Our Amazing Week on the Isle of Wight
By Charlotte Briggs
I’ve been lucky enough to do the Hadrian’s Wall previously with Mickledore, which I really enjoyed however this time I wanted to head south! I suppose the main reason I wanted to do the Isle of Wight is because of the sunshine – and it certainly delivered! I’d also been discussing doing a walking holiday with my parents for years since I’d started working with Mickledore (four years ago). We felt this trail would be a good first experience with consecutive days walking. My parents are relatively fit already with access to the Lake District fells on their door step so we picked the IW7, 6 days, 7 nights itinerary as they felt it was the most comfortable. I hope you enjoy reading about my experience along the Isle of Wight trail.
Sunday: The Journey There
The Red Funnel is surprisingly fast – the speediest catamaran I’ve ever been on! Within 30 minutes we were on the island and were lucky enough to be visiting during Cowes week! The regatta was filled with stalls of music, drink, local produce and most enjoyably, the art! Lots of boats and people to enjoy watching in equal measure. Back at the accommodation for the evening and chatting to the locals about island life! In the evening we went down to the centre of Cowes for dinner right on time for the lionesses to win the Euros. It was a very pleasant evening atmosphere with a gentle stroll along the shore. We headed back to the accommodation for an early night ready for our longest day tomorrow.
Monday: Cowes to Yarmouth
Enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at one of our amazing accommodations before getting on our way at around 9.30am. This was our longest day mileage wise – 16. My parents were a little worried about the distance as it’s slightly higher than their comfort zone but they decided to go with this itinerary as it fits best for all of us this week. Luckily they could cut 2 miles off the distance between Shalfleet and Hamstead whilst my husband and I nipped back out to see Newtown River. It was a little overcast as we set off this morning but still needed to remove the jumper as soon as we started walking! The sun was really warm from around 11am and stayed with us all day.
The trail was nice a gentle today. A few hills here and there but nothing too strenuous, even to take you up over the cliffs! The view out over the water with the south of England in the distance is divine. From around midday we were treated to all the yachts out and about beating back and forth! There were a few miles of road walking today which we were ready to see the back of and return to the coast. There was a final gentle descent through woodland into Yarmouth, looking out for basking adders (which we didn’t see) and Slow Worms (which we did see). Overall the day was glorious and made for some wonderful photos. After a few well-earned breaks in the sun we arrived into Yarmouth late afternoon to a lovely warm welcome at our next accommodation.
Tuesday: Yarmouth to Freshwater Bay
Spectacular breakfast to line our belly’s ready for another days walking. This accommodation was in a beautiful location a short walk out of Yarmouth and treated us to homemade jams and other produce from their garden.
It felt much cooler this morning with a few spits of rain in the air as we departed. The morning started quite slow under foot (which it always does for me on consecutive walking days)
We quickly stumbled upon signs for Fort Victoria and made a detour giving us glorious views across the sea to the mainland (or the ‘North Island’ as locals refer to it as).
Re-joining the path we walked along the sea front before a few steeper assents to get us above the cliffs. There was also a few trail adjustments to avoid the erosion as this area clearly gets battered by the elements. I’ve been looking forward to this day the most as this is the day we see The Needles, and it did not disappoint. You first get a glimpse of it as you walk over Headon Warren and luckily the sea fog had lifted enough and there were a few gaps through the cloud to reveal the lighthouse in all its glory! As you descend into Alum Bay its quite busy with a few attractions for the whole family. we walked all the way down to the pebbled beach before getting the chair lift back up over the cliff face (£4pp)
We then made our way down towards the Old Battery (a National Trust site, have your membership cards handy, otherwise you have to pay to enter… but it’s worth it!) This is the closest view point of The Needles. The fog cleared enough to get some fantastic views through the mist.
