Despite being only 26 miles wide and 23 miles long at its widest points, the Isle of Wight has over 600 miles of footpaths and bridleways, with most of the Island classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. One of the best ways to explore the Island on foot is to walk the Isle of Wight Coastal Path, a footpath that runs 72 miles1 around the Island's 64 mile coastline.
Walking The Wight
The Isle of Wight Council takes walking very seriously and encourage ramblers to the Island. The UK's largest Walking Festival2 has been hosted on the Isle of Wight for many years. The Island also boasts a unique footpath classification system. Every footpath and bridleway on the Island has its own number relating to which of the 20 parishes in which it is located. So footpaths in Cowes have numbers beginning CS, footpaths in Newport begin N etc.3, which helps guide hikers to the right footpath. It had been hoped by the Isle of Wight Council when they implemented this system that these footpath numbers would appear on Ordnance Survey maps. Inexplicably the Ordnance Survey have chosen not to print this extremely useful information on their maps, with no answer as to why not provided.
The Isle Of Wight Coastal Path, despite this, is easily followed and it is generally well signed, with almost all signs displaying the route's seagull logo on a blue background, and many also give the next destination and distance to it.
When walking the Isle of Wight Coastal Path a strong pair of boots or trainers is recommended4. Although you can follow the coastal path signs, due to coastal errosion it is quite likely that you will need to divert from the established path, and so it is recommended that you take an up-to-date Ordnance Survey map with you – ideally OS Outdoor Leisure Map 29, which is 1:25,000 scale, although OS Landranger Map 196 at 1:50,000 scale is also acceptable. These can be found in outdoor pursuits and tourist information across the Island or ordered online in advance.
Walkers should familiarise themselves with the Country Code and be aware of the dangers that walking near cliff edges can face – never attempt the Coastal Path in the dark. The terrain and climate during the walk can also vary significantly. The Eastern Wight is generally well sheltered from the weather, warm, with secure limestone and chalk underfoot. Unprotected walkers are often quickly sunburnt during the summer. The West Wight is windy, exposed to the elements and has a large proportion of clay soil, including the type known as 'blue slipper', which is susceptible to coastal erosion and cannot be reliably trod on. Sinking into the clay can be a problem in wet weather and as it sticks to boots and trainers, it can make getting a secure foothold a problem, especially when traversing the chines5.
It is possible to do the walk with organisations that arrange for a guide and/or baggage carrying. Similarly, walking the Isle of Wight Coastal Path as part of the Walking Festival can provide a completely different walking experience to that of walking the path on your own or in a small group. Although you gain the reassurance that you are going the right way, walking in a large group might possibly detract from the experience of seeing the Isle of Wight's stunning coastline in isolation6.
The Isle of Wight is roughly a diamond shape7, with the capital, Newport, in the middle. The Northernmost point is the town of Cowes, the Easternmost is the village of Bembridge, the Southernmost point is St Catherine's Point and the Westernmost point are the Needles. From the northernmost point to Newport in the centre the Island is divided by the tidal River Medina, with the town of Cowes8 on the river's West shore and the town of East Cowes on the East. If you are fortunate enough to live on the Isle of Wight there is no reason not to start the walk from the most convenient location, or walk in either direction. As a broadly circular route, it is possible to pick the route up virtually anywhere, and the entire Island is within 10 miles of the sea.
For those who live on the Mainland it is common to begin the walk from one of the ferry terminals where the ferries from the Mainland dock. These are, from west to east, Yarmouth9, Cowes10, East Cowes11, Fishbourne12 and Ryde13.
Cowes, being the middle of the Island's north shore as well as the northernmost point is a good starting point and from Cowes it is possible to walk to each of the four corners of the Island in four days, although the walk is divided into different stages to allow for flexible timing. Walking the Isle of Wight Coastal Path is most commonly completed in five days.
The route runs along land owned by bodies as diverse as the Isle of Wight Council, the National Trust and local farmers. It is generally a footpath only, meaning that it is mostly unsuitable for cyclists, horses and motor traffic, although some short sections are along roads or Bridleway. In common with the rest of the Island's public paths, some signs include the path number, which whilst not displayed on maps, is referenced on the Council's website if any section has to be closed, as well as the distance in miles to destinations on that route.
