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Great Britain, the large island in the North Sea, is surrounded by plenty of smaller isles and islets, which offer unique opportunities to go for a walking or cycling holiday.
Just the fact that you are on an island gives an instant and sheer holiday feeling. On top of that, there is the special journey to reach the island; which often includes a short ferry or boat ride to increase the sensation even more. Island life is usually slow-paced and local people seem more relaxed, hospitable and are often in for a chat. Add to that a constant sea breeze, fresh seafood and stunning ocean vistas and you’ve got yourself the perfect great British island holiday.
Below, we list five of so called British isles that you can choose to discover on several of our cycling and walking holidays.
#1 Isle of Wight
Queen Victoria, despite ruling a quarter of the Earth and being Empress of India, elected to spend her holidays on the Isle of Wight. Here she had a little holiday cottage build called Osborne House - her little pied-à-terre. She painted and sketched the island’s nature, rode horses and went for long walks and swimming.
The island is relatively quick and easily reached from London on a 2-hour train ride plus a ferry or hovercraft trip.
>> Discover the Isle of Wight on foot with the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday
>> Discover the Isle of Wight by bicycle with the Isle of Wight Cycle holiday
Jersey is the biggest island of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey & Jersey who have a separate economic and political life from Great Britain. The island has an ancient history: it was until several thousand years ago attached to mainland France with many Palaeolithic dolmans or burials from that period. It was known about in Roman times and later came under the control of the duke of Brittany during the Viking invasions. All in all, lots of historical and natural interest for the walker or cyclist.
>> Discover Jersey on foot with the Jersey: the Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Jersey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#3 Isle of Man
According to legend, this British island was once ruled by Manannán who would draw his misty cloak around the island to protect it from invaders. One of the principal folk theories about the origin of the name Mann is that it is named after Manannán. The ancient Romans knew of the island and called it Insula Manavi, it is uncertain though whether they conquered the island or not. However, the Manx Gaelic for the island is Ellan Vannin, which just means island of Man.
Learn about Manx history and myths in the Manx Museum in Douglas, your port of arrival.
>> Discover the Isle of Man on foot with the Isle of Man Coastal Path holiday
Known for scenic cliffs and beaches, small towns oozing old world charm, and coastal defences dating from the Palaeolithic period through to the Second World War, Guernsey has been a favourite holiday destination for active adventurers. After a long and turbulent history, Guernsey, similarly to Jersey and other islands, is now a British crown dependency, albeit not part of the UK or of the European Union.
Another island that is part of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey. Each of the small islands have their own character and customs and this is very clear when you visit them all.
>> Discover Guernsey on foot with the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Guernsey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#5 Holy Island
A causeway leads across the sands to Lindisfarne on Holy Island, just off the area of outstanding natural beauty that is the Northumberland Coast. Correct timing is essential here as the causeway gets covered by water for almost two quarters of each day. With Sherpa Expeditions you can overnight at this tiny British island, allowing you plenty of time to roam around.
When you have made it to Holy Island, the 16th Century Lindisfarne fortress and the priory ruins are a must-visit. The castle has even featured in films such as Macbeth and Cul-de-Sac, both by Roman Polanski.
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert’s Way holiday in 8 days
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert's Way holiday in 10 days
Curious to learn more about some of these British isles? Or if you would like to make an enquiry to discover one of the above-mentioned islands on a cycling or walking holiday, please contact the team at our London office.
With Newport Jazz Weekend, Isle of Wight Festival, Jack Up The 80’s, and Eklectica all taking place this summer, could this be the year that you will discover The Isle of Wight? There are so many more things to do in the Isle of Wight than visiting one of these music festivals and a great idea is to combine a festival with a walking or cycling holiday to the Isle of Wight.
A place which in many ways exists in its own time warp, the Isle of Wight is ideal for an active break: half of the island is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, there are more than 200 miles of cycle routes, it is easy (and cheap!) to reach and enjoys a milder-than-most-parts-of-the-UK climate.
Half of the Isle of Wight is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’
Sherpa Expeditions Manager Tali Emdin explains about some of the things to do in the Isle of Wight:
“Everything on the Isle of Wight is on a manageable scale – there are no huge towns or big industrial blights but long chalky downs, sandy beaches and enchanting woodlands. You will find plenty of seaside rock, ice cream and fish ’n’ chips, but also great traditional pubs, quiet paths, historical churches and gems of villages.
