Basingstoke Car Hire
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Basingstoke is a large town in the County of Hampshire in South Central England. Located across a valley at the source of the River Loddon, it's 48km northeast of Southampton, 31km northeast of Winchester and 77km southwest of London. With a population of almost 114,000, it’s the largest town in Hampshire and is nicknamed ‘donut city’ because of the large number of roundabouts in the area ̶ you better get used to navigating these road features during your stay here!
Basingstoke’s fortunes are intimately tied to fabrics and fashion ̶ it has punched above its weight in the wool and silk trades, is home to the famous Burberry brand and has a niche industry producing specialist garments for costume dramas. It’s also steeped in history which stretches back to Roman times and the luscious surrounding countryside is home to stately piles connected to prominent figures like the Duke of Wellington and Jane Austen. But this is also a contemporary town with chic cafes, excellent restaurants, superb shopping and diverse leisure activities, as well as a lively arts and culture scene including comedy, opera, dance and theatre ̶ showcased to visitors from Britain and beyond in the annual Baskingstoke Arts Festival.
Prices for hiring a car in Basingstoke start at just £22.18 a day for a small car like a Fiat 500 when you book off-season, while an economy car like a Vauxhall Corsa is just £23.18 a day and even a rugged and roomy Nissan Qashqai is only £32.17 a day. Hire a car with Enjoy and beautiful Basingstoke is waiting for you, but first let’s take a look at some fascinating facts on this terrific town.
- About Basingstoke: Located within commuting distance of London, Basingstoke is a dynamic modern town and commercial hub surrounded by picturesque villages in the scenic Hampshire countryside. Fans of popular TV series Downtown Abbey might know that the show’s filming location Highclere Castle is close by and, as well as magnetising Downton devotees, hosts an excellent exhibition of Egyptian artefacts collected by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb. Dramatic evidence of Basingstoke’s Iron Age and Roman past can be seen in the well-preserved defensive walls of Calleva Atrebatum (Roman Silchester). Meanwhile, at the milestone museum you can stroll through realistic Victorian and 1930s streets which include failthful reconstructions of houses and shops. If you prefer more dynamic distractions, visit the neighbouring leisure park for swimming, bowling, ice skating and movies.
- Airports and access: Southampton airport (SOU) is the nearest to Basingstoke at 40km away, but London Heathrow (LHR) is only 50km away, London Gatwick (LGW) Is 65km away and London Luton (LTN) is 84 kilometres away. There are therefore several major airports in striking distance, making Basingstoke one of Britain's best-connected towns for air travellers.
- Driving around Basingstoke: with so much magnificent countryside around Basingstoke, there are plenty of delightful drives in the area. Here are a couple of our favourite road trips:
- Famous Basingstoke: well-known sons and daughters of Basingstoke and the surrounding area include legendary writer Jane Austen, Hollywood actress Liz Hurley, academic and poet Thomas Warton, Libertines singer and guitarist Carl Barat, Radio DJ Steve Lamacq, actress Sarah Sutton and former Ajax manager Sid Castle.
Like many English towns, Basingstoke started life as a Saxon village and in 1086AD it was recorded in the Domesday Book that it had a population of 200, a weekly market and three water mills used to produce flour ̶ all of which made it a reasonably large and self-sufficient settlement for the time. Basingstoke gradually expanded during the Middle Ages and by the 13th century had a population of around 700 clustered around four main streets, with the Market Square in the middle. By this time, Saint Michael of the Mount Church was a landmark, as was the Mote Hall, a type of marketplace where townspeople congregated. The main industry was wool garnered from locally raised sheep. Other tradespeople contributing to the local economy were coopers, brewers and blacksmiths. The town was granted a charter in 1257, suffered a devastating fire in 1392 but recovered its fortunes relatively quickly and in 1449 was granted the right to hold an annual fair. During the Civil War, Basing House, owned by the Royalist Marquis of Winchester, was besieged several times by parliamentarian forces and eventually fell to Oliver Cromwell’s troops in October 1645.
