Hurst Castle and Spit
For spectacular views of The Solent and Isle of Wight, Hurst Castle and spit is the place to visit, at Keyhaven close to Lymington.
The English Heritage owned castle is situated on the eastern end of Hurst Beach, a one and a half mile long shingle barrier beach that separates The Solent from the Keyhaven mudflats, a very sheltered area popular with birdwatchers.
Hurst Castle was one of The Solent's key defenses and dates back to the mid-sixteenth century and King Henry VIII. Being situated on the narrowest stretch of water between the mainland and Isle of Wight made it the first line of defense against ships entering The Solent from the west.
However, Hurst Castle never saw any serious wartime action but through the centuries it has been extended and modified, and has always kept in line with the artillery of the time.
Today the castle is a worthwhile museum and displays a range of guns and canons from various eras, up to and including World War II, when the castle was occupied by Coastal Artillery soldiers.
The most impressive are the 38 ton guns, of which there are two. Each gun took no less than 12 men to operate it. In Victorian times at Hurst Castle there were originally 10 of these, and with a three mile range the 820lb shells could have easily crossed The Solent!
Much of the building remains untouched from its last time of wartime renovations, and the maze of rooms and corridors gives a good insight into what life must have been like for the occupants.
If you choose to reach Hurst Castle on foot, be prepared for a long and bracing walk along the top of the spit. The wind can be strong, even on good days, but the views are spectacular; the famous Isle of Wight Needles are just across the water, and on reaching the castle itself you'll be rewarded with an unspoiled view looking eastwards up The Solent, along the southern edge of the New Forest National Park and the northern coast of the Isle of Wight.
Update: a new audio guided tour is now available at the Castle. The tour can also be purchased beforehand (http://hurstcastle.bandcamp.com) with all proceeds going to the maintenance and restoration of Hurst Castle. The tour can be played on an iPod so is a great way to enjoy the full history of the place!
Hurst Castle Visitor Information
- April to September: daily, 10.30am - 5.30pm
- October: daily, 10.30am - 4.00pm
- November to March: weekends only, 10.30am - 4.00pm
- Adults £4.20
- Children £2.50
- Concession £3.70
Location: Hurst Castle Spit, the southernmost point of the New Forest National Park.
Telephone: 01590 642344
Getting to Hurst Castle and Spit
Keyhaven is located a couple of miles south-west of Lymington, the closest major road from the New Forest is the A337 from Brockenhurst. Once at Keyhaven, you can either catch the small ferry* from the quay across to the castle, or drive round towards the Solent Way. Limited roadside parking is available at the start of the spit, then it's a long walk along Hurst Bar Beach until the end.
Alternatively park at Milford-on-Sea to the west, but this will add another mile to the walk!
*Hurst Ferry information - daily from 10am to 5.30pm approximately every 20 minutes from Keyhaven Quay whenever the castle is open to visitors, weather and conditions permitting. Prices are: Adult return £5.00, single £3.00: Child return £3.00, single £2.00
Telephone 01590 642500 for further information about the ferry crossings.
GPS / SatNav information:
Lat/long: 50.716,-1.576. OS grid ref: SU317898