Any given day along the famous ‘Coastal Path’ will take you through some wonderful areas...
For those that are considering what to do on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria’s Osborne House is quite a sight (you can even walk down to her private beach for a peek of her original ‘swimming machine’). At The Needles Park, the backbone of the island dives into the sea like a dragon’s tail with chalky sea-stack scales, while
seeing the sunset from the only surviving medieval lighthouse in Britain at St Catherine’s Oratory is definitely worth the steep walk up!”
Whether you are looking for an Isle of Wight holiday on foot or by bike, you can choose one of the following two trips with Sherpa Expeditions:
ON TWO WHEELS | Isle of Wight Cycle
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your holiday begin! Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line; the tidal estuary at Newport, known for its chain ferry; and Chale, the shipwreck capital of the island.
Learn more about the Isle of Wight holiday: 5-day Isle of Wight Cycle >>
ON FOOT | Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
Spend a week circumnavigating the island and taking in its great natural beauty, enjoying glittering sea views across the Solent and the English Channel, its well-known white cliffs and sea-stacks around The Needles and of course miles of beaches. Following mostly public footpaths and minor lanes, there are several attractions to break down each walking day, including a visit to the holiday home of Queen Victoria, Osborne House; the thatched church at Freshwater Bay; timeless seaside resorts such as Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown; and the great Palmerston fortresses.
Learn more about the Isle of Wight holiday: 8-day Isle of Wight Coastal Walking >>
Isle of Wight music festival dates
Newport Jazz Weekend: 30 May – 3 June 2018
Isle of Wight Festival: 21 – 24 June 2018
Jack Up The 80’s: 10 – 12 August 2018
Eklectica: 7 – 9 September 2018
Both holidays join in Ryde, Isle of Wight. For more information on these trips and for bookings please contact our team of travel experts by email or phone or click through to the trips:
>> Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
>> Isle of Wight Cycle
5 Long Weekend Break Ideas for Europe
If you’ve only got a few days of holiday left this year, it does not mean there are no options to go away anymore. For those who’ve got at least 2 days of annual leave available and are looking for a weekend break in Europe, we gathered a few really short breaks across the continent and in England.
All of these short breaks depart daily, so it is entirely up to you to choose when you like to go. Perhaps you’re combining a break with a visit to overseas family and friends or saw a good flight offer. Our team in London can quickly support you with your request, leaving you to pack your bags and get ready for places like Tuscany, England’s Yorkshire Dales and the Swiss Alps.
Italy | Cycle San Gimignano to Siena
Delve into the magic of Tuscany from the walled medieval hill town of San Gimignano to one of Europe’s best preserved medieval towns, Siena. This iconic bicycle ride takes you through the typical landscapes that characterise this part of Italy. The trip is specially designed for those who want to experience the best of Tuscany’s palette of colours at handlebar level, but who only have a few days available.
You can take this European weekend break from March-November and it is graded as a moderate-challenging cycling holiday, find more info here >>
England | Yorkshire Dales Mini Break
Escape to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in northern England and stay at the Old Brewery, a tastefully decorated house that retains its old-world charm, yet offers every modern comfort. The bed & breakfast is a stone’s throw from the River Swale, at the foot of the castle hill, and just a short walk from the cobbled market place. This little break is perfect for several days walking surrounded by peaceful trails, quiet country lanes and sleepy villages.
You can take this trip year-round and it is graded as an introductory-moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
England | Isle of Wight Cycle
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the Isle of Wight, and let your holiday begin! This European mid-week or weekend break is deal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line; the tidal estuary at Newport, known for its chain ferry; and Chale, the shipwreck capital of the British island.
You can take this short break in Europe from March-October and it is graded as an introductory-moderate cycling holiday, find more info here >>
Switzerland | Meiringen: Panorama’s of the Swiss Alps
Swiss Meiringen is famous for the Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular cataract that was the setting for the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. A natural transport hub situated at the convergence of three of Switzerland’s major passes, getting around is easy and it is possible to set out each day in a different direction using a network of cable cars, postbuses and mountain railways. A perfect setting for you a quick weekend break in Europe. The high places can be reached quickly without long uphill climbs out of the valley and you can fill a week with excellent day walks, from gentle strolls to high ridges.
