Discover the story behind Britain’s secret rocket testing facility at High Down, by the Needles.
From 1955, Cowes-based British aero- and marine-engineering company Saunders Roe leased the High Down and tested rockets there. After testing, the rockets Black Knight, Black Arrow and the satellite Prospero were launched in Australia. In the underground rooms of the New Battery, which were the nerve centre of this highly secret operation, there are models of the rockets and the satellite. Some of the rooms have been recreated as they would have looked when the top-secret tests were being carried out.
Today you can go into the bunkers (summer months only), and at any time you can see the actual testing site, and also get one of the best views of the Needles themselves that it is possible to get from dry land. Most of those selfies with the Needles in the background were taken here. It’s also a lovely way to see the coloured cliffs of Alum Bay – better then actually going down onto the beach, in fact.
In high winds or bad weather this is not a good place to go as it is very exposed indeed.