The Solent Forum

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Solent Landmarks

Southsea Castle
Southsea Castle. © Coastal Partners
Southsea Castle
Southsea Castle. © Coastal Partners

The Needles

The Needles are one of the most famous and photographed landmarks along the South Coast.  For sailors, it means leaving the calm of the Solent when the 'rounding the Needles' and for tourists its a chance to marvel at the world-famous multi-coloured sand (in 21 different shades) which has been a draw since Victorian days.  The original 'Needle' isn't around any more - the 120ft high needle-shaped rock known as 'Lot's Wife' collapsed into the sea in 1764.  The chalk ridge originally extended from the site of the Needles across to the Purbecks on the Dorset coast - it was breached whenever sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age and the Solent as we know it was created.

The Needles were a danger to shipping and many vessels came to grief on the hazardous rocks and the surrounding Shingles bank of pebbles over the years.  The famous lighthouse - now an icon of the Island - was built to replace another lighthouse which, positioned on the summit of the Downs, was deemed as being too high above sea level to be of any use to shipping as it couldn't be seen in a sea mist.  The lighthouse is 109 feet high, built on the base of the most westerly rock of the Needles group - it started working on 1 January 1859 and can be seen 14 miles away at sea level.  Up until 1994 when the lighthouse was automated, it had a resident keeper and three assistants.

Nab Tower

The Nab Tower is essentially a steel and concrete cylinder, it was built in Shoreham, Sussex, in 1918 at a cost of £1m. The imposing 90ft (27m) tall, 40ft (12m) wide structure was part of a plan to protect the south coast from German submarines during World War One. It was the first of eight outposts, which the admiralty had intended to link with steel nets to hamper enemy vessels. But the conflict ended before the Nab Tower could be put to use, and a new purpose had to be found. Eventually, it was decided the sole completed tower would serve as a lighthouse in the Solent shipping channel.

Southsea Castle

Southsea Castle was built in 1544 by order of King Henry VIII, fearing an Invasion. The design was new and revolutionary to England and was in 1634 described by the Captain of the castle, John Mason as ‘the most exquisite piece of fortification in the kingdom’. After 5 centuries of military use it was handed over to the city in by the MOD in 1960. It is now a museum owned by Portsmouth City Council with access to the public.


South Parade Pier, Southsea is a fine traditional seaside pier, first built in 1879 for entertainment and paddle steamers from Wight. It burned down and was rebuilt in 1908 and again in 1974.  Hythe Pier is a 700 yard pier sticking out into Southampton Water which serves the ferry from Southampton Town Quay. It was built in 1880 and features a railway connecting with ferries that still uses its original second hand electric locomotives of WWI vintage.

Hythe Pier stretches 640 metres from the centre of Hythe out into the channel of Southampton Water. It was opened in 1881 to facilitate the ferry steamers that travelled between Southampton and Hythe, and acted as one of the main access points to the New Forest. According to a map from 1575, a ferry has operated from Hythe to Southampton as early as the Middle Ages, making the pier a historically significant transport site that still functions now.

Calshot Castle

Calshot Castle stands at the end of Calshot Spit, and was built in 1530 to guard the entrance to Southampton Water. After becoming a coastguard station in 1960 it was passed to English Heritage and is open to the public.

Netley Dome

Netley Dome is all that remains of a large Victorian hospital built in 1863. The domed tower was the centrepiece of the building and following the hospitals demolition in 1966 became the centrepiece of the Royal Victoria Country Park, opened in 1980.