You can take this short break in Europe from May-October and it is graded as a moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
England | Exploring the Cotswolds
An itinerary specially crafted for those who want a soft introduction to walking in the English countryside. Highlights include the medieval wool town of Bourton-on-the-Water, the picture perfect village of Guiting Power, the atmospheric ruins of Hailes Abbey (destroyed under Henry VIII) and the still inhabited Sudeley Castle.
You can take this weekend break from April-October and it is graded as an introductory-moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
More information? Download the complete trip notes via the blue button on the trip page or contact our team of travel experts for a chat.
Isle of Wight holidays for active travellers
A place which in many ways exists in its own time warp, the Isle of Wight is ideal for an active break. Half of the island is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, there are more than 300 miles of footpaths, it is easy (and cheap!) to reach and enjoys a milder-than-most-parts-of-the-UK climate. At Sherpa Expeditions, you have a choice of two Isle of Wight holidays and manager Tali Emdin explains why we’re quite big fans of the island.
Half of the British island is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’
“Everything on the Isle of Wight is on a manageable scale – there are no huge towns or big industrial blights but long chalky downs, sandy beaches and enchanting woodlands. You will find plenty of seaside rock, ice cream and fish ’n’ chips, but also great British pubs, quiet paths, historical churches and gems of traditional villages.
Any given day along the famous ‘Coastal Path’ will take you through some wonderful areas...
Queen Victoria’s Osborne House is quite a sight (you can even walk down to her private beach for a peek of her original ‘swimming machine’). At The Needles Park, the backbone of the island dives into the sea like a dragon’s tail with chalky sea-stack scales. And seeing the sunset from the only surviving medieval lighthouse in Britain at St Catherine’s Oratory is definitely worth the steep walk up!”
Whether you are looking for a holiday on foot or by bike, you can choose from the following two breaks on the Isle of Wight:
Isle of Wight Coastal Walking
Spend a week circumnavigating the Isle of Wight and taking in its great natural beauty, enjoying glittering sea views across the Solent and the English Channel. Learn about its well-known white cliffs and sea-stacks around The Needles and of course take in miles of beaches on an Isle of Wight holiday. Following mostly public footpaths and minor lanes, there are several attractions to break down each walking day, including a visit to the holiday home of Queen Victoria, Osborne House and the thatched church at Freshwater Bay. You’ll also be walking through timeless seaside resorts such as Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown and the great Palmerston fortresses.
Find out more >>
ON TWO WHEELS
Isle of Wight Cycle
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your holiday begin! Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break and an easy to navigate island. The circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short so that you will have plenty of time to stop and explore. Highlights of this Isle of Wight holiday by bike include sophisticated Cowes that is world-famous for its regatta, the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line. Cycle to reach the tidal estuary at Newport that is known for its chain ferry and on to the village of Chale, the shipwreck capital of the island.
Find out more >>
Both of these Isle of Wight holidays join in Ryde, the main port on the island. For more information, you can download the trip notes via the blue button on each trip’s page or you can contact our team of travel experts by phone or email.
Budget Holidays in Europe
You may already know from previous experience that early in the season, often you will have the tracks and trails of Europe to yourself. Guesthouse and restaurant owners have more time for a chat and the atmosphere can be more relaxed. To help you profit from the spring season, we have selected five budget holidays in Europe that cost less than £500 (and don't compensate on value) so that you can easily squeeze them in at the start of the year (or later on, as most run until late autumn!).
Isle of Wight >> From £420
5 days of island cycling in the UK
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your budget trip in the UK's Isle of Wight begin! Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta (taking place early August); the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
>> Find out more >> Isle of Wight Cycle
The Balkan Mountains >> From £480
8 days of mountain walking in Bulgaria
The narrow roads of the Central Balkan National Park meander through valleys, forests and villages that have not changed for centuries. Along the self-guided Balkan Mountains walking route, you will see several of Bulgaria’s most significant Orthodox monasteries and churches with colourful murals. On the final day, you will ascend Petrahilya Peak, the highest mountain in the area, and enjoy panoramic views of Teteven and the Central Balkan National Park.
