Hayling Island and what it has to offer

Hayling Island sunset

Hayling Island sunset - Credit: Archant

Now that the Kiss-me-quick holidaymakers have left, Hayling Island’s stunning land and seascapes really come into their own. Head to Hampshire’s own winter isle and savour its myriad delights - free of crowds and congestion.

Flying High

Hayling Island has a maritime climate, with warm summers and cool winters, where temperatures never fall below freezing. This makes it an ideal location for year-round windsurfing, which is perhaps one of the reasons why the sport was invented on Hayling; and it remains one of the country’s premier venues.

In September, Sir Richard Branson broke the Guinness World Record here for organising the world’s largest parade of kitesurfers to surf one mile - 318 in total. Sir Richard, who led the surfers out to sea, was quoted as saying: “Kiting is one of the best sports there is, if not the best sport. Especially on Hayling Island”.

Warming Tipples

The waters that surround Hayling Island are always busy with both commercial and leisure craft and good places to watch them are from the island’s two waterfront pubs. The Ferry Boat Inn offers fish and chips, pies and curries, and the more upmarket Inn on the Beach, which was once a lifeboat station but now, after a recent £250,000 refurbishment programme, serves up good homemade food and spectacular winter afternoon sunsets over the sea

Fishing & Chips

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In the seas off the island, in November the whiting are arriving as the mackerel leave, and the angling enthusiasts, who populate the island’s steep shingle Eastoke beach, can also expect to reel in large bass and cod, as well as conger eel, thornback ray, tope and smoothhound. For those who prefer their fish with chips, the high car park at Eastoke affords brilliant views of the beach below and the sea beyond and is a favourite winter haunt for those looking out to sea while lunching on fish’n’chips in their laps; there are four fish and chip shops near to the seafront to choose from.

The Bells

If you are interested in ancient churches, there are two here that are unmissable. St Peter’s Church, built around 1140, is the oldest building on the island and able to deliver what is thought to be the oldest peal in England from its three ancient brass bells. The tenor bell dates back to about 1350. At the south east corner buttress of the chancel, look out for a pentangle carved into the stone, the medieval sign of witchcraft.

At the island’s highest point at 20ft above sea level, stands St Mary’s, which was built mainly in the 13th century from imported stone. The yew tree that dominates the churchyard is believed to be one of the oldest in the country, with some estimates putting it at an astounding 2,000 years old; with a corresponding girth of some nine metres.

History Hunting

Although small, Hayling Island is perfectly formed, with a rich historical heritage. The manor house on the island was built in 1777 by the Duke of Norfolk on an ancient moated site reaching back to at least the days of William the Conqueror, to which the Norman dovecote standing in the grounds, which once housed 100 or so nesting pigeons, stands testament.

Holly Bush House was the second home of the former editor and pioneer of investigative journalist William Thomas Stead, said to be the most famous Englishman to go down with the Titanic. It is reported that, as the ship sank, the 63-year-old newspaperman sat quietly reading a book in the first-class smoking room.

Overlooking the Solent at Beachlands, the Norfolk Crescent and neighbouring former Royal Hotel buildings are also worth taking a look at. They were built in 1825 as part of a vision of Hayling as a “utopia by the sea”, which sadly never came to fruition. Today the crescent has been converted in to flats, and the Royal Hotel has been transformed in to luxury apartments.

Tee Off

Founded in 1883 by Colonel Sandeman of the famous port and sherry family, Hayling Golf Club has been voted in the top 100 golf courses in the UK. The club house overlooks West Beach and offers magnificent views over the Solent on to the Isle of Wight, while the course itself is set among 190 acres of a site of special scientific interest. Its undulating land and stiff sea breezes provide players of all standards with an interesting challenge.

On Thin Ice

Funland, on the sea front, has an artificial ice-rink open all year round with skate hire available on site. Opening at the end of November, is their winter wonderland, where children can take an indoor train journey through an enchanted forest to meet Santa, while the grown-ups indulge in a festive tipple and a mince pie.

Stunning Sounds

Back for their fourth annual concert of military marches, classical pieces and popular choices are the Band of the Hampshire Constabulary. Established more than 110 years ago, the band has played all over the world, but returns to the Hayling Island Community Centre on November 30. The concert kicks off at 7.30pm and tickets cost £10. Call 02392 461942 for details.