Hampshire is a unique county, with a fantastic mix of natural beauty and stunning architecture. There are many stunning things to see and do across the region, including the New Forest National Park, Beaulieu Palace and several amazing gardens.
One of the most impressive buildings in the area is Hurst Castle. A fortification was built on the site in 1540 before the castle itself was completed in 1544. It was erected at the command of Henry VIII as one of the Device Forts, a series of castles built to defend the south coast of England from invaders. The move was made after Henry divorced Catherine of Aragon, leaving the country in a difficult political position and fearing invasion from both the French and the Spanish.
Hurst Castle is built on a shingle spit that extends out into the Solent. This makes it a strategically important location as invaders would be forced towards it and its guns by the tide and strong currents. The building was extended several times throughout its history, and underwent modernisation during the Napoleonic Wars. The huge wings were added to the main castle in the 1870s to increase the number of guns that could be held on the site.
The castle was also used as a prison. Its most famous resident was King Charles I in 1648, when he was held at the site during his trial before being moved to Windsor Castle. In 1700 priests accused of promoting Catholicism were imprisoned in the castle. Father Paul Atkinson was held there for almost thirty years until his death in 1729. He is viewed as a martyr for standing behind his beliefs.
Hurst Castle is open to the public and there are many great exhibitions on the site to see, including a D-Day exhibit. You can find out more about the history of the castle, the attractions on offer and the opening times by visiting the official website. This is one site you shouldn’t miss if you are visiting Hampshire.
If you’re looking for a bed and breakfast in the New Forest to stay at while you explore Hurst Castle and all the other attractions in the area, we’re your ideal choice. We are located in Milford on Sea, a short distance from the castle. You can reach it by walking along the beach if the tide permits, or take a ferry from Keyhaven.