Highcliffe Castle is a very relaxing place to be. It does not really fit the traditional view of a castle, and was built as a family home rather than for any defensive purpose. Surviving two fires, the castle is now a popular tourist attraction for those wanting to relax in beautiful grounds with view over the Solent to the Isle of Wight. There is easy access to the beach.
Highcliffe Castle - Christchurch visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'Highcliffe Castle' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Dorset.
Highcliffe Castle was built in the 1830s in Romantic and Picturesque Gothic style by Lord Stuart de Rothesay. One notable feature is the oriel window facing southeast across the formal gardens and giving a view over Christchurch Bay and over to the Isle of Wight. The castle has been managed by Christchurch Council as a tourist attraction since 1999, and contains various exhibition spaces, a small museum in the Great Hall, cafes and restaurants and is available for hire for events such as wedding receptions. Highcliffe Castle is set in some parkland with a formal garden and has disabled access down a zig-zag path to the Highcliffe Beach. There is a fee-paying car park. Over 50,000 visitors come to Highcliffe Castle each year and the Castle is the venue for over 100 civil weddings in the Wintergarden each year.
A Brief History of Highcliffe Castle
Highcliffe Castle has been described as "the most important remaining example of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture". It was built on the site previously occupied by High Cliff, a Georgian mansion. The new castle used large quantities of carved medieval stonework which Lord Stuart had acquired from the Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Peter at Jumieges and from the Grande Maison des Andelys, both of which had become derelict following the French Revolution. He also included an entire oriel window and also a stained glass window, both from the sixteenth century.
Much of the surrounding estate was sold in the 1950s and has been developed with bungalows and apartments. In 1953 the castle was granted Grade 1 listed status and was sold to the Claretian Fathers. The Clareitan Fathers moved out and sold the castle to developers in 1966. Due to the Grade I listed status, applications from the developers to demolish Highcliffe Castle were rejected. This was shortly followed by two fires at the empty structure which gutted the building. In 1977 Christchurch Council made a compulsory purchase of the building. During the 1990s much of the exterior fabric was restored in partnership between Christchurch Council and English Heritage. By 2001 Highcliffe Castle had become a successful and thriving tourist attraction, wedding venue and gallery space. 2007 sees the first major investment to the interior and by February 2008, the castle will have disabled access, more rooms and facilities available for visitors.
Highcliffe Castle is about 3 miles from the center of Christchurch next to Highcliffe Castle Golf Club. From Christchurch take the A35 followed by the A337 (Highcliffe Road). Rothesay Drive is off to the right from the A337.