It can be a fine line sometimes balancing our housesitting responsibilities with our desire to get out and explore the area that we are temporarily living in. First and foremost we are there to look after a house and often more importantly a pet, and they are always our priorities. So when we get the chance at a day out we try and grab it.
We got the chance of a longer day out this week when Ronnie, our current housesitting dog, was taken out by the regular dogwalker for the day leaving us with the opportunity to go a bit further. So we decided on a visit to Hurst Castle just down the coast from Milford on Sea.
History of Hurst Castle
Bit of background first or Jo will do her nut. Built by Henry VIII in around 1541 Hurst Castle was part of his coastal defence against France and the Holy Roman Empire. During the English Civil War in the 1640s it was used to detain Charles I before his execution. Renovated during the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s and then again for World War One and Two the castle has been a crucial part of England defence system for nearly 500 years. Now owned by English Heritage it looked like a fascinating place to visit.
Just to the east of Milford on Sea is the tiny village of Keyhaven where we parked to get out to the castle. Now there is a little ferry that operates but we decided to walk out along Hurst Spit, a narrow mile-long shingle bank that runs all the way out to the castle. Beautiful sunny day so we slowly trekked along the shingle enjoying views out to The Needles on the Isle of Wight and looked back on the Hampshire and Dorset coastline.
As we got nearer, the castle reminded us a bit of one of those American prison buildings that you see in films like the Shawshank Redemption. Long grey walls stretching out with a centre archway entrance. Didn’t look very historic or appealing at first glance but as we approached the entrance we could see a lot more and decided to fork out the entrance fee of just £5 and take a look.
We weren’t disappointed though as it was one of the biggest castles we’ve visited and seemed to go on forever. Every new courtyard led through an elaborate arch to another courtyard which in turn led to another. It was fascinating to see the modern Second World War castle interspersed with both Tudor and Victorian architecture. So much to explore and even more to read.
Minor JWalking Irritations
It’s not the castle itself that got our backs up but a minority of the visitors. Now I know we all pay the same money and everyone has the right to do as they please but sometimes it seems like a few people are only interested in selfies and a coffee. We often wonder as the woman in front poses for her 34th selfie, without having the slightest interest in where she is, and balances her takeaway coffee as she poses, why she’s here at all? Never really sure.
After a few hours of tales of Charles I, stories about D Day, and legends of Henry VIII we left the castle and had a late picnic lunch on the stony beach overlooking the Isle of Wight. Behind us the Hurst Point Lighthouse kept watch across the Solent as we made quick work of our ham sandwiches.
The Keyhaven Ferry
As we’d walked along the spit we decided to give the Keyhaven Ferry a go for our way back. The queues had been a bit serious when we’d looked earlier but luckily only 8 or 9 people were there before us and as we later discovered the ferry only took 11 passengers at a time. Result.
The trip was only 10 minutes or so but it was very entertaining. Our captain seemed to be an incarnation of Sid James from the Carry On films and the other 9 passengers were a single family from that hilarious ITV comedy Benidorm. So as Sid invited the three year old son to steer the boat he proceeded to hit us with joke after bad joke for the whole trip.
To be honest it was a great little ferry ride. The sun was out and the breeze was cool as we meandered between the little sailing boats on our way back to Keyhaven. The Benidorm kids steered the boat brilliantly and even laughing Sid was entertaining. A beautiful end to a beautiful day.