Hampshire's tree-lined lanes and forest roads are perfect for old-school rural road trips, with plenty of village-pub stop-offs and ooh-let's-go-see-that detours. The M3 is the county's pet motorway, snaking from south-west London to Southampton via Basingstoke and Winchester.
Gatwick and Heathrow are the county's international gateways, but Bournemouth and Southampton are better placed if you're hitting the coast or the New Forest. The business airport, TAG Farnborough (www.tagaviation.com), is useful if you have a private jet to hand.
Hampshire is well networked, railway-wise, with major train lines (Southern and South West) linking major cities such as Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester with London Waterloo. Short distances from town to town mean touring Hampshire by train is an easy and eco-friendly option.
UK: +44; Southampton and Portsmouth: (0)23.
Pack your classics: Jane Austen spent most of her life in Hampshire and her headline tomes Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility both take inspiration from the area. Dickens may have been born in Portsmouth, but his literary interests lay elsewhere. Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers is set in a fictionalised Winchester and virtually everything penned by Thomas Hardy takes place in Wessex - the ancient kingdom of which Hampshire comprised a hefty chunk.
Do go / Don't Go
Hampshire's both sunnier and rainier than most areas of the UK, but make the most of the former and go between May and September. The coastal towns heave with seaside-seekers in July and August, and pretty Winchester swarms in summer, but most parts of the county are pleasant and crowd-free throughout the year.
There are plenty of ranks in Hampshire's major cities, but you're better off booking ahead in smaller towns. Brockenhurst Taxis (+44 (0)1425 619922; www.brockenhursttaxis.co.uk) are handy for getting around the New Forest area and Southampton Taxis (+44 (0)23 8039 2798; www.southampton-taxis.com) cover the city and surroundings pretty well. In northern Hampshire, try Aldershot-based Rushmoor Taxis (+44 (0)1252 333555; www.rushmoortaxis.com).
10-15 per cent is standard, but most restaurants will habitually add 12.5 per cent to the bill.
Pound sterling (£).
An open-top and driving goggles/Hepburn headscarves for classic countryside jaunts; a rambler's cane for New Forest wanderings.
Portsmouth is mother city of the Royal Navy, and it really won't let you forget it. HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose loom large in the harbour, and the waterfront is lined with museums devoted to nautical warfare. Literary landlubbers can visit Charles Dickens' birthplace which houses the sofa on which the author met his maker (www.charlesdickensbirthplace.co.uk), or leave town for Chawton to scout out Jane Austen's house, where she worked on almost all her major novels on a tiny writing table (www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk).
Portsmouth and Southampton see to any high-street needs, and Basingstoke's Festival Place is one for the mallrats - although it does host a farmers' market every Saturday, too (www.festivalplace.co.uk). Hampshire is heaven for antique-hunters, with dozens of shops selling furniture and bric-a-brac dotted all over the county. Gaylords in Titchfield has a remarkable stock of vintage furniture (www.gaylords.co.uk), and, across the border in Farnham, Surrey, the renowned Packhouse is a veritable Aladdin's cave of yesteryear objets d'art set in a 400-year-old hop kiln (www.packhouse.com).
Ramble the North Hampshire Downs and make the meandering ascent up Pilot Hill, the county's highest point. From the top, you can look down across a pastoral patchwork of grassland and woods into Berkshire.
OK, so it's not King Arthur's actual Round Table that currently resides in Winchester's Great Hall, but the 14th-century forgery still merits a look-see (www.hants.gov.uk/greathall).
July Eyes turn skywards every even year, for the Farnborough International Airshow where the aerospace industry goes to town, with astonishing feats of flying, including the inimitable Red Arrows (www.farnborough.com). The Hampshire Food Festival celebrates all things edible, with events throughout the county including sausage-making lessons, brewery tours, bee-keeping events and cookery classes (www.hampshirefare.co.uk/food-festival). August Every year since 1826, the Solent has swarmed with sailors, pitting their vessels against each other for Cowes Week, the world's longest running regatta, culminating in a spectacular firework display (www.cowesweek.co.uk). Balloons Over Basingstoke brings a skyful of inflatable flyers to the town for one weekend - Friday's 'Night Glow', when illuminated hot-air balloons execute choreographed manoeuvres to music accompanied by lasers and pyrotechnics, is a family-friendly highlight.