100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 59 – Highcliffe Castle

Highcliffe Castle

Highcliffe Castle, perched on the cliff top on the outskirts of Highcliffe, isn’t quite as old as the name ‘Castle’ might suggest. The original Highcliffe Mansion was built (too close to the cliff edge) in 1775. Once this house had been lost to coastal erosion, the current Highcliffe Castle was built, slightly further inland, between 1831 and 1836.

Highcliffe Castle
Highcliffe Castle (Front)

The castle, a Grade I Listed Building, built in the ‘Romantic and Picturesque’ Style, was the the brainchild of Lord Stuart de Rothesay. This former ambassador to France imported stone from a derelict French abbey to be incorporated into the construction.

Highcliffe Castle
Highcliffe Castle (Front)

Later, from 1916 to 1922 the house was rented by Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of the Selfridges Department Store. After functioning as a children’s home and a religious seminary, it was partially destroyed by fire. A period of neglect followed before it was compulsorily purchased by the council in 1977. The castle is now owned by the local (BCP) council who have undertaken the task of restoring it to its former glory.

Highcliffe Castle
Highcliffe Castle (Rear)

Highcliffe Castle is situated 8 miles east of Bournemouth and can be reached via bus routes X1 and X2. There is plenty of parking in the castle grounds, although with a popular Blue Flag beach at the bottom of the cliffs, this can fill up quickly in summer. The car park is Pay & Display. Fees are approximately £1.50 per hour (with a maximum time limit of 4 hours) during summer and a flat rate of 70p between October and March. The castle is open from Sunday to Thursday between 10 am and 4 pm. Although the castle is closed to visitors on Fridays and Saturdays, the shop (10-1) and tea rooms (10-4) remain open. Admission costs £7 for adults.

Highcliffe Castle (Rear)
Highcliffe Castle (Rear)

Castle Grounds

The castles grounds were designed in 1775 by famous landscape architect Capability Brown, who planted trees to stabilise the cliff top as well as introducing more formal gardens and a beach hut. To the rear of the castle is the formal parterre. From here, woodland walks extend along the coast.

Highcliffe Castle Gardens
Highcliffe Castle Gardens

The grounds are open daily from 7 am, closing at around dusk; 6.30 pm (November-March) 7.30 pm (April and October), 9 pm (May and September) and 10 pm (June-August).

Cafe

The castle has tea gardens to the rear where you can purchase drinks and snacks and sit on the terrace and watch the world (and wedding guests) go by.

Highcliffe Castle and Cafe

Steamer Point

A nice ‘circular’ walk to take is to follow the path along the cliff top to Steamer Point, then descend and return along the beach. Steamer Point is so called because in 1829 the castle’s owner decided to have a steamer lodged into a gap in the cliff tops because, well she liked paddle steamers?

Steamer Point
Steamer Point

Steamer Point Lodge

The steamer is long gone, but there is a house built above where it used to lie called Steamer Point Lodge. This two bedroom former warden’s lodge on the cliff top is now a holiday rental with stunning views and beach access.

Steamer Point Lodge
Steamer Point Lodge

Steamer Point Nature Reserve

The surrounding area forms Steamer Point Nature Reserve, which consists of a wooded area running alongside a lake.

View from Steamer Point
View from Steamer Point

Steamer Point Woodland Information Centre

There is a small building where you can learn more about the nature of the surrounding area with interactive displays for children.

Steamer Point Woodland Information Centre
Steamer Point Woodland Information Centre

Highcliffe Beach

The Blue Flag Highcliffe Beach can be reached via a sloping zigzag (no steps) or by (118) steps from the cliff top. It consists of a sandy beach lined with grassy sand dunes.

Highcliffe Beach
Highcliffe Beach

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