After we made our way up to the New Battery before following the coast path the final few miles into Freshwater Bay. The sea mist came in again here so we only caught glimpses of the chalk cliffs. It’s well worth another visit on a glorious day as what I could see looked in incredible! The walk along the cliff top follows the Tennyson Trail, we were buffeted by the winds off the Channel Treated and were fascinated by the small chalk pebbles stripped off the cliffs below by the wind and littering the grass in front of us. On arrival in Freshwater we treated ourselves to a tea and cake before checking in to our next accommodation
Wednesday: Freshwater Bay to Chale
A slightly later start today as we knew it was fairly undulating underfoot. That sea fog was still in the air as we set off but seemed to clear as the day went on. The breeze was most welcome as the air was quite close. This morning we enjoyed looking behind us at the view of the Highdown Cliffs which we walked over yesterday. A little lunchtime cake and warm beverage at The Pearl which is conveniently situated exactly in the middle of the days mileage (total 11 miles).
Continued along the coast which was most enjoyable and almost no road walking. The path in some places is rather close to the edge ( probably getting closer each year with the erosion ) Finishing at a local hostelry, we treated ourselves to a well-deserved beverage at the end of another enjoyable day.
Thursday: Chale to Sandown
I was excited as soon as we woke up this morning as the weather was sunny and warm today – perfect for photos!
Out of Chale at first you see St Catherine’s Hill which we thought we’d have to go up but thankfully the route skirts around it, undulating around the southern coast of the Island. We could see below us various secluded beaches which did look very tempting if we didn’t have 10 more miles to walk! Up on the coastal cliff path there were glorious views out over the sea, walking alongside ripe cornfields and between high hedgerows along the cliff top which occasionally tunnelled as the trees and bushes had grown above the path. It was a hot sunny day and the occasional mottled shade offered relief from the heat of the sun. The trail drops back down a couple of miles before Ventnor. Here we stopped at Steephill Cove for an ice-cream and then again in Ventnor Bay for a beer….but when the weather is so nice we could have stayed all day!
Out of Ventnor we continued along the coast until a section of the trail called ‘the landslip’. This was not as it is described, instead we slowly meandered our way through a vibrant forest negotiating between frequent man-made steps and short descents. Thankfully we had some rest bite from the sun for the 1.5 km whilst our bodies worked hard during this. When we dropped back into Shanklin this seemed like a buzzing town with lots of family amusements and entertainment. The beaches were busy and it was so nice to see families enjoying themselves in the sun. We could see Sandown in the distance and steadily walked along the front until we reached our accommodation.
Overall this has been the most varied day today as we were either up on the cliff edge or down on the beach or through woodland.
Friday: Sandown to Seaview
Another gorgeous day of sunshine! I do wish I could have spent more time in Sandown as it has a lot to offer. The accommodation was gorgeous and I could have spent a day taking it easy here. But also it could work as an excellent base to see some of the other attractions on the island. Side note – generally speaking it isn’t encouraged to bring your car on to the island (which is why it’s so expensive) but because of this they have excellent public transport and bus service all throughout the island!
The history of Sandown is visible as you can see the once massive hotels along the front which now unfortunately sit in disrepair.
The trail today sets off along the front of Sandown before you make your way up the only ascent of the day… Bembridge Down. About an hours climb and it’s so peaceful at the top. I’d recommend taking a moment here to take in the whole bay!
The decent down from here was perfect! The views across Black Rock Ledge and Bembridge Ledge are so picturesque. The tide was very far out while we were walking so we technically left the trail and just followed the beach the whole way round Bembridge into Bembridge Harbour. My husband actually swam the 20 meters across the gap in the harbour but both my parents and I walked the 3 km round it! We did stop and get some ice-cream milkshakes in the sun though so I still think we won! Once past the harbour it doesn’t feel far into Seaview and we were sat enjoying some prosecco in the sun by 3pm!
Saturday: Sandown to Ryde (Cowes)
Final day! So we’ve heard from a number of people throughout this walk that this section is predominantly on the road. As my parents were a little sore we decided to walk the final few miles into Ryde before making our way to the Garlic Farm inland via public bus. We enjoyed our final afternoon together here whilst reflecting on our week well spent.
The Isle of Wight is a beautiful island, and the weather was perfect for us. The route itself is predominantly undulating throughout which is quite a rarity for a coastal path in the UK. The most difficult section with a few more assents/ decants was on the approach into Shanklin. I would love to go back in a few years to see how the trail has evolved as it is clearly being chipped away from erosion.
A fabulous holiday, and some memories made with my family!