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Hitchin is a town with 30,000 inhabitants 35 miles north of London in the county of Hertfordshire. Hitchin is an old market town first mentioned 1,000 years ago.

St. Mary's Church


Hitchin is a small historic market town in the north of Hertfordshire. It is twinned with the German town Bingen and the French town Nuits-Saint-Georges. Hitchin has its own character and several historic buildings can be found around the town centre, historic market place, Bancroft, Bucklersbury and Sun Street. Although this part of Hertfordshire is fairly heavily populated there is still plenty of scenery with rolling hills, lots of small villages and single track lanes to be found.

Girton College (Cambridge) was briefly sited in Hitchin before the University authorities decided female students could perhaps be permitted to reside within 30 miles of the older colleges. The building still stands, near the summit of Benslow Lane, but is of little distinction.

Get in[edit]

By Car[edit]

  • A1 Stevenage -> 3 miles to Hitchin on A602
  • M1 Luton -> 10 miles to Hitchin on A505

By Train[edit]

Frequent, generally fast, trains run to and from London, Stevenage, Cambridge and Peterborough. Station 15 mins walk from town centre. Service often disrupted in late evening/at weekends lately with bus substitution - check carefully if planning to travel with a bike.

By Plane[edit]

The nearest main airport is Luton Airport about 15 minutes drive from Hitchin. Heathrow Airport is a 1 hour drive otherwise about 1.5 hours by train via London and the Heathrow Express. Coach 777 (Birmingham - Luton - Stansted airports) stops at Hitchin, as does coach 787 (Heathrow - Luton - Cambridge). Bus 700 runs to/from Stansted and 100 to/from Luton.

Get around[edit]

On foot, or nearby villages within easy reach by bike. Pleasant rides (with pubs at the far end) to Willian, Offley, Shillington, Charlton, Gosmore, Great/Little Wymondley, Ickleford, Pirton etc. Beyond Charlton the Red Lion at Preston (communally owned by the villagers) is worth visiting, but does not keep extended hours.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Market Place The key node of the town centre. No longer used for 'proper' markets, which were moved to a nearby site at the end of the dismal Churchgate passage many years ago. Mostly pedestrianised now, setting off the fine variety of Victorian and older buildings around most of the square. Farmers' and other specialised markets held from time to time. Delightful wooden cabmen's shelter resited here from the railway station, after decades in a private garden.
  • Sun Street Slightly marred by the '60s Churchgate development but otherwise an architectural gem.
  • Bancroft Historically the main approach to the centre from the North. Unusually broad due to its original usage as a cattle market as well as thoroughfare. Still well-lined with old buildings as well as some, mostly lamentable, modern ones.
  • Bucklersbury Historic street, interesting back yards of former coaching inns
  • St Mary's Church This is the largest parish church in the county and has two side chapels. Worth seeing in its own right as well as for the small shops along the paths surrounding the churchyard
  • Biggin Almshouses Next to open market. Mediaeval buildings with courtyard, still in use
  • British Schools museum, Queen St. Remarkable Victorian survival [6]
  • Fine Victorian stepped terrace of houses Queen St
  • 18th century and earlier houses Bridge St/Tilehouse St. Also mysterious fragments of much older building incorporated in the Coopers Arms pub.
  • Local museum [closed 2012-13 pending move to a new site] The adjoining Physic Garden contains many plants once used medicinally - some poisonous.

