The Gothic Revival house has an area of formal gardens near the house. Dorset Council is carrying out an extensive restoration project of the surrounding woodland.
The zig zag path down to the beach has recently been reopened.
The gardens are often used for concerts and plays.
Although entrance to the gardens is free, car parking can be a nightmare.
The original house at Highcliffe was designed by Robert Adam for John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. ‘Capability’ Brown gave advice on the layout of the garden which was filled with tender and exotic plants. Through lack of funds, the house was demolished in 1794 and the garden deserted.
A farmhouse a few miles east was developed into the current house between 1831 and 1835 by Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay. Highcliffe was inherited by his daughter Lady Waterford in 1845. Augustus Hare was a frequent visitor and wrote how Highcliffe was a ‘fairy palace by the sea’. The Terraces which overlooked the sea are now the car park.
Much of the land was sold off for housing and by 1977, the house had become derelict.
It was rescued by Dorset County Council and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.