Circumnavigating the island on The Isle of Wight Coastal Path is a fulfilling achievement for a week of walking. Almost half the island has been designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Coastal Footpath is a circular long-distance footpath of 67 miles (107 km) following public footpaths and minor lanes, with some sections along roads. It should be noted that the path does not follow the coastline all the way, but also diverts inland for long sections. There are lots of attractions to break down the actual walking days, including a visit to the holiday home of Queen Victoria, Osborne House. Many other buildings from around this time still exist including Wippingham Church, the thatched church at Freshwater Bay, the famous seaside resorts such as Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown and the great Palmerston fortresses, built at a time when French invasion was again feared. You will see several such features every day. Beyond this are much older towns such as Yarmouth and Newtown, which have their own interesting histories. However, the island is much more than that, it is a place of great natural beauty with glittering sea-views across the Solent and English Channel, the white cliffs and sea-stacks around The Needles, Tennyson Down, and miles of beaches. The Isle of Wight is a popular holiday destination, but especially out of 'High Season' you can see very few other walkers.
This trip involve walking between 5 - 7 hours per day. You will need a good level of fitness and be in good health.
Ideally, take the train to Portsmouth and then the ferry or hovercraft over to the island. Ryde is a busy seaside town, take your time to explore and maybe try traditional fish 'n' chips on the promenade.
Accommodation: Ryde - we use a couple of 3 star standard hotels here in the streets behind the esplanade. One is a quiet small hotel with a small bar, the other a popular town hotel with a big bar and restaurant. All rooms ensuite.
Today is a straight forward walking day with no big hills, but with the attractions of Quarr Abbey, Osborne House and Cowes. The Coast Path is for the most part a misnomer today, you are walking quite a way inland for much of the time as there is not a path following the coast more directly on this section, just tantalising glimpses of the sea in places and of the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth beyond the Solent. It is a day to get into the swing of the walking and spend time visiting some of the attractions, especially Osborne House.
Accommodation: Cowes - we use either a nice pub right in the centre or a B&B on the outskirts. Upgrade to a pub with 'boutique' rooms available. (Please ask for details if you wish to upgrade).
Today’s walk spends some time walking close to the sea and dallies around the old estuary area near Newtown which used to be the busiest town on the island, now a nature reserve. The woodland section above Yarmouth is also very pretty with nice coastal views. There are some potentially muddy sections as you pass various sections of clay. There is a final promenade walk into Yarmouth town which has a bit of history connected with seafaring exploits and the castle.
Accommodation: Yarmouth - we use a selection of pleasant B&Bs. Hotel upgrade on the main square available. (Please ask for details if you wish to upgrade). There is a good choice of pubs and restaurants.
This is a great walk with some fantastic views eventually over much of the island from Tennyson Down, if the weather is good, but also with a whole host of attractions. Today is the day to visit the Needles Park, view the famous sea-stacks and the military batteries, also the site of Britain's Rocket testing from the 1950s. Freshwater Bay is also quite a pretty place with its thatched church. Although the walking distance is not fundamentally great, you can spend much time visiting various sites enroute easily doubling the time spent walking.
Accommodation: Freshwater Bay - we use a couple of very pleasant guesthouses. One is the home of a local artist who works in multimedia. Both places have lovely rooms. There is a superb pub for dinners up at Freshwater village next to the church.
Today is what the Coastal Path is all about, a steady cliff top walk into Chale which connects you to the south east of the island. An undulating route with no big hills, just some short steep sections as you negotiate ‘Chines’ the little inlets caused by streams cutting through the clays to the sea, followed by muddy sections around the inlet. Care is needed throughout the day, cliffs are undercut and the coastline recedes every year. Today it is you and the sea and a totally different perspective. Chale Bay was at one time known as the Bay of Death; sixty ships were lost here between 1746 and 1808. Nearby are the Wealdon Beds which have yielded fossilised remains of dinosaurs. As the day draws on you approach St. Catherine's Down with its mediaeval light house.
Accommodation: Chale - we stay in a popular pub in the quiet village. Upgrade to a converted farm available. (Please ask for details if you wish to upgrade).
Another day of beautiful coastal, or near coastal walking, after a long dalliance with the downs around St.Catherine’s Point, the most southerly tip of the island. After bypassing Niton, you arrive at three of the main resorts, Ventnor, Shanklin and then Sandown for your penultimate evening. On the way, apart from the odd ice cream enjoy the tiny seaside village of Steephill Cove and ancient Bouldnor Church.
Accommodation: Sandown - We use a number of different accommodation in this busy town.
A last flirtation with the downs as you walk over Culver Down with excellent views back to Shanklin and also onto Bembridge and Portsmouth, you then descend to Bembridge and its attractive harbour, before regaining the coast and some pretty beaches through Seaview before returning to Ryde, via a long seaside walk. There are some optional beachside sections which could be muddy. Why not celebrate your circumnavigation with a lovely meal.
After breakfast make your way to the pier to catch your return ferry to the mainland.
Walkers are an unusual bunch and Sherpa is an exceptional service to help with maps, accommodation and lots of helpful information. Thanks for the work you do. Highlights Quarr Abbey, Osborne House & the Battery.
S. Chadwick, Ontario, Canada, 16 May 2016
Per Person, Twin Share