If you're visiting Dorset, or even if you live there, Highcliffe Castle, a 'Grade I' listed mansion on the edge of Christchurch in Dorset, is a well worth a visit for its wonderful architecture and interesting history.
Situated on the cliff top with spectacular views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, it was built by Lord Stuart de Rothesay in the early 1830's and remained a family home until the 1950's. Two devastating fires in the 1960's rendered the building derelict. In 1977 it was purchased by Christchurch Borough Council and a programme of repairs was began with the support of English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Today, Highcliffe Castle is open to the public and visitors can step inside to appreciate its rich history, brought alive by knowledgeable room hosts. Bookable guided tours and talks give a glimpse behind the scenes, uncovering stories adn facts about the castle and its hidden heritage.
The castle stands in splendid grounds with direct access to beautiful, unspoiled Highcliffe beach. Visitors can also take a gentle stroll through Steamer Point Nature Reserve, enjoying the woodland and aquatic habitats, which support a wide variety of flora and fauna.
To get to the beach, just head down two flights of steps accessed from the actual grounds and you will be rewarded with the sight of beautiful, rural, shingle and sand beach - perfect for a picnic and dogs are permitted here all year round. The water here is excellent for swimming as it is both safe and clean with the most magnificent views of the Isle of Wight.
You can also find the family restaurant The Castle Kitchen here, where you can enjoy fresh local produce against the stunning backdrop of the beach.
For better for worse
With its idyllic cliff top location and beautiful historic building, it's no surprise that Highcliffe Castle is one of the most popular wedding venues in Dorset. Ceremonies are held in the light and spacious Wintergarden, with floor-to-ceiling windows which create a beautiful setting all year round. Happy couples can be sure of some magical photographs with 14 acres of parkland and picturesque gardens.
The King of Shopping
Harry Gordon Selfridge, who founded the London-based department store 'Selfridges', lived at Highcliffe Castle with his wife Rosalie, his mother Lois and his son Gordon from 1916 to 1922.
Although he was only a tenant he installed modern bathrooms and a kitchen and had central heating fitter. Rosalie died in 1918 and was buried at St Mark's Church in Highcliffe. At the height of his fortunes, Harry bought Hengistbury Head, a scenic headland then part of Christchurch, and Stanpit Marsh, but sold them in 1930 following the great depression.
The second episode of ITV's 'Mr Selfridge' featured some scenes set at Highcliffe Castle. Filming took place in April 2015 with Jeremy Piven and other cast members playing scenes with the castle in the background.
The fourth and final series of Mr. Selfridge focused on Harry's dramatic decline as he lost his empire and wealth. He died, almost penniless, in 1947 and is buried in St Mark's churchyard next to his wife.
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