Hurst Castle is a fortress situated on the end of a shingle spit off the English coast, less than a mile from the Isle of Wight. The 16th Century castle has a long and interesting history plus spectacular views.
The castle is situated 15 miles east of Bournemouth and can be reached either from Milford on Sea via a shingle spit or from Keyhaven by ferry.
The raised shingle spit is around two miles long. We ran along it to the castle during the lockdown, which was hard work but fun. The walk (run?) is quite hard on the legs, but the views are pretty special. I recommend sturdy shoes and plenty of water.
There is a car park near the beginning of the spit; Hurst Road East Car Park. Charges are seasonal, but approximately £1 an hour. Alternatively, the X1 and X2 buses runs from Bournemouth to Milford on sea, stopping close to the end of the spit.
A more sedate but equally scenic way to access the castle is to take a short ferry ride from Keyhaven. The ferry runs between 10 am and 5.30 pm from April until October. Departures are, theoretically, every 30 minutes. However, in practice, during busy times ferries are far more frequent with boats departing as soon as they are full. An adult return ticket costs £7 (a single is £4).
There is parking near the ferry at Keyhaven Amenity Car Park. Note: if you decide to walk one way and take the ferry the other, the end of the spit and the ferry dock are about a mile apart.
The Castle, which is owned by English Heritage, is open daily between April and October, from 10 am until 5.30 pm (April – September) or 4 pm (October). As parts of the castle collapsed during storms in 2021, only the Tudor Castle is currently open to the public – The East and West Wings remain closed. Indeed, much of it lies on the beach in chunks, catalogued and ready to be reconstructed like an enormous jigsaw puzzle. Entry costs £4.50 for adults (free to English Heritage Members).
The original part of the castle is a Tudor fort, built in 1541 as part of Henry VIII’s coastal defences.
You can climb to the top of the Castle Keep for an amazing 360 degree view of the English coast, the channel and the Isle of Wight.
King Charles I
During the English Civil War, King Charles I was imprisoned in Hurst Castle briefly during 1648, before being returned to London and executed the following year.
World War II
The Castle played an important role in the country’s defences during World War II, guarding the south coast from the risk of German invasion. There are weapons and other military paraphernalia from this era on display.
Hurst Point’s key position at the entry to the channel running between the English coast and the Isle of Wight, combined with the shifting nature of the shingle, has resulted in the building of several lighthouses.
Three remain intact; two within the castle itself; the 19th Century High Light and the 20th Century Low Light (built on a steel gantry so it could be moved to a new position if necessary). They formed a line which helped guide ships into the channel.
Hurst Point Lighthouse
The currently operational lighthouse was built in 1867 and is situated just outside the castle grounds.
There is a small cafe (open between April and October) and a gift shop near the ferry dock, just outside the castle castle entrance. It’s a pleasant place to sit and relax whilst waiting for a ferry/psyching yourself up for the two mile return shingle extravanganza.