We were staying in Highcliffe at the Premier Inn (see separate review) whilst visiting family & friends. Despite staying at the same Premier Inn last year we never got round to visiting the local Grade 1 listed Highcliffe Castle! This time we were determined to visit!
We decided to go there after breakfast before it got too hot. The admission charge was £3.25 each and there was also the option for an annual pass costing approx £16 which is good value if you were likely to visit Highcliffe Castle a few times (allows 2 people free entry). The staff on the entrance – who are volunteers were friendly, helpful & welcoming. Although there is not an awful lot to see (there is only the ground floor) – it was very interesting – a short film gives you an insight and the history of the castle and then you can have a wander around. There is also the option to have a guided tour at specific times . The stained glass window is beautiful – we were lucky enough to have a really sunny day so we saw it at its best. Highcliffe Castle has had a number of famous visitors- William Gladstone & William Gladstone amongst them – the Antiques Roadshow has also been filmed here. The founder of Selfridges as seen in the recent TV seies “Mr Selfridge”had links with the castle as he lived there for about 5 years. He is buried in the local St Mark’s church (along with his wife Rose & mother Lois) which sadly we did not have time to visit.
Restoration work on the castle exterior is finished however it has not been possible to recreate the internal decor so photos are displayed in each room gave you an idea how it used to look in it’s heyday!
They regularly have exhibitions – the two on show during our visit was a seaside exhibition”Wish you were here!” about bygone memories of Edwardian holidays at Highcliffe beach.It was interesting and included a few vintage bathing costumes. The other was a photographic exhibition by the local photographic society “Through the Lens” with some fantastic and very unusual prints for sale.There was also a display of some old film cameras too.(We were unable to take photos of either of these as they were “private” and not part of the castle as such.)
There is also a gift shop which had some really novel & quirky gifts.
The exterior of the castle is beautiful and the grounds were lovely (see photo) with seats dotted here and there. There is also a tearoom/snack bar which had plenty of tables in the shade but we had not long finished breakfast so wasn’t tempted by the traditional Dorset cream tea! There is a direct walkway (ramp) to the beach which we took and as it was a clear day we were able to see the Isle of Wight & The Needles from the shore. I even took a photo of my well worn Silver Travel bag with this view in the distance!
There were ramps etc for wheelchair users and a disabled toilet.A wheelchair could be booked by prior arrangement if needed.
It’s also a venue for weddings etc which I imagine would be a stunning setting.
They stage plays (a recent one was Romeo & Juliet)plus concerts & craft fairs etc-next time we will try and plan a visit to coincide with one of these .
The website www.highcliffecastle.co.uk has lots of useful info and a really informative section on the history of the castle..There is also info on the concerts etc –some of which are free entry!
We really enjoyed our visit and look forward to returning-for a show and hopefully a delicious cream tea.