By the 18th century, Basingstoke’s population was around 2500 and by 1851 had risen to 4200. Several civic improvements followed in the 19th century, including a new town Hall in 1832, gas street lighting in 1834 and the establishment of a fire brigade in 1838. Other industries which gained traction around this time where boot making and brewing, while the railway reached Basingstoke from London in 1839 and was extended to Reading and Southampton in the 1840s. The first cinema opened here in 1910, the first electricity generating station in 1914 and the town’s church square was bombed during World War II 1940.
From the 1960s, Basingstoke became an overspill town for London and the population consequently rose from around 16,000 to 75,000 by the early 1980s, with the addition of several new housing estates. The entire town centre was pedestrianised by 1988 and the addition of the Festival Place shopping centre in 2002 further bolstered Basingstoke’s fortunes.
Longleat House and Safari Park is 98km west of Basingstoke via the A303 road and in light traffic you can drive there in around one hour and 10 minutes. This is the UK's number one safari park, and during a drive-through you'll discover wolves, tigers, monkeys, cheetahs, lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras and much more. Longleat House is also an amazing example of elegant Elizabethan architecture and it's complemented beautifully by grounds landscaped by the legendary Capability Brown.
Reading is just 30km roughly north of Basingstoke via the A33 and you can drive there in under half an hour if traffic permits. There are plenty of interesting attractions here - you can gaze at a detailed Victorian replica of the Bayeux Tapestry in Reading museum, try to back a winner at Newbury racecourse, stroll around the atmospheric ruins of Reading Abbey, or pamper yourself with spa and beauty treatments in the beautiful surroundings of Kings Meadow ̶ a former Edwardian women’s swimming baths.
Guide to Basingstoke
Home to beautiful buildings, rolling countryside, unique historical sites, arty attractions, superb shops and a host of cafes and restaurants, Basingstoke is a brilliant place to spend a few days.
Culture & History
Basingstoke's two most prominent historical attractions are probably Basing House and The Vyne. Although it’s now reduced to ruins, Basing House was once the largest private house in Tudor England, before it was flattened by Cromwell’s forces during the English Civil War. Once home to the influential courtier William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester, it was visited regularly by royals like Henry VII and Elizabeth I. You can still see the original foundations and earthworks, as well as the Basing Grange buildings which have been restored and transformed into a visitor centre and gift shop, while the reinstated Jacobean garden is a gorgeous green space to wander around when the weather is pleasant. Meanwhile, The Vyne is a stunning Tudor house built between 1500 and 1520. Highlights here include a beautiful Tudor Chapel, the intricate Palladian staircase and the arresting Neoclassical portico, one of the first of its type in the whole of England.
Yearning for retail therapy? Make a beeline for Festival Place, bang in the middle of Basingstoke and a short stroll from the train station. Big brands in this marvellous mall include Fat Face, Apple and Pandora, while there's also a 10-screen multiplex cinema and trampoline park. If you prefer smaller independent shops and bijou boutiques, the Top Of The Town is Basingstoke central’s historical heart and there’s a bustling market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Sports and leisure
If sports and leisure are your main pleasures, there are plenty of awesome activities in Basingstoke to keep you busy. The Drummer Cricket Centre has three indoor net lanes, a playing arena and even a video analysis suite to help correct your swing and fine-tune your bowling technique. Alternatively, if golf is your game, book a round at the Rotherwick course at Tylney park. Secreted in 200 acres of Hampshire parkland, this must be one of Britain’s most gorgeous golf courses.
What to do in Basingstoke
From museums with mind-blowing artefacts to dynamic arts centres and artisan distilleries, you’ll never be bored in Basingstoke.
Weird and wonderful museum
If you enjoy the slightly strange and eccentric side of history, you'll adore the eclectic collection of artefacts on show at the Willis museum and Sainsbury Gallery. Located in the former Town Hall, this museum features a beautiful bronze statue of Jane Austen at the front which was unveiled in 2017 on the 200th anniversary of her death. Cool, curious and slightly confounding items on display here include a preserved Victorian wedding cake, Roman pottery fragments from nearby Silchester and hair from the mane of Copenhagen, The Duke of Wellington's horse at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. The Sainsbury Gallery is a little more mainstream ̶ you'll see contemporary exhibitions of photography, fashion and various facets of popular culture.
