Highcliffe is a coastal town to the south west of the New Forest National Park. Highcliffe Castle is a great place to stop and look around, with access (down the high cliff...) to the beach.
Towns and Villages
Three Highcliffe Curiosities
Highcliffe's former name was (rather unfortunately) Slop Pond, a collection of thatched cottages named from the large pond on its common. I suppose that as much thought went into that name as into today's name... good idea to change though.
All at Sea
The orginal estate house built in Highcliffe by John, third Earl of Bute, is said to be currently two miles out to sea. And receding.The Lord Bute boutique hotel and restaurant is still very much on the land, however, and can be found on the road passing the castle.
Highcliffe's position on the south coast gives it a climate with milder winters than inland areas and less rainfall than locations further west. This helped to establish the town as a popular health and leisure resort during the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras... obviously at a time when long, hot summers were still an occurrance!
- Highcliffe is the most easterly parish in Dorset but was originally in the county of Hampshire. With a wild slipping short cliff down to the sea, there are nice coastal views across the groynes (built to keep the erosion in check) to the Isle of Wight and the Needles. Highcliffe consists mainly of recently constructed houses, in well wooded surroundings, with a High Street that runs parallel to the sea. Set back from it is its main claim to fame, Highcliffe Castle.
- An odd but attractive building on a large scale, Highcliffe Castle was built in the 1830s in the Romantic Gothic style, enhanced by the inclusion of real late Gothic French features such as the very elaborate oriel window above the porch and the windows to the right of it. The hall by the road has the appearance of a church. The house has been restored to its former glory after extensive fire damage in the 1960s. A park around the house is open to the public and there is direct access to the beach from the castle car park (pay & display).
- The church of St. Mark in Hinton Wood Avenue was largely built in 1843 was paid for by the owner of Highcliffe Castle, but is largely plain and lacks the eccentricity of the castle.
Things to Do and See in Highcliffe
Take a walk along the cliff top, or along the beach, and stop for tea at Highcliffe Castle with its delightful tea rooms.
Highcliffe Castle is Open Daily from 1st February to 23rd December. Telephone 01425 278807.
Highcliffe Castle is a Grade I listed building which was built between 1831 and 1835 by Lord Stuart de Rothesay. It has been described as "the most important remaining example of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture."
Highcliffe Sailing Club is located at the prime coastal location of Mudeford Quay allowing the club to offer sailing in the sheltered waters of Christchurch harbour and open water sailing in Christchurch Bay. This makes it an ideal club for sailors of all abilities and aspirations. Mudeford Quay is on the east side of the entrance to Christchurch harbour which is between the historic town of Christchurch to the West and Highcliffe and the New Forest to the East.
The beach between Highcliffe and Mudeford is a popular one with visitors as it is quite sandy and there are also beach huts and two cafes. Crabbing is a popular pastime at Mudeford Quay. Take the little ferry across from Mudeford Quay to Hengisbury Head and admire the beach huts or take the little land train across the headland. There is also a cafe/restaurant near the ferry stop.
A Little Highcliffe History
The history of Highcliffe begins with John, third Earl of Bute, the well-known minister of George III., who was purchaser of the estate. The site of the house he built was said by the present owner of the property (based on the evidence he gave before the Royal Commission on Coastal Erosion some years ago) to now be two miles out to sea. The rapid advances of the sea were a great source of trouble to Lord Bute; the falling of the cliff went on at such a rate that the people on the estate dared not tell him about it. The path which ran by the cliffs was constantly disappearing and in order to keep him ignorance of it all the men on the estate were kept at hand while he was at his house to make a new path at the cliff edge in case he should happen to walk that way, so that he might believe that the new path was the old one. Highcliffe was bequeathed to his fourth son, Charles, who found the expense and annoyance ot the landslips so intolerable that he sold the estate to a Mr. Penleaze.