all who drink there.
Above the fire sits a sign in white chalk. It reads: “Telephone conversations may be frowned upon within the pub. The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink.”
It is details like this that bring the 21st century inside, without spoiling its historical splendour.
A must-visit for tourists and residents alike.