Awesome arts centre
Opened in 1984, The Anvil is a major performing arts centre for Basingstoke and the surrounding region. This 1400-seater venue (appropriately shaped like an anvil) has won plaudits for its impressive acoustics and offers and exciting entertainment calendar featuring stand-up comedy, top pop music acts, classical music and opera. Past performers include comedian Sarah Millican, the Russian state Symphony Orchestra and pop legend Gary Numan.
If gin is your tipple of choice and you can grab a designated driver for the day, the Bombay Sapphire gin distillery is around 10 miles outside Basingstoke at Laverstoke Mill. There are specially designed greenhouses for the drink’s botanical ingredients like juniper berries, coriander and angelica, and you'll learn all about the ingenious distillation process and enjoy a refreshing cocktail at the mill bar.
Eating out in Basingstoke
With a wide range of eateries serving sumptuous local and international fare, there’s something to satisfy every palate in Basingstoke.
Fabulous Chinese fare
If Chinese is your cuisine of choice, look no further than Tang Chinese restaurant on Winchester St. Try the legendary lobster feast for two persons, which includes the centrepiece fresh lobster and black bean sauce, mixed seafood hors d’oeuvres comprising fried crispy seaweed, deep fried battered fish steaks, tempura prawns coma and deep fried squid, and a choice of King prawns with broccoli, steamed sea bass with spring onion and ginger, or special seafood fried rice. At under £35 all-in, it tastes great and delivers excellent value for money.
Gourmet pub grub
The Bolton arms in Old Basing maybe the best place in town to try traditional Great British pub grub. The pan-fried calf's liver is highly recommended ̶ served with mashed potatoes, red onion marmalade, crispy Parma ham, buttered kale and a final flourish of red wine sauce, this is a real treat which you'll savour long after you've taken your last bite. Main courses range from around £17 to £30 and the quality is second to none.
If you can't see past a good Curry, Spicy Tadka at Festival Place doesn't disappoint. There's almost too much to choose from, but the lamb masala infused with hot spices and fresh chilli is fantastic, while the Malay king prawn curry simmered sensuously in rich coconut milk and aromatic spices is nothing short of inspirational. Main courses range from £10 pounds to around £15 pounds, customer service is superb, and the setting is comfortable and relaxed.
Transport in Basingstoke
Southampton Airport (SOU) is closest to Basingstoke, at 40km away. Enjoy partners with tried and tested car hire operators at SOU like Alamo, Enterprise and Europcar.
Buses and trains
Public transport in and around Basingstoke comes courtesy of trains and buses. Basingstoke Railway Station is served by operators including South Western railway, CrossCountry and First Great Western, with regular services to and from destinations like London, Whitchurch, Reading, Bramley, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Local bus services are mostly operated by Stagecoach, with efficient links across the city centre and to areas like Winchester, Whitchurch, Tadley, Alton, Andover, amongst others.
You should always drive on the left side of the road in Basingstoke and observe the speed limits, which are 70 mph (120 km/h) for motorways, 60 mph (100 km/h) on main roads, and 30 mph (50 km/h) or 20 mph (40 km/h) when you’re in built-up urban areas.
You and your passengers should always wear seatbelts, you should carry your driver’s license and hire documents, and drink driving and using hand-held mobile devices is forbidden.
While you won’t be able to avoid roundabouts entirely in Basingstoke, you might be able to plan your route so that you miss some of the town’s trickier examples, which include the Brighton Hill Roundabout, Winchester Road Roundabout and Thornycroft Roundabout. When approaching a roundabout, use the mirror-signal-manoeuvre procedure, work out which exit you’re taking ASAP, indicate at the right time to inform fellow drivers of your intentions, choose the correct lane, control your speed and be aware of the positioning and speed of the vehicles around you.