Steeped in history stretching back 1000 years, and boasting a sunny priory and castle ruins, the beautiful market town of Christchurch has many stories to tell. Not to be outdone, nearby Highcliffe offers its own castle, woodland walks and miles of unspoilt coastline.
Similar in size to many English cathedrals, Christchurch Priory is one of the longest parish churches in the country. Listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, the priory got its name during construction, according to legend, after Christ himself intervened to correct some faulty carpentry. The offending wooden beam can still be seen today.
Step inside and see the local area in a completely different light as you travel back in time with architecture dating all the way back to the Saxons. The outside is just as impressive as the inside, not only because of the sheer size of the church but because of the beautifully kept grounds and rose gardens that surround it which are well worth a visit during the warmer months.
A well-guarded secret among locals, Highcliffe beach offers a wide expanse of natural coastline with spectacular views across to the Isle of Wight and its passing yachts. It also provides alternative access to the stunning grounds of grade 1 listed Highcliffe Castle, which is an integral part of the town’s history.
The neighbouring beaches of Avon and Barton-on-Sea are easily accessible on foot and are a haven for dog walkers and water sport enthusiasts alike. But the best part of all? The area remains relatively unknown to the hordes of south coast holiday visitors.
For a town steeped in history at every turn, Christchurch is in no way stuck in the dark ages. The town centre is a hive of activity, brimming with independent cafes, bars, restaurants, and galleries which bring a real sense of community to the area.
Plus, with popular events such as the Christchurch Food Festival, Christchurch Carnival and Classic Cars on the Quay returning year on year, you’ll never be short of things to do.