It takes time to decide if that new love interest in your life is really the one for you, and while it might seem reasonable to splash a little cash on a first date, by the third or fourth those expensive meals and late-night cocktails can start to feel just a little bit too extravagant. On top of that, while there’s nothing wrong with being the life and soul of the party every so often, it helps to show off your artier side too.
The good news is there are plenty of ways to date in Hampshire without breaking the bank, and you can even take in some of the unique cultural attractions this beautiful county has to offer in the process. So without further ado, here are 18 of our favourite free date ideas for cultured romantics who are looking for love in Hampshire but want to keep an eye on the purse strings.
1. Visit Winchester Cathedral
A marvel of ecclesiastical design and engineering, Winchester Cathedral has to be seen to be believed. Your date will be captivated by the exceptional stone detailing and exquisite stained glass windows, and awed by the sheer size of the unique ‘Flying Buttresses’ which have flanked the southern side of the building since they were erected in 1909 after an adjoining building was demolished. And if that fascinating technical fact doesn’t impress your romantic companion, they’ll be amazed to learn about how the builders overcame high water levels by constructing this incredible structure on an enormous raft. Admittance is free, although donations are always welcome.
2. Explore the New Forest
Sherwood Forest might be the destination of choice for adventure lovers with its history of Robin Hood and his tales of derring do, but when it comes to romance Hampshire’s New Forest leaves it in the shade. So while the youngsters are showing off their archery skills a couple of hundred miles further north, more mature daters can enjoy a relaxing stroll through this charming landscape, perhaps spotting the occasional wild pony along the way.
3. Attend the Winchester School of Art Degree Show
Every year the Winchester School of Art throws open its doors to the public as lecture halls and classrooms are transformed into a vibrant gallery in which graduates showcase their work. Not only is it free to attend, but you might even spot the next Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst while you’re there. And what could impress your date more than that?
4. Take a Stroll Along the Basingstoke Canal
The days of transporting coal, livestock, and other commodities via the canal network may be long since past, but their legacy lives on. The Basingstoke Canal is a superb example of this, and there is surely no better way for Basingstoke singles to add a little historical culture to a romantic walk than by plotting a course along a section of its tranquil tow-path.
5. Have Your Picture Taken Outside Jane Austen’s House in Winchester
As Jane Austen’s old stomping ground, Hampshire is full of locations which have their own part to play in the life story of one of history’s best-loved romantic novelists. However, a whole industry has grown up around satisfying the demand for the authentic Austen experience, and it usually comes at a price. Luckily, having your picture taken outside Jane’s former abode in College Street, Winchester, is free.
6. Visit the ‘Rum’s Eg’ Gallery in Romsey
The small market town of Romsey near Southampton might not be renowned as a centre for creativity, but with their gallery and cafe venture ‘Rum’s Eg’, the Hampshire Art and Craft group are hoping to put it on the artistic map. Entry is free, so it’s a great place for cultured Hampshire singles on a budget to meet.
7. Broaden Your Mind at the Winchester Discovery Centre
Far more than just a library, the Winchester Discovery Centre plays host to an ever-changing array of exhibitions curated by local, national and international experts. So drop by with your date and experience how much there is for you both to discover.
8. Visit The Willis Museum in Basingstoke
In fact known as the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery, Basingstoke’s local museum is the ideal place to learn a little more about the history of the town, while admiring some sublime artworks. Situated in the heart of the old town, it’s a hidden gem you’ll both will want to visit again and again.
9. Sing Your Heart Out at a Folk Club
Hampshire is a rural county at heart, which means you never have to look far to find a buzzing folk night in which to enjoy some traditional songs. Entry is typically free, however your date might like to enjoy a pint of local ale to complete the experience, and it is customary to contribute a few pennies should the collection that happen to pass your way.
10. Get Close to Nature at Fleet Pond
Officially recognised as a site of special scientific interest, Fleet Pond is a wonderful location for Hampshire daters who enjoy spotting different species of butterflies, birds and other wildlife. Access is easy with a train station close by, and there’s even a picturesque picnic area for an inexpensive alfresco meal.
11. Admire the Boats at Ocean Village Marina
Southampton is famous for its nautical history, and nowhere is this more apparent than at the fabulous Ocean Village Marina. So why not try a romantic date imagining what it would be like to be onboard one of those glamorous yachts? The complex includes an array of shops and restaurants, so it’s a great destination for a spot of window shopping too.
12. Gaze Across the Solent Estuary
If you enjoy experiencing the natural world in all its glory, arrange to meet your date at one of the secluded viewing points situated along the Solent Estuary. There are all sorts of rare birds to admire, and on a clear day you can even see across to the Isle of Wight.
13. Steep Yourself in History at Odiham Castle
Known locally as ‘King John’s Castle’, Odiham Castle dates back to the time of the Doomsday Book. But it’s not just about the history – it’s open to the public free of charge all year round, so there’s no better place in Hampshire to stop for a romantic picnic.
14. Enjoy a Free Concert at Southsea Bandstand
Throughout the summer Southsea Bandstand plays host to a series of free concerts. You’ll find everything from Dixieland Jazz to uptempo Rhythm and Blues. So grab a programme from the local tourist information office, put on your dancing shoes, and impress your date by showing off some of your best moves!
15. Climb St Catherine’s Hill Near Winchester
What could be more culturally enriching than a bracing climb up St Catherine’s Hill near Winchester? A real Hampshire dating hotspot, it’s probably the best way of appreciating the county’s stunning landscape from all directions.
16. Explore the Ruins of Netley Abbey
One of Hampshire’s best kept secrets, the Ruins of Netley Abbey just a few miles along the coast from Southampton is a great option if you’re looking for somewhere to spend some tranquil time alone with that special someone. You can explore the ruins to your heart’s content, and when you’re finished there’s an unspoilt beach nearby where you can relax together watching the waves.
17. Taste Local Produce at a Southampton Farmers Market
If you’re taking things slowly and aren’t quite ready to meet your Southampton single in private, why not suggest a culinary meetup at Southampton Farmer’s Market? Taking place in the Station Quarter every third Saturday of the month, it’s a great place to mingle with the crowd while sampling the some delicious produce from across Southampton and the surrounding area.
18. Watch the Sunset Over Portsmouth Harbour
Finally, what better way to find romance than by arranging a date watching the sun set over Portsmouth’s stunning natural harbour? The Spinnaker Tower is even more impressive at night when it is illuminated by its state of the art LED lights, and your date will love watching the boats across the water in the twilight.