Enjoy a remote escape to the sea by visiting Hurst Castle, built by Henry VIII at the seaward end of a coastal spit. Commanding the narrow entrance to the Solent, it offers stunning panoramic views and plenty of things to see and do.
The castle was used as a prison for eminent 17th century captives, including Charles I, who was held prisoner here for 19 days in 1648 before his execution in London.
Its strategic location saw Hurst Castle develop into one of the most powerful fortresses and was first strengthened during the Napoleonic Wars at the start of the 19th century. It was alerted again, most conspicuously in the 1860s when the great wing batteries were added as part of a huge programme of new defences around Portsmouth and Spithead that turned this part of the coast into one of the most heavily fortified areas in the world.
In the First and Second World Wars the castle was fully garrisoned, its searchlights and guns guarding the western entrance to the Solent against attack from the sea and air.
Exhibitions around the castle provide visitors with a chance to piece together Hurst Castle’s long history from its beginnings in 1544 through to 1956 when it was last used for military action.
Castle highlights for visitors include:
- Hurst Castle’s original Tudor fort, which retains much of its 16th century appearance.
- The first floor of the Tudor keep, where it was probably here that Charles I was kept prisoner in 1648.
- Spectacular views from the roof of the Tudor keep across the Needles Passage to the Isle of Wight.
- The basement of the Tudor keep, used for storage of food, fuel, weapons and gunpowder.
- The castle’s East and West wings, built in 1860s, which give visitors a glimpse into the living conditions of a soldier in the First and Second World Wars, with living quarters and washing facilities to explore.
- The Garrison Theatre, possibly the last theatre constucted by the garrison to survive from the Second World War.
- The history of the lighthouses on the spit within the Lighthouse exhibition in the West Wing, from the first light built in 1786 to the High Light of 1867, still functioning today.
To get to Hurst Castle, there is a leisurely ferry ride from Keyhaven, Hampshire (charges apply) or a 1.5 mile walk along Hurst Spit (please note this is a shingle spit). Cafe open daily and dogs on leads welcome.
To find out more information, please visit www.hurstcastle.co.uk or call 01590 642500.
Hurst Castle, Keyhaven, Hampshire, SO41 0TP