As a family, we like to get outside and explore and one of our new favourite places to visit is Hurst Castle in the New Forest.
Hurst Castle is an artillery fort established by Henry VIII on the Hurst Spit in Hampshire and there are two ways of reaching the castle.
You can either park at Keyhaven car park and take the ferry to Hurst Castle, or park at Milford-on-Sea and walk along the spit.
I have to say we enjoy both, but if you are travelling with young children it is worth considering that it is quite a long walk along uneven ground.
Once you arrive at Hurst Castle there is a small takeaway unit and picnic area outside and the lighthouse, but all other facilities are inside the castle, which is managed by English Heritage.
Hurst Castle was built between 1541 and 1544 and has been extended and modernised several times since so there is plenty to see.
The displays inside depict different times in the castle’s history, with memorabilia from the second world war, where it played a key role in protecting the western entrance to the Solent, all the way back to its origins where it was used to control the Needles Passage and protect key ports.
Although the history is interesting, the kids had the most fun climbing up and down the stairs and exploring the many rooms.
The views from the top of the castle take in the Needles on the Isle of Wight, the Keyhaven River, the lighthouse and all the way across to Bournemouth and Poole Bay.
As well as the royal and military displays, there is also a large interactive display from the Association of Lighthouse Keepers all about how lighthouses work and what it is like to live in one, as the castle has a long association with Trinity House and is unique in having two lighthouses within its walls and a third outside on the spit, a reminder of the hazards to navigation here.
It is also interesting to see their preservation works as in February 2021, a section of wall on the 19th-century east wing of the castle collapsed, after the sea exposed and undercut its foundations. Since our last visit they have added 22,000 tonnes of shingle and rock armour to protect the east wing and a permanent revetment sea defence.
The ferries run every 20 minutes from Keyhaven car park to Hurst Castle between 10am – 5.30pm from 27th March – 31st October and you cost £7 per adult and £5 per child for a return fare.
Entry to Hurst Castle is free with an English Heritage membership or £19 for a family ticket.
Top Tips for enjoying Hurst Castle
There is a lot of climbing up and down uneven stairs if you want to properly explore the castle, which may restrict your visit if you have mobility issues or are visiting with young children.
The castle is not fenced off and there is a sheer drop of 15ft, so you must keep young children with you at all times
Toilets are only available for castle visitors, but there are public toilets at Keyhaven carpark, so go before you leave for the castle.
The only refreshments available are from a small takeaway unit just outside the castle walls which sells tea, coffee, cakes and ice creams, so I would recommend taking snacks.
Having the kids trail also gives them something extra to keep them occupied and they also run events during key children’s school holidays.
Have you visited Hurst Castle before?