>> Find out more >> Balkan Mountains Walk
Yorkshire Dales >> From £270
4 days of relaxing walking in England
Escape to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales staying at the Old Brewery, a tastefully decorated house that retains its old-world charm, yet offers every modern comfort. A stone’s throw from the River Swale, at the foot of the castle hill, and just a short walk from the cobbled market place, you can set off to explore peaceful trails, quiet country lanes and sleepy villages of the Yorkshire Dales. With just four days, this is a perfect and short budget holiday in the UK.
>> Find out more >> Yorkshire Dales Mini Break
English Cotswolds >> From £360
5 days of easy walking in friendly England
An itinerary specially crafted for those who want a soft introduction to walking in the English countryside and have a limited budget for it. Highlights include the medieval wool town of Bourton-on-the-Water, the picture-perfect village of Guiting Power, the atmospheric ruins of Hailes Abbey (destroyed under Henry VIII) and the still inhabited castle of Sudeley. You will stay in charming, family-run B&Bs on this budget walking holiday in the Cotswolds.
>> Find out more >> Exploring the Cotswolds - 5 Days
The James Herriot Way >> From £450
6 days of walking around Wensleydale & Swaledale in England
Launched only in 2016, this new trip in the Yorkshire Dales, a six-day version of the James Herriot Way, is considered by many as ‘the best short long-distance walk in the UK’. The 50-mile (80km) circular walk has been designed to take in some of the countryside that James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot, was so fond of.
>> Find out more >> James Herriot Way
For more information and ideas for other budget holidays in Europe, please download the trip notes or get in touch with our team of travel experts by email or phone.
With so many gorgeous islands scattered all over Europe, they are perfect holiday destinations attracting tourists from all over the world. Whether interested in culture, history, sunbathing, the delicious food or more active activities like walking and cycling, they offer something for any type of traveller. Sometimes there’s a risk of islands getting packed and we therefore thought it a good idea to list below a few little known and remote European islands that are great for walking holidays off the beaten path.
Isle of Wight
Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling or walking break, the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom is your go-to European island! Routes are undulating and distances on our walking and cycling holidays on the island are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights on the Isle of Wight include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
The island is easy to reach from mainland UK and the only time of year it’s flooded by travellers is during the annual Isle of Wight Festival that’s been running since the 1960s.
Visit the Isle of Wight between April and October >>
If you have been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canary Islands before and you come to La Gomera, you will probably notice that this, the second smallest island of the Canaries, is something special, altogether quite different.
Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s and others feel there’s Latin American elements to recognise in the villages and landscapes of this remote European Island. La Gomera is a relaxed, unsophisticated island with a population of around 20,000 people who live mostly in the capital and villages of the north. The island has a good infrastructure of roads, amenities and services, including some good restaurants and small family run hotels. It is off the mainstream tourist radar so you won’t encounter many other visitors.
Visit La Gomera yearround
Zagoria (we know, not quite exactly an island)
Treasures of vernacular architecture, many of these late 18th century stone-built villages are within what is today a designated conservation area in northwestern Greece: Zagoria. The area is brimming with dramatic wilderness of striking peaks, deep chasms and extensive natural forests. The virtually virgin Vikos Gorge, sometimes referred to as the Greek Grand Canyon, is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the deepest canyon in the world in proportion to its width.
By western European standards Zagoria is a relatively wild and remote area. However, the footpaths have been marked and with our route notes and a detailed map you will be able to find your way easily.
Visit Zagoria between May and early October
Away from the burgeoning coastal resorts, the majestic Sierra de Tramontana is a massif of limestone peaks tumbling to the turquoise waters. Venture forth on a series of hikes through shady forests, olive groves and ancient farmsteads, visit tiny sun-drenched beaches and spend the night in a traditional monastery, listening to the sound of nightingales from your bedroom window.
Follow parts of the restored Pilgrims’ Way along the Sierra de Tramontana in Majorca, have a look here for a picture impression. On our Sierras and Monasteries walking holiday, three nights are spent at the atmospheric Santuari de Lluc monastery - the most important pilgrimage site on the island. Guests can attend the choral singing in its church, which takes place on most evenings.
Visit Majorca between March and October
For more information and booking details, please have a look at the webpage of your chosen trip or get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices.
British author Jane Cable and her husband Jim met Texans Marsha Smith and Mike Doan on a walking holiday almost twenty years ago. When Marsha mentioned she and Mike were considering Sherpa Expeditions’ Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday, Jane and Jim jumped at the chance to join them.
Why did you choose to walk on the Isle of Wight?
