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Hurst Castle, The New Forest

Hurst Castle has had many roles throughout its colourful life, including a prison for eminent captives in the 17th Century, most notably Charles I!

Unrivalled in its location overlooking the Solent, Hurst Castle commands incredible views. Built by Henry VIII between 1541 and 1544, it was one of the most state of the art artillery fortresses in England, using its position to guard the surrounds. Initially used as a prison for unfortunate souls who had fallen foul of the law (or simply out of favour), it held many eminent captives including its most notable prisoner Charles I. Even today, you can still climb the stairs to the first floor of the original Tudor keep where Charles would probably have been kept prisoner in 1648.

Part of a string of artillery fortresses that were built to protect key ports and landing places, Hurst Castle’s primary role was to protect the Needles Passage leading to the Solent, Southampton port and Portsmouth’s important naval base. Later on, it was strengthened and modernised during the 19th and 20th centuries to defend the western Solent from potential invasion, used from the Napoleonic Wars to World War Two. Remarkably for a Tudor castle, it served as a military outpost until 1956, playing an active role throughout both of the World Wars.

These days, Hurst Castle is looked after by Hurst Marine on behalf of English Heritage and makes for a great, dog-friendly visitor attraction. Arriving at the castle, you are invited take a step through time, exploring the oldest parts of the castle, discovering what the living conditions would have been like for soldiers during the wars in the east and west wings and visiting the Garrison Theatre, the UK’s last surviving Entertainments National Service Association theatre, which was used to provide entertainment for the troops during the Second World War.

With numerous exhibitions around the castle, including one about the history of the lighthouses on the spit, piecing together the castle’s long and intriguing history will be a fascinating affair for all ages. Of course, the amazing views from the rooftop of the Tudor keep will be a real highlight, and if you want to extend your daytrip, you can also hop aboard the nearby ferry crossing from Lymington to Yarmouth. While the ferry crossings are not under the same management as Hurst Castle, they are easy to organise and a brilliant way to explore the area even further. 

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in the New Forest here.

Hurst Castle, Milford on Sea, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 0TP | 01590 642 500 | www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hurst-castle/

 

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