Also in the area is Knebworth (historic house and grounds) and Whipsnade zoo

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Walk to top of Windmill Hill (end of Hermitage Road) for view over town. Then roll down again, a la Samuel Johnson, or sledge (carefully!) if snowy.
  • Walk out to Charlton (½ hour), stifle your disappointment that The Windmill pub has closed down, and find a different way back across the fields or via Gosmore.
  • Very scenic wooded walk beside the river to Oughton Head (turn West from Bedford Road beyond West Mill estate). Various routes back, B655 not recommended due to narrowness and lack of footways.
  • Go on a pub crawl, Hitchin has many pubs. Three have 5 or more real ales (see pub section below).
  • Rhythms of the World festival Used to take over the entire town centre for a weekend each year but from 2008 re-sited to the grounds of the Priory nearby, with a modest admission charge. Situation for 2016 currently unclear. [7]
  • Vaisakhi Parade Spectacular procession through town by the local Sikh community (annually, on a Saturday in April) [8]
  • Market Theatre Unbelievably small theatre off Sun St. Varied (professional) repertoire, see local posters or [9]
  • Queen Mother Theatre More conventional, modern building in car park off Walsworth Rd near town centre. Home to local amateur group as well as professional productions. [10]
  • Broadway Cinema OK, it's in Letchworth, but it's the nearest available and excellent value at £5 weekdays (except Friday evening); £2 extra for 3D films. Four screens in tastefully converted Art Deco building. [11]
  • Watch an art house film The Hitchin film club shows interesting works at either the Market or Queen Mother Theatres every few weeks for most of the year. See [12] for programme - no membership necessary.
  • Outdoor swimming pool (open summer months only) Rare survivor of the 'Lido' style, Butts Close (Bedford Road)
  • Travelling fairs On Butts Close for a few days at a time, 2 or 3 times a year.
  • Squash. Courts in North Herts College on Cambridge Rd (£4.40 for 45 mins, booking required) and in Ickleford (members only).  edit
  • British Schools Museum, 41/42 Queen Street, Hitchin, 01462429244, [1]. In a rare and historic complex of buildings dating back to 1837, the museum tells the story of elementary education from 1810. Also includes the restored Victorian Headmaster's House.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Allinghams Traditional butcher with excellent sausages, game, etc. (Market Square)
  • Asda Smaller than the other two supermarkets in town but still carrying a fair range and unlike them, open until 11pm every night except Sundays (10-4). Free ATM outside during opening hours. (Queen St)
  • Brookers [13] Local hardware and kitchenware shop (postoffice inside) (Bucklersbury, note: trade counters on Cadwell lane in industrial estate)
  • Colanders A wide range of kitchen and dining-ware (Churchgate)
  • Garden House Hospice Charity Shop A local charity - clothes, bric-a-brac, some furniture (Bancroft)
  • Halsey's [14] (Deli) Delicatessen with a good range of premium foods and goodies, great cheese, also local produce (Market Square)
  • Hawkins of Hitchin Clothes for everybody and toys for kids (Bucklersbury)
  • Hedley Wright Wine Merchants Regular wine tastings, over 1000 wines, (The Wyevale Centre, Cambridge Road - between Hitchin and Letchworth)
  • John Myatt [15] Specialist music/musical instrument sales and repairs, closed Mondays (Nightingale Road)
  • Merryfields Very well-stocked newsagent, lots of obscure mags, also travel guides. (Sun Street)
  • Millets Outdoor activities, chain (Market Place)
  • Open Market [16] General stalls Tue, Fri, & Sat; plus "antique" stalls on Fri, garage/boot sale on Sun, and a farmers' and craft market on the last Saturday of each month (between Churchgate and Queen Street)
  • Oxfam Charity Shop Clothes, bric-a-brac, fair-trade goods (near St. Mary's church)
  • Picture Framer The obvious thing (Sun street)
  • Quotidian Bakery Good quality craft baker (cnr Sun/Tilehouse Streets)
  • Sainsbury's Groceries, 11-5 on Sundays (off Bancroft or Whinbush Road)
  • The Arcade Slightly quaint, small-scale covered way with a dozen or so shops and cafés (off Market Square)
  • Waitrose Groceries, 10-4 on Sundays (top of Brand Street, parking off Old Park Road)
  • Waterstones (Market Square) The only remaining local bookshop now Moore's has gone online-only [17] Note: For a larger range of new and second-hand books, the best local option is David's Bookshop in Letchworth [18]
  • Wilkinson Large, extremely cheap chain hardware-n-homewares store (Bancroft, Hermitage junction)

Eat[edit][add listing]

There is a good selection of places to eat in Hitchin including pubs, cafes and a wide range of cuisines including Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Turkish and tapas.