Jim and I have lived on the south coast of England all our married life – in fact we have distant views of Bembridge Down on the Island from our bedroom window – but we’ve never taken a holiday there. Plus it was a great opportunity to spend time with Mike and Marsha on one of their rare trips back to the UK.
How did you prepare?
I think the answer is quite poorly! Although Jim and I tried to take some lengthy hikes in the weeks and months running up to the holiday, the weather was awful and we didn’t get as much mileage into our legs as we’d hoped. Mike and Marsha amused their friends in Texas by taking six mile walks to the Whole Foods organic store but their problem was that where they live is very flat. And the Isle of Wight isn’t.
"My favourite walking day was from Yarmouth to Freshwater because it was so varied."
Which was your favourite destination on the island?
My favourite walking day was from Yarmouth to Freshwater because it was so varied. We started off with a really pretty woodland walk with some fun sculptures at Fort Victoria Country Park then followed the promenade along part of Colwell Bay and Totland Bay with stunning views across the Solent to Hurst Castle. Then there was a short but steep climb up to Headon Warren – an amazing ancient chalk downland – which we crossed to reach Alum Bay for a much needed coffee and loo stop.
After our break, we carried on to The Needles. Jim and Marsha aren’t too keen on heights so they sat by the Coastguard Cottages while Mike and I ventured to the viewpoint at the New Battery. We also varied our walk to Freshwater by taking the path at the back of Tennyson Down which again took us through some lovely woodland, ending up at Freshwater right next to the thatched church.
The day finished really well too because we stayed at Seahorses, an oasis of calm with beautiful rooms, wonderful gardens, an art studio and the warmest welcome we could have wished for.
What aspect of this walking trip did you find most challenging?
Before we left we thought it might be the cliffs, but it was actually really easy to find alternative routes further inland with great countryside and stunning views. On the ground, the worst thing was the mud. We travelled in April after a very wet winter and on the route between Cowes and Yarmouth it was everywhere, with some parts of the path practically impassable. It didn’t help that it was the longest walking day at 15 miles and we were footsore, filthy and exhausted by the time we reached our destination.
What was the biggest surprise?
The genuine welcome we received from hoteliers, bartenders and restaurateurs – for most of them, nothing was too much trouble. There was a party at the hotel in Cowes (we stayed at the lovely Holmwood Hotel on the seafront at Egypt Point), so they gave us earplugs. Marsha left her stick at Chale Bay Farm but the owner’s wife delivered it to Ryde when she did her school run. And eating at Bellamy’s Bistro in Sandown felt more like dining with friends.
Best food and drink?
Without a doubt The Three Buoys on Appley Beach in Ryde. We ate there on the first night – it’s a short walk from the town centre but well worth it for the views, excellent service and local seafood presented in a way you’d only expect at a Michelin starred restaurant. And, at the time of writing, all for gastro pub prices.
Do you have any recommendations for other travellers taking this trip?
Take an extra day or two to chill or to see the sights. Although there was plenty of time to look around Osborne House on the first day it would have been good to visit some places not directly on the route, such as Carisbrooke Castle and the roman villa at Brading. Freshwater would be a good place as it’s close to Newport which is the Island’s transport hub and about half way in terms of the walk.
You can find out more about Jane Cable’s novels, which are inspired by the British countryside, on her website www.janecable.com and for more details on Sherpa Expeditions’ Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday, you can have a look at the Isle of Wight walking trip details or get in touch with our team of travel experts in the London office.
Spring is well on its way with prospects of a beautiful summer in the United Kingdom this year. Perhaps this got you started flirting with the idea of a cycling holiday in the UK in the coming months. With this in mind, we choose below some of our favourite cycling holidays across the UK .
Rolling Through the Cotswolds
Also known as the ‘Heart of England’, a journey to the Cotswolds will present visitors with a mix of rolling hills, picture-perfect villages, wooded valleys, Roman roads and rustic old pubs for leisurely lunches.
When exploring this charming part of England by bicycle, it’s a good idea to start in elegant Cheltenham. The village is dotted with Regency buildings and beautifully landscaped gardens. Because there is so much to see in the Cotswolds, it’s possible to cycle the landscape and sights that interest you best. What to think of classic wool towns, roman villas and stone churches, or riding down through colourful valleys for your next UK cycling holiday?