The Route Described
All distances and timings are approximations. The time taken especially varies on the speed of the walker, the weather and state of terrain encountered and the time taken for rests, stops, admiring the view etc. The timings should therefore be considered a minimum amount of time required, with the time taken between destinations in reality likely to be higher.
Optional Stage 0: Cowes To East Cowes via Newport
9 miles. Approx 3 hours.
From the Cowes Red Jet ferry terminal at Fountain Pier, which is opposite Cowes' Tourist Information office, turn left onto the narrow, flag-decorated High Street, walking to the Pedestrian area, up the hill and follow the road left, passing the Police station, until you get to a pub on a t-junction. From here, turn left down the hill to the floating bridge that leads across to East Cowes. Most people will cross over on the floating bridge to East Cowes to begin their walk, however if you feel that walking the tidal River Medina should be included as part of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path, turn right up the hill, up Bridge Road and then Arctic Road, follow the signs for the Newport to Cowes Cycleway (N207), N29. This riverside walk will take you along the route of the old Cowes to Newport railway line, and is about an hour's walk. This emerges in Newport's industrial estate, however continue to follow the road south until you pass beneath the Island's only stretch of dual carriageway, the one mile long road nicknamed 'The Motorway' near the Quay Arts Centre.
Newport has several shops and places to eat, as well as a Tourist Information office. Cross the river Medina and head past the yachts on the quayside to The Quay and follow the Medina Path next to the river through the grounds of Seaclose Park14, passing the Classic Boat and Bus and Coach museums, following the river past Island Harbour until you get to the Royal Church of St Mildred, Whippingham, which was designed by Prince Albert.
From here follow Beatice Avenue15 North until you get to Victoria Grove. Follow this roadwest and down hill, then head down Minerva Road followed by head north along Clarence Road, passing the East Cowes Heritage Centre which, if open, is well worth a look. At the end of Clarence Road you will have reached the corner with Ferry Road and York Avenue, near where the Red Funnel car ferry docks and where passengers from the floating bridge disembark, and it is from here that the Isle of Wight Coastal Path truly begins.
Stage 1: East Cowes to Ryde
8 miles, 4 hours
Sadly at time of writing, the first stage, from East Cowes to Ryde, does not involve any coastal walking. This is because much of the land between East Cowes and Wootton is in private or Crown ownership. Despite this, after leaving East Cowes, the route is quite a pleasant stroll through the Island's historic countryside.
From the floating bridge, Red Funnel Ferry (if you have disembarked at East Cowes) or the end of Clarence Road if you have taken the River Medina detour, head up hill up York Avenue, following the main road. At the top of the hill you will pass the entrance to Osborne House, Queen Victoria's Island palace, follow the road past the entrance to Barton Manor and into Whippingham. From Whippingham turn East into Alverstone Road, passing the small village post office, as the road narrows and thins into a pleasant country lane. This will take you past quaint cottages built on the former Osborne estate, through Brocks Copse and Woodhouse Copse, again up a hill, before descending to Wottoon, a rather concrete village next to Wootton Creek.
Following the road downhill and a little south will take you to a pub named the Sloop by Wootton Bridge across the creek and Old Mill Pond. Once on the eastern, Fishbourne, shore take the fourth road on the left, Ashlake Copse Lane, north which has a footpath (R1) at the end which will take you past Ashlake Creek and Ashlake Copse to the Fishbourne Wightlink Car Ferry Terminal. Just Northeast of the Ferry Terminal is Quarr Lane, a lane on your right that heads initially Southeast but East overall. This lane passes the Quarr Abbeys, named after the quarries16 of the Quarr and Binstead area on the Island. The original Quarr Abbey opened in 1132 and was home to Cistercian monks until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537. In 1912 a new monastery, home to Benedictine monks, was built out of Flemish red bricks. Continue along the path past the new monastery and the ruins of the old17 as the path becomes a road which continues east next to a bird sanctuary.
At the junction turn left, heading to the charming Norman Church, Holy Cross, and its gargoyle where you reach footpath (R4) Ladies Walk. Men too are allowed to take this footpath, where you should pass the dead-end footpath R46 which leads to the beach, but not the coastal path, passing through Ryde Golf Course, until you get to the outskirts of Ryde, the largest town on the Island. Follow Spencer Road down hill and then cross below Yelf's Hotel's18 bridge corridor to reach Union Street, Ryde's main shopping road. Here there are plenty of places to eat, rest and drink. Turn left down the hill, where the Tourist Information office is on the corner, cross over and you will find yourself near the Ryde Esplanade transport interchange.
