Alton is a pretty market town in Hampshire, 30 miles north of Portsmouth. Straddling the edge of the South Downs National Park, holiday cottages in Alton offer the perfect base for exploring the area’s unspoiled hills, woods and farmland. Alton's town centre is a cluster of historic buildings, independent shops and cafes. Every Tuesday, the high street springs to life for the weekly market, where fresh, local produce is sold. For a small market town in rural Hampshire, Alton has an impressive history. Novelist Jane Austen lived moments away in the village of Chawton, where it is believed she wrote six novels. As well as its literary past, the town has a tumultuous history, including the Battle of Alton during the civil war. St Lawrence Church bears the scars of one attack, with bullet holes still visible in the west doors.

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Several cosy pubs can be found just a short distance from your Alton holiday cottage, and there are some great places to eat and drink in neighbouring Chawton. On the fringes of the South Downs National Park, The Greyfriar is a 16th-century village inn serving local ales and fresh, seasonal food. The Hampshire sirloin steak and trio of local sausages are particularly good. The Rose and Crown in Farringdon is believed to have been built as an ale house in 1810 by Edward Knight, the brother of Jane Austen. Alton's proximity to the South Downs National Park makes it an ideal base for countryside walks. Set off on any of the public footpaths during a self-catering holiday in Alton for solitude and breathtaking views across the hills. Gilbert White and the Oates Collections is a 10-minute drive away with lovely gardens to explore. The estate was restored in the 18th century by naturalist Gilbert White and is open to visitors throughout the year.