>> Learn more about cycle tours in the UK's famous Cotswolds
Scottish Highlands at Handlebar Level
Picture yourself cycling along scenic paths and quiet forest trails - spotting native wildlife such as red deer, stag or golden eagle. It’s all possible on a cycling holiday in the Scottish Highlands.
There are some steep hills on the Cycle Way of the Great Glen that lead to magical views of Loch Ness. Via moorland and quiet country roads cyclists reach delightful Scottish towns. Bike riders can step off their bicycle at Fort William to ascend Ben Nevis or to ride in a historical steam train and of course to experience some of the distilleries along the cycle paths!
>> Want to know more? Check out this Scottish Highlands cycle holiday
Isle of Wight Cycle
Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling holiday. Because the Isle of Wight is so small, it’s great for a circular cycle tour in the UK. The terrain is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving cyclists enough time to stop and explore.
Highlights of cycling on the Isle of Wight include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
>> Learn more about this cycling holiday on the UK's Isle of Wight
From Padstow to Land’s End through Lizard Point, this British cycling route goes to the southernmost point on mainland Great Britain. Cyclists get the chance to pedal through a patchwork of landscapes: from inland heaths and downs to tumbling coastlines and sheltered coves.
Cyclists who take eight days for this route will see that the daily bicycle rides are not that long. This is perfect to go and explore the best of Cornwall’s sheltered coves and beautiful rivers, castles and gardens by bicycle.
>> Find out about this cycling holiday in Cornwall
Want to know much more about cycle holidays in the UK and England or are interested to see our full range of self-guided cycling holidays in the UK? Contact our team of travel experts in our London office, or have a further browse at our cycling holidays in the UK.
Walking on the Isle of Wight
With the launch of our new walking and cycling holidays on the Isle of Wight our resident guide Jon Millen explains what makes this part of the British Isles so special. Find out more about our new Isle of Wight walking and cycling holidays >>
The Isle of Wight is a great place for experienced and beginner walkers alike, with a generally mild climate, bracing hilly downs, sections of woodland and great sea views across 525 km of footpaths on an island of 381 square km. It is also home to the ‘Caulkers’: named after the people who used to proof the boards and hulls of the ubiquitous boats that plied between the island and the mainland or went fishing in its waters, it is used today to describe the indigenous people of the island whilst projecting the image of the separateness of the place. Despite being geographically close to the cities of Portsmouth, Southampton and even Greater London, it is still surprisingly detached. Although there is talk of building a new road bridge, economic benefits are debated and speculated, as a lot of the local people still want the isolation and the quasi-independence that the rising waters of the Channel and the flooding of the River Solent gave to the island 8,000 years or so ago.
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE ISLE OF WIGHT?
I remember back in the 1970s and ’80s people were joking that resorts on the Isle of Wight were just like how the British seaside used to be in the 1950s. On my most recent visit in 2015, people were still comparing it to, well, British resorts in the 1950s – however that may be a little harsh! Although much of its modern tourism is based upon its original Victorian and Edwardian infrastructure and of course sailing, the Isle of Wight has pioneered outdoor, farm-based rock festivals since 1968, attracting upwards of 150,000 people – you will even find a statue of Jimi Hendrix at Freshwater Bay!
Nowadays many of the seaside towns have modernised their image so you will find some great pubs and restaurants with very appealing fayre. Ventnor has reinvented itself as a health spa town and Cowes is fashionable for shopping as well as a yachter’s cornucopia. But other areas trade much more upon their historical past. Freshwater Bay reflects its links with Alfred Lord Tennyson, Blackgang Chine reminds us that it is the oldest theme park in Britain (dating from the 1840s!) and who can forget Queen Victoria’s beloved Italianate Osborne House… Why go to the Italian Riviera when you can stand overlooking the Solent with a bag of fish and chips from the ‘Cod Father’ takeaway?
You may even stay in a pub which was built from the timbers of a ship wreck – dozens occurred around the island and was one of the sporadic ‘benefits’ of living here!
WHAT ABOUT WALKING IN PARTICULAR?
The island is perfect for leisure walking. The single most important thing to remember is that the island is conservative and the countryside is very well preserved, with more than half of the island designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. But much of the rest is similarly very attractive, even down to some of the old brick-built seafront villages, such as Seaview, or the beautiful micro-fishing village of Steephill Cove, which is hidden away in a coastal crenulation with some thatched cottages and a great fish restaurant.