  • Bar Azita Greek/Spanish restaurant, £15-20 person (35 Bucklersbury)
  • Bosphorus Turkish cuisine. Main dishes c. £10-12, house wine £13.50 (3A Sun St)
  • Cafe Rouge Formulaic "French" bistro chain, mid priced. (11 High St)
  • Curry Express Bancroft - best curry take away in the county, amazing food, low prices, great staff (Bancroft)
  • Dhaka Reliably good value Bangladeshi cuisine, £10+ per person (Sun Street)
  • Kazoku Hitchin's first, and so far only, Japanese restaurant. Very popular (has attracted some highly enthusiastic reviews), booking advisable as it's a small place. (36 Bancroft)
  • Khushma Cottage Tiny Bangladeshi restaurant, some unusual dishes, less overwhelming servings than the Dhaka, £10+ per person (Walsworth Road)
  • Los Reyes Tapas bar/restaurant in the former Kings Arms pub (16 Bucklersbury)
  • Lussmanns Mid-priced fish and grill based restaurant (26 Sun St)
  • McDonalds Near railway station, what you'd expect, closes 11pm, non-free ATM out front (Nightingale Road)
  • Mevan Large Turkish restaurant in the former Philpott's furniture store. Main dishes c. £11-15 (Sun St/Bridge St corner)
  • Murphy's Best local chippy according to some locals, though others favour The Town Fryer (Queen Street)
  • No 12 Very nice English restaurant with friendly staff, a selection of very nice wines, and novel English cuisine, £30+ person for a 3 course menu (Bridge Street)
  • Pizza Express Ubiquitous chain pizza-place, well managed and serves good food round the clock. Always popular and with a nice buzzing atmosphere, although service can be slow (12 Market place)
  • Prezzo Italian-style chain restaurant. Worthy competitor for Pizza Express, but a little more pricey (Bancroft/Hermitage Rd junction)
  • Regent Cottage Good quality Chinese restaurant on the first floor, the only 'eat-in' Chinese in town centre (11C High Street)
  • Strada Stylish and minimalist Italian-style chain restaurant, with friendly service and a good choice of excellent food, £15+ per person, complimentary bottles of water were a welcome surprise (Sun Street)
  • Sukawatee Serves Thai/Malaysian/Japanese food, outstanding quality, well presented food, £15+ per person (Hermitage Road)
  • The Radcliffe Arms, 31 Walsworth Road, Hitchin, 01462 456111, [2]. Former pub re-opened in 2009, good quality, fairly expensive food, nice cafe-restaurant atmosphere during the day. No longer a pub but has a good beer selection including 2 real ales, usually from Buntingford Brewery.  edit
  • Town Fryer Best local chippy according to some locals, though others favour Murphys (Hermitage Road)
  • Zizzi Italian-style chain restaurant, good pizzeria with a large wood fired pizza oven, £10-20 person (Sun Street)
  • "Takeaway City" Nightingale Road/Verulam Road junction - Parade of takeaway joints - kebabs/chips, pizzas, Chinese, Indian all represented. Area sometimes rather rowdy late at night.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Hitchin is a reasonable town for a real-ale crawl; the Half Moon, Bricklayers and the Angel Vaults (JDW) all sell a good range of real ales, and several other pubs have a hand pump or two.

