Victorian coastal defence and secret rocket testing site perched high above the Needles Rocks
Perched high above the Needles at the extreme tip of the Island, with unrivalled views of the Solent and unspoilt countryside, is the Needles Old Battery a Victorian fort built in 1862 and used throughout both World Wars.
The Battery’s fascinating story is told in a series of newly recreated, atmospheric rooms, whilst vivid cartoons by comic book artist Geoff Campion illustrate the part it played in the history of modern Britain. There are two original guns on the Parade Ground and an underground tunnel leads to a searchlight emplacement with dramatic views over the Needles rocks.
A small exhibition in the underground rooms of The New Battery, further up the headland, reveals the astonishing and little-known story of Britain’s Cold War ‘race for space’, when British-made rockets were tested here under conditions of great secrecy.
There are a number of different ways to travel to the Needles Batteries, some requiring more effort than others!
Unfortunately there is not any provision for car parking at The Needles Battery, except for disabled visitors, who need to make prior arrangements by telephoning the Battery on 01983 754772.
For the less active visitor there is an open top bus service bus service that runs on a circular trip that takes in Yarmouth, Freshwater Bay, The Needles Pleasure Park, The Needles Battery and returns to Yarmouth via The Needles Pleasure Park and Totland. This is a half-hourly service and the ticket gives the opportunity to stop off and visit places en-route and rejoin the trip later. There are two bus stops at the Battery, one at the Needles New Battery, where the service terminates, and another at the entrance road to the Old Battery. Dismount at The Needles New Battery to see the remains of the rocket site, the rocket testing display, the National Trust visitor point and snackbar and the Needles viewpoint. A down hill walk from The New Battery brings you to the Old Battery or alternatively you can rejoin the bus service for the trip down the hill.
Car parking is available at The Needles Pleasure Park, currently £4 per day, and a reasonably easy half-hour walk brings you to the Old Battery or the return fare on the open-top bus is £5. Alternatively parking is available at the National Trust car park (OS map ref. SZ 3245 8555) at the end of Highdown Lane, Totland. There is a choice from there of taking a steep path, that comes out on Tennyson Down at the Tennyson Memorial, or an easier walk along the bottom of the down. Both distances are approximately 3 kilometres(see the ‘Circular Walk’ page for maps and directions for a pleasant excursion). Another choice is to use the public car park at Freshwater Bay and walk over Tennyson Down, the distance for that is approximately 5 kilometres but is quite strenuous. Whichever method is chosen for the visit the trip will be rewarded by magnificent views of stunning coastal scenery.
Refreshments and snacks are available in the tearoom at the Old Battery, admission has to be paid before being able to use this facility. On the walk from Highdown Lane, or from Freshwater Bay, it is worth making a short detour to Warren Farm where snacks and cream teas are available. Warren Farm has seasonal opening times and these are displayed on signs from the footpath. The Needles Pleasure Park offers everything from ice creams to restaurant facilities and has public toilets.
Opening Times – 16th May – 3rd November 2014
|New Battery||11.00 a.m. – 16.00 p.m.|
|Old Battery||10.30 a.m. – 17.00 p.m.|
|Tea Room||10.30 a.m. – 17.00 p.m.|
The tearoom remains open until 15th December.
Please note – last admission to the Needles Old Battery is 30 minutes before closing time.
Opening may be subject to prevailing weather conditions.