There is also a lovely Coastal Path, threading its way between the wonders of the island. Coastal erosion means that, for safety reasons, there are some diversions in place that take you inland around the areas of collapsing clay cliffs and boggy slumps.
FAVOURITE TIME TO WALK ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT
I would recommend April to late June, before the schools break up, and September and October. The spring and early summer often has low rainfall and beautiful spring flowers within the woodlands with bright emerald leaves on the trees, while the autumn period has a more rustic golden charm. Of course sea fogs can be notorious and can roll in at any time!
It is best to avoid the heaving summer ‘bucket and spade’ season and the August Cowes weeks – although the trails can be quiet, resorts and towns are very busy. There are several music, walking and cycling festivals taking place in May, so similarly that month can vary in terms of busyness.
HIGHLIGHTS OF A WALKING HOLIDAY ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT
Any given day along the Coastal Path will take you through some wonderful areas. Osborne House is quite a sight, especially the ‘Durbar Room’ and the beautiful paintings of some of Queen Victoria’s ‘Indian subjects’. You can walk down to her private beach for a peek of her original ‘swimming machine’, which has been recently restored or visit the nearby Quarr Abbey, an astonishing brick-built abbey.
There is also an interesting chain ferry that takes you from East to West Cowes across the River Medina. There has been great resistance to building a bridge, as tradition is very important.
Three hours walking from Cowes you arrive at a village called Newtown. Today this is merely a street of houses, an attractive church and a town hall owned by the National Trust but it used to be the biggest town and busiest port on the island – that is until 1377, when the French sacked the place! However it is best known as a ‘Rotten Borough’: despite only a few families living here, until the 1832 Reform Act it could elect 2 MPs into the English parliament, the same as cities such as Birmingham.
Further on is Yarmouth, a town with some mediaeval features and noted for a swashbuckling past. Privateering, or more commonly known as pirating, was very prevalent. One of the Governors of Yarmouth sailed out and captured a French ship carrying a marvellous marble statue of Louis XIV, which was to be presented in Paris to the Sun King. Instead, the Governor had its face knocked into his own image and installed it within the local church!
The trail winds past a fortress with a construction of a huge nuzzle loaded canon. These ‘Palmerston Forts’, named after the warmongering minister, are also dotted around the coast and point to a time as late as the 1850s and ’60s, when Britain still feared attack from France. There are great views over the Portland and the huge defensive complex, where once Charles I was held prisoner during the English Civil War.
The walk undulates over cliffs and downs to pass through The Needles Park, where the chalk backbone of the island dives into the sea like a dragon’s tail with chalky sea-stack scales. If you decide to continue further downlands you will find Victorian memorials, a thatched church, as well as gun placements from World War ll.
The Isle of Wight is also home to the only surviving mediaeval lighthouse in Britain, which can be found at the St Catherine’s Oratory. The steep walk up is definitely worth it. Coming here at sunset is a beautiful experience as you can follow the coastline all the way back to The Needles!
FAVOURITE FOOD AND DRINK ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT
The Isle of Wight is known for its fresh seafood, which these days translates at crustaceans more than anything else! Any self-respecting pub or restaurant on the island will make the best of its seafood menu, with the Crab and Lobster Inn in Bembridge probably being the most famous of all. For more of an authentic marine experience, just before a causeway crosses Bembridge Harbour on the east of the Isle, there is the floating seafood The Best Dressed Crab restaurant at Fishermans Wharf, where you can taste fresh lobster or have a crab and prawn sandwich washed down with a zingy tasting beer. You can also try the seafront Boat House Restaurant in gorgeous Steephill Cove and there are of course great takeaways such as the aforementioned ‘Cod Father’ in Ryde.
Bring your binoculars with you, as you will need them for coastal observations and also looking at bird life. If you belong to the National Trust don’t forget your membership card for the Old Battery on The Needles and if you are a member of English Heritage use your card for entry to Osborne House and Yarmouth Castle. Take a boot brush with you – wet conditions are not uncommon on the island, often resulting in plenty of muddy clays. On the contrary, if you expect hot weather, pack your swimming costume, water shoes and maybe even bring a kite, in case you decide to spend the day on the beach!
For more information on visiting the Isle of Wight visit our Walking & Cycling Holidays on the Isle of Wight page.
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