Keyhaven and Hurst Castle

English Heritage Hurst Castle

English Heritage Hurst Castle

A lighthouse, an imposing Tudor castle, a cute passenger ferry, views of The Needles off the Isle of Wight, a long stretch of pebbled beach overlooking Christchurch and Mudeford, a harbour and a yacht club with boats glistening in the sunlight.

Keyhaven and Hurst Castle offer some fantastic coastal photo opportunities.

Getting there

On the south coast of England, Keyhaven is a short drive from Lymington, through the pretty village of Milford on Sea  (where there are plenty of tea shops for a quick bite, or local pubs and fish and chip shops for more substantial offerings).

Park at the car park just behind Keyhaven Yacht Club / opposite the Gun Inn, or continue round Saltgrass Lane to park up on the side of the road. I parked at the yacht club, walked towards the sea with the boats on my left and turned right along the path with the marshes on my right and the harbour to my left.  Over the footbridge and up the bank, to reveal a stunning view of the Isle of Wight’s famous rocky outcrop and lighthouse.

A passenger ferry operates if you’d rather save your legs… although when I visited, low tide meant it was out of action.

Keyhaven Hurst Castle Ferry Port

Keyhaven – Hurst Castle ferry port in low tide

Photo Notes

The pebble beach is good news for photographers who want to get that lovely coastal shot, without the risk of sand in precious equipment. Refuelling and refreshment opportunities are scarce though, so snack supplies recommended.

The Castle

Ok, so it’s not a traditionally picturesque turreted fort, but Hurst Castle boasts some pretty impressive historical credentials and its location makes for some stunning views.  When I visited (albeit out of season) it was fairly quiet too, so good for ‘tourist-free’ photos.

Hurst Castle and Lighthouse

Hurst Castle and Lighthouse

Built by Henry VIII and used as the prison of Charles I before his trial and execution, it’s now an English Heritage site, so you can pay to see inside the imposing stone walls, or just take in the views from the outside.

The Lighthouse

Hurst Point Lighthouse, a white and green building on a fairly isolated stretch of land with the hallmark New Forest rough scrub makes for some eye-catching landscape shots.

Hurst Point Lighthouse

Hurst Point Lighthouse

I imagine with the right lighting conditions it would be a good setting for dramatic stormy scenes.

I spotted a lifesaver and almost too good to be true, the lighthouse lines up perfectly through the bright red and white circular frame.

Through the Round Window - Hurst Point Lighthouse through a lifesaver

Through the Round Window – Hurst Point Lighthouse

The Needles

The Needles, a rocky outcrop off the coast of the Isle of Wight are a series of three jagged chalk pillars – hence, ‘needles’, marked by an upside down flashing exclamation mark – or lighthouse. As familiar a British coastal sight as the White Cliffs of Dover, they make for a good focal point on the Hampshire horizon.

The Needles from Hurst Castle

I found a weather-worn groyn to frame a shot of this landmark.

Sailing Sailing

Keyhaven and Keyhaven Yacht Club is a great location for shots of sailing boats, whether in action on the water, or moored in the harbour.

Keyhaven Boats

Keyhaven Boats

I love the way these boats are queuing in an orderly, obedient fashion – ready and waiting to be called into service.

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Mudeford

One of the main reasons people head to Mudeford on the south coast of England is for the pretty beach huts – some of the most expensive beach huts in the world.  With views of The Needles off the Isle of Wight in one direction and Christchurch Priory Church in the other, the sailing boats and sandy beaches, plus a cute ferry and little green land train, not forgetting the working fishermen and children with their crabbing pots, there are photo opportunities everywhere.

Mudeford Beach Huts

Mudeford Beach Huts

Mudeford Fisherman at Work

Mudeford Fisherman at Work

Needles in the distance

Isle of Wight Needles from Mudeford harbour

Boat and church in the Mudeford dawn mist

Boat and church in the Mudeford dawn mist

When to go?

For a more serene and tranquil experience (and less tourists to get in the way of your arty shots) go on a weekday if you can, or even better, go out of season (when parking is also considerably cheaper).

There are plenty of interesting focal points for sunset and sunrise shots at Mudeford, so getting there early, or sticking around until later in the day is highly recommended.  If you’re really committed you could hire out one of the beach huts to guarantee being in the right spot at the right time. We stayed over with friends for a 40th birthday celebration. Loads of fun, especially as we went out of season, so with no-one else around it really did feel like our own desert island!

Christchurch Priory Church in the dawn mist

Christchurch Priory Church in the dawn mist

Sunrise at Mudeford

Sunrise at Mudeford

Sunset at Mudeford

Sunset at Mudeford

How to get there?

Catch the cute ferry from Mudeford Harbour or drive round to Hengistbury Head to park up and catch the land train or walk the mile and a half (approx) route through the Nature Reserve.

What else?

Sea air, great views and a relaxed vibe, Mudeford is a great location for a day out with the camera. On Mudeford spit, the Beach House cafe serves light snacks to full-blown evening meals and of course New Forest ice cream! There’s also a cafe and public toilets at the car park at Hengistbury Head, so you’re well catered for. If you fancy exploring further afield, there’s plenty more to see along the coast line, including Highcliffe Castle which is a little walk around the bay.