“ Address: The Castle / Winchester / Hampshire / SO23 8ZB / Tel: 01962 840500 „
The Great Hall in Winchester, which holds the 'original' legendary Round Table is now a free museum based attraction open daily from 10am to 5 pm (closed Dec 25/26th and for certain civic events). As you enter there is a shop on your left with all sorts of gifts, but we carried on straight through. The museum is actually a corridor with over 50 boards showing images and text telling the chronological history of the town and its Castle - of which only the Great Hall remains. The city has always been important in English history and a castle was first built under William the Conqueror, although the current building is 'only' 13th century and considered a good example of architecture of that era, and was often patronised by Royalty. The boards are very informative but there are a lot of them, which means there is quite a bit of reading. Younger visitors might get a bit fidgety at this point, but the fact that the boards are broken down into so many, means you can pick and choose what to read if you wish. I believe they do offer activity packs for younger visitors.
Once finished here you then walk into the Great Hall itself. On one wall is the supposed original Round Table belonging to King Arthur according to the legend. However it was actually constructed in the late 13th Century, and painted in its current form in the 16th Century for Henry VIII. It is made of oak and is 5.5m wide. Although large I imagine it would have been cramped for the alleged 24 knights to have sat around. Their names are on the table but the old style script and height of the table make it difficult to read.
Nearby there is also a large statue of Queen Victoria that was presented to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. Opposite the table are wrought metal gates built to celebrate the marriage of Price Charles to Diana in 1981. There is also a small garden called Queen Eleanor's Garden which is supposed to be representative of the medieval era and named after Edward III's wife. It is quite pretty, but very small so you are unlikely to linger for too long.
Outside in the front you can see some of the ruins from the rest of the castle. There is a ramp to get into the Hall and out to the gardens but access to the museum is via steps, although assistance is available upon request by all accounts. The museum and Hall is located just back from the top of the High Street near the junction of Romsey Road. Parking is in nearby Tower Street car park which just a few minutes walk away (free on Sundays and Bank Holidays), and the railway station is apparently just 10 minutes walk away. If you are in the area then this is worth a visit - it is free and will take you 30-45 minutes including the museum. Check the website to ensure you don't go when functions are on and it is closed