Lighthouses of South Central England
Discover the lighthouses of South Central England. The region takes in the Jurassic coast of Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex and the Isle of Wight.
Please note that some of these lighthouses offer holiday accommodation or may be privately owned. Please take care not to trespass or drive on private property.
Heading along the Jurassic coast, the 18 mile long Chesil Beach connects to the isle of Portland, where you can find three lighthouses at Portland Bill. Portland Bill Lighthouse is still operational and is also a visitor centre. A boat trip around Portland harbour is the best way to view Portland Breakwater Lighthouse.
The Dorset coastal path follows plenty of cliffs and caves along the way, with stunning classic scenery and features like Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.
From Durlston Country Park near Swanage, Anvil Point Lighthouse sits on the clifftop near the limestone quarries of the now-closed Tilly Whim Caves. Just below Durlston Head Castle is a 10ft diameter globe carved from Portland stone by Swanage born John Mowlem.
Further east, towards Bournemouth, Poole and Swanage, the coastline changes into more sandy beaches.
Poole has an extensive harbour, sheltered behind the millionaire rows of houses at Sandbanks. The RNLI Lifeboat Headquarters and training college is based in Poole.
An unlikely link with the Scottish family of lighthouse engineers is to be found in Bournemouth. Writer Robert Louis Stevenson moved to Westbourne the area in 1884 and named his house Skerryvore after his Uncle Alan, who had built Skerryvore Lighthouse. The house was later destroyed, and a stone model of Skerryvore Lighthouse can be found in the memorial garden.
Hurst Castle is located at the end of a mile and a half long spit. The castle was built in 1544 by Henry VIII as part of the coastal defences.
You can find three lighthouses at Hurst, two within the castle compound, and the current operational lighthouse nearby. The adjacent acetylene room is one of only a handful remaining, with its equipment intact.
You can visit Hurst by a half-hour walk along the shingle spit or by taking a boat from Keyhaven. The Association of Lighthouse Keepers Museum Rooms at Hurst Castle have many exciting exhibits for the lighthouse enthusiast, and from here, the Isle of Wight is tantalisingly close.
The Beaulieu River breaks the coastline from Lymington to Southampton Water. The former shipbuilding yard of Bucklers Hard is part of the Beaulieu Estate. At the entrance to the river at Lepe, the Beaulieu Millennium Beacon was established in 2000 to mark the entrance to the river.
The Calshot Spit Lightvessel was moved to Ocean Village in Southampton following her decommissioning. Following her removal from Ocean Village in 2020, she was relocated to the Solent Sky Museum in Southampton.
Southampton and Portsmouth both have plenty of maritime history, and if you get the chance to visit the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth, it is well worth a visit. You can visit Nelson’s HMS Victory and the Mary Rose. You can’t really do it justice in a day, but your entry ticket will last for a year, so make the most of it, and allow plenty of time.
The Spinnaker tower affords fine views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and also across to Gosport, where Trinity’s Lightship at Haslar Marina provides a bar and restaurant.
Located on the ramparts of Southsea Castle, the disused lighthouse of Southsea Castle Lighthouse looks over the Solent. From here, you can see the Solent Forts, and it was from here that King Henry VIII witnessed the sinking of his beloved ship, the Mary Rose.
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is easy to access via ferry from Portsmouth, Southampton or Lymington. It takes less than an hour, so you can visit the island for the day quite easily, though it’s worth staying for longer as there are lots of things to see and do.
The island is 23 miles long and 13 miles wide. Queen Victoria’s favourite home, the impressive Osborne House, is located on the island, close to Cowes.
At East Cowes, there is very little evidence today of the former Trinity House depot which served lighthouses and lightships in the area before operations moved to Harwich. Much of it was demolished recently as part of a redevelopment programme.
Heading round the promenade at West Cowes, past the Royal Yacht Squadron, Egypt Point Lighthouse stands on the promenade. Its former lantern is now on display at the ALK Lighthouse Museum at Hurst Castle.
Needles Lighthouse was built in 1859 to replace a clifftop light. The Needles can be viewed from the Needles Battery. Boat trips out to the Needles can also be taken.
On the southern side of the island, St Catherine’s Lighthouse near the village of Niton is available for holiday accommodation. In the nearby village of Niton is the gravestone of the lighthouse keepers who were killed during an air raid in the Second World War.
Also known as the Pepperport, St Catherine’s Oratory was built in 1323, and provides spectacular views.
At Bonchurch, near Ventnor, the tiny churchyard of Old St Boniface Church has a memorial stone to Sir James Douglass, lighthouse engineer. He was later re-interred at St Petrox, Dartmouth with the family memorial.
Littlehampton was once the base for the Agent of Trinity House before being moved to Harwich. Agents were employed at bases by Trinity House before regional depots were established.
At Shoreham, the River Adur splits east to west. To the east, locks near the harbour entrance guide vessels into the canal towards Portslade. Shoreham Lighthouse is located at the entrance to the harbour by the Lifeboat station.
Reaching the Sussex Downs its rolling hills end abruptly at the chalky crumbling cliffs of Beachy Head. Belle Tout Lighthouse was moved back in 1999, but still remains very close to the edge. Beachy Head Lighthouse at the base of the cliffs is sometimes accessible at low water from Eastbourne, but do take care not to get cut off by the tides. Boat trips can also be arranged from Eastbourne.
Further along the coast at Bexhill, see if you can find the Sovereign Light Cafe, made famous by rock band Keane. The cafe is named after the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse, which can be seen from the cafe, and is due to be decommissioned.
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