On holiday in Lymington, we found ourselves needing a more mainstream shop so were forced to head out of our rural maritime idyll in search of bright lights further along the coast. Christchurch was a 30 minute drive away and whilst not personally recommended as a holiday destination in itself, the town centre offered you all the standard high street brands. With our necessary purchases made and not wanting to waste the journey for something so mundane, we decided to work our way back along the beaches of the south coast despite it being a somewhat dreary looking February day.
We set off roughly in the direction we had come, back towards the border (the Sat Nav was purposely consigned to the glovebox seeing as we didn't have an exact destination in mind) and, feeling slightly panicked without my trusty tech support, I blindly followed the first sign I spotted that pointed to a beach.
It turns out I should trust my instincts more often as we ended up at Highcliffe Castle beach. The car park here was large although, considering the expanse of beach, I would imagine it would be packed in peak seasons. Fortunately we did not have to pay thanks to the season ticket loan provided with our holiday cottage. Wrapped up against the elements, we surveyed the scene; the sea was pretty wild along the shingle strip, punctuated by breakwaters but there was a long flat, beachside coastal path which provided a pleasant walk, even with a pushchair. Heading back to the car park full of fresh air, we spot what looks to be a large cafe but not having worked up enough of an appetite, we got back into the sanctuary of the car and carried on to the next beach.
Yet again we followed the signs and this time found ourselves at Barton-On-Sea, a much smaller but lovely-looking beach and car park with great views across to The Needles. We took the steps (not so great for pushchairs) down through the beach huts to the sand where the kids played happily for a while and the light reflecting off the sea made for some evocative holiday snaps. I'd love to say we dipped our toes in the water but it was much too cold for that. On the plus-side, our little dog loves the beach so I was pleased to see this one was dog friendly.
Sandcastle building satiated, we were soon heading onwards and, nearly home, decided to stop one last time, pulling in to Hurst Road East Amenity Car Park at Milford On Sea. By now the sun was going down and the wind was picking up so we didn't actually reach the sand but instead stopped at the Needles Eye Cafe to reward the day's efforts. The services here were basic but they made decent cup of tea and the cakes were delicious, with hot food also on offer. Sat inside and protected from the wind we were better able to enjoy the views out to sea and across to The Needles. We could even sit and watch as the seemingly weatherproof children played in the adventure playground in the garden. Had we not been battling the elements, this is the place to start from if you're planning a stroll out along the spit to Hurst Castle. It's a bit of a trek, but apparently well worth the effort on a nice day. Or even a wintery day if you don't have a pushchair in tow.
We enjoyed each of our stops on the way back to the cottage and have made a note of each of them with full intention of returning when the sun shines.