  • The Albert, (Dacre Road/Walsworth Road corner). A pleasant little boozer with two or three real ales available. With the demise of the Nightingale, this has become the nearest pub to the railway station.  edit
  • The Angel Vaults, Sun Street. Wetherspoons conversion of the former Conservative clubI. Interesting building with enormous beer garden (closed after 9pm). Long opening hours, usual JDW food offerings..  edit
  • The Bricklayers Arms, 29 Queen Street. No longer affiliated to Banks and Taylor (Shefford) brewery and the number of real ales available has dropped somewhat from the original 12. Does not do food.  edit
  • Club 85, 74 Whinbush Road, [3]. Lively local music venue.  edit
  • The Cock, 8 High Street.. Small, friendly, Greene King pub, with generous lunchtime food of a high standard.  edit
  • The Coopers Arms, 81 Tilehouse Street (near library). McMullen pub, interesting old building, nice outdoor yard at rear. Reasonably priced food available lunchtime/evenings.  edit
  • The Half Moon, 57 Queen Street, [4]. This pub is a regular CAMRA pub-of-the-year with 8 real ales (Young's Special, Adnams Bitter, 5 SIBA, 1 free-of-tie) and several real-ciders/perrys. Eccentric cat, excitable springer spaniel, well-behaved pets welcome. Lunch & dinner served, including good value burgers and tapas. Themed food nights on Thursdays. Open daily from midday until late.  edit
  • Millstream, 97 Cambridge Road. a few hundred yards turning right out of the station. Large McMullen former pub, now really just a restaurant; not somewhere to go if you are only looking for a drink. £15+ per person.  edit
  • Molly Malones, 117 Nightingale Road. Greene King IPA + one other GK ale, rather a lot of TV screens. A rather bare 'sports bar' type ambiance nowadays. A great variety and volume of live music.  edit
  • Pitcher and Piano, 31 Market Place (town square). In the old Corn Exchange building; barn-like but interesting interior, now littered with bric-a-brac. Expensive, no real ale.  edit
  • The Victoria, 1 Ickleford Road (Bancroft/A505 junction), [5]. Greene King house not far from the town centre. Secluded beer garden and outside barn often used for events. Four real ales. Lunch available daily, evening supper on Mondays. Free ATM opposite.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There is a limited range of hotels for stays in and around Hitchin; none of the town pubs offer accommodation. Most of the usual budget chain hotels are available in Stevenage, but few are conveniently sited for public transport.

  • Premier Inn Portmill Lane, Hitchin. Now open, has own restaurant if needed. Very central location.
  • Sun Hotel Sun Street. Moderately expensive rooms in very old (16th century) building in the heart of town.
  • La Bella Vita Sun Street. Expensive Italian restaurant with 20 en-suite rooms at the rear.
  • Lord Lister Hotel Queen Street (next to Half Moon pub). No restaurant but many nearby.
  • Firs Hotel Bedford Road. Easy walking distance to town centre if restaurant does not impress.
  • Premier Inn Stevenage North (4 miles South of Hitchin, just beyond A1M/A602 junction). Bus 100/1/2 runs past.

Get out[edit]

  • Cambridge, 30 miles from Hitchin is one of England's most famous academic cities. Approx 2 trains/hour.
  • London is 32 miles south of Hitchin and can be reached via the motorway A1 or by train. Approx 4 trains/hour, 30-40 mins journey. Beware of ticket restrictions on trains leaving London 4:30 - 7:00pm weekdays.
  • Luton is ten miles west of Hitchin and is an airtravel hub. Buses to town centre from Brand Street: Arriva route 100 runs via airport, 101/102 don't.
  • Stevenage is 3 miles south of Hitchin, 5 mins by train.
  • Bedford about 15 miles north. Direct bus 71/72 from Bancroft, 55 mins. Goes through Shefford, with glorious brewery tap in main street, and passes the gigantic "R101" airship hangars at Cardington.
  • Letchworth is 3 miles north-east of Hitchin on the Cambridge railway line. Of minor interest (apart from the Broadway Cinema and David's bookshop [19]) unless you are a student of the Garden City movement: it was the first such in England.

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