This is the location of the bus station, hovercraft terminal and Ryde Esplanade railway station and is at the dry end19 of Ryde Pier. Ryde Pier was built in 1814 and is the oldest pier in Britain. Ryde Pier was also Britian's third longest, with only the piers at Southport and Southend longer. If you wish to walk to the end of the pier, where the passenger ferry from Portsmouth docks, and back as part of the round-the-coastline experience then feel free to do so.
Stage 2: Ryde to Bembridge
7.5 miles, 2 hours
Many of the hardy souls who set out to do the Isle of Wight Coastal Path, the whole route in a short period, start from Ryde. It is the only town on the route accessible by two commercial ferry routes from the Mainland, from Portsmouth by ferry and from Southsea by hovercraft, and with the train and bus connections it is also fairly easy to reach from the rest of the Island.
If you arrived at Ryde from the Mainland via the ferry to Ryde Pier Head, you can take the regular connecting train down the pier to Esplanade station. Leave the station through the main exit, turning left into the Bus Station part of the Transport interchange and then over the railway footbridge. From the footbridge, Portsmouth is clearly visible, especially the Spinnaker Tower, and immediately ahead is the Hovercraft terminal. From the Hovercraft terminal, simply head east passing Ryde Harbour, the children's fair and the boating lake. You can walk along the sea wall, but as this is the first opportunity to actually walk along a beach, you may well wish to walk on the sand instead. Simply continue to follow the path, passing the Appley Tower folly and Puckpool Park, the former Victorian coastal battery, before entering St Helens. Keep along the Sea Wall and past the attractive restaurants through to Seaview and Seagrove Bay.
At this point you need to know whether the tide is in. If it is low tide you can continue along the beach. If it is high tide, however, you should not take the Seaview Bay road to the beach but instead look out for a path on the right (R105) which will lead you to the Esplanade next to the public toilets.
Shortly afterwards, the route climbs onto the cliff top above Horestone Point, Priory Bay and Nodes Point as you walk on path R84 through woodland on the approach to St Helens and The Duver. At this point the remains of St Helens Church, which had been built too close to the sea, are clearly visible. All that remains is the 12th Century church tower20 whose seaward side has been painted white as a sea marker21. From here the route takes you to The Duver, a small area of sand dunes owned by the National Trust near the village of St Helens. From The Duver walk across Bembridge Harbour on the narrow causeway between the harbour and old mill pond. Follow the path out to the road then turn left following the outskirts of Bembridge Harbour, passing the Brading Haven Yacht Club and the houseboats before entering the village of Bembridge itself, which claims to be the largest village in the UK. The path follows the western, then southern sides of Bembridge Harbour before entering the village. When the harbour has been rounded you will see a stone monument, the pump. Behind this is the coastal path that leads along the coast to Bembridge Lifeboat Station pier and the Easternmost point of the Island.
Stage 3: Bembridge to Sandown
5 miles, 2 hours
From the RNLI Lifeboat station the path heads back onto roads for a short time. When the path resumes, it is once more on a cliff top path, and passes the rear of what most Island residents still call 'Bembridge School'22. The path then continues to Whitecliff Bay - the only point where the beach can be accessed between Bembridge and Sandown.
On leaving Whitecliff Bay, the path rises up Culver Down to near the Yarborough Monument23. At this point, the path rises to 104m above sea level. Many people find climbing this hill tiring, and there is a conveniently placed pub and outdoor café area here. This area is owned by the National Trust. From the Yarborough Monument cross the road and follow the cliff path as it descends to Yaverland
and the start of the sea wall24 along Sandown Bay. After passing the Isle of Wight Zoo, housed in Sandown Granite Fort, and the pterodactyl-shaped Dinosaur Isle Museum, the path joins the road along the esplanade into the large resort of Sandown, passing a bowling green and Sandham Grounds park25. It is an easy stroll along the sea wall, or on the beach if you prefer.
If you are walking on the pavement above the beach, when you get to Sandown Library you may wish to turn left to follow the Edwardian Esplanade along the coast or continue straight ahead along the High Street, where there are cafes, restaurants, shops selling traditional seaside goods such as sticks of rock, postcards and buckets and spades as well as the Tourist Information office. At the top of the hill you will reach Pier Street, a road which leads downhill to Sandown Pier.
Stage 4: Sandown to Shanklin
2.5 miles, 1 hour.
Sandown Pier, which was built in 1879, is a short walk from Sandown Train Station and a good landmark to begin the fourth stage. A coastal walker may wish to walk to the end and back and enjoy the crazy golf course, amusement arcade and café that it contains.
The next section's exact route is debatable, as many people who walk the Coastal Path probably follow the path next to the coast, the sea wall all the way to Shanklin, however, the official route is along the cliff-tops. The cliff top path goes through Battery Gardens which was a fort built in 1861-3 next to a Napoleonic barracks, then the village of Lake, passing Lake Cliff Gardens in Lake very near Lake's Railway Station and cafes before arriving in Shanklin. There are several paths that lead up the cliff between Sandown and Shanklin so it is easy to go from the cliff top to the sea wall path between Sandown and Shanklin. Continue along either the cliff top or sea wall path to Shanklin.
Stage 5: Shanklin to Ventnor
5 miles, 2 hours
When you get to Shanklin if you followed the sea wall you will be on the Esplanade already, and if you followed the cliff top path this will reach a road which descends down to the Esplanade. After the Esplanade you will need to get to the top of the cliff again. The easiest way up is Shanklin's cliff lift26, for which there is a charge, although there are cheaper and nicer ways up to the top of the cliff. If you go up the lift follow the path through Keats Green, named after the Poet Laureate John Keats who lived in Shanklin for 2 years, and follow the road to Shanklin Old Village.
If you have avoided the temptation of the lift and wish to continue to use your legs, walk along the Esplanade past the clock tower on the esplanade to the end of the road next to Fisherman's Cottage, a charming thatched house built in 1817. From there a road leads up the cliff, however the most picturesque, and shortest route, is through Shanklin Chine, the first Chine of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path. To ascend through Shanklin Chine, following the river and seeing the 45-foot waterfall, is the shortest and most picturesque route, however since 1817 a fare has been charged to do so. The Chine also has a heritage centre and tea garden. At the top of Shanklin Chine you can enter Rhylstone Gardens. From here it is a short walk to Shanklin Old Village, the thatched fishing hamlet of Shanklin that is now a picturesque location with shops, restaurants and pub.
From Shanklin Chine head up the hill along Luccombe Road, following the pavement until the very end of the road where the coastal path resumes. The path descends through National Trust land near Luccombe Chine and The Landslip, an area formed by major landslips that occurred in 1810 and 1928. Do not descend to the beach at Luccombe Chine as this involves going down several steps to the beach only to find it is a dead-end, followed by a tiring ascent back up to the top of the cliff back the way you came. There are various routes available through this wooded enclave, perhaps the best involves descending through Devil's Chimney, a descending narrow staircase through a gap between tall rocks either side of you, and then along to the Wishing Seat, a rock on the Bonchurch/Luccombe border.
From the Wishing Seat and after passing through this jungle, you reach Bonchurch Church, which is Norman in origin and built around 1170. The route then descends down a road to the sea wall at Bonchurch, and a short stroll along the sea wall brings you to the town of Ventnor.
Stage 6: Ventnor to Chale
7 miles, 2.5 hours
Ventnor is the Island's southernmost town and has shops, bars and restaurants which are often a welcome sight for weary walkers. Entering into Ventnor, you will first pass a paddling pool near a cascade that contains a model of the entire Isle of Wight. Continuing along the esplanade will take you past another, smaller clock tower and head up through Ventnor Park, which has 'Ventnor' inscribed in large, friendly letters in the side of a slope. The path then passes Ventnor Botanic Gardens27.
At Woody Bay the path deviates from the sea front to follow deserted cliff-top paths around secluded bays and coves, and at the village of St Lawrence ascends to the top of the Niton Undercliff. This involves a complicated zig-zag up a steep hill decorated with thatched cottages. From the top of the hill St Catherine's Lighthouse28, constructed in 1840 on the Isle of Wight's southernmost point after the loss of the Clarendon, is visible far below.
The path then skirts fields before briefly entering the village of Niton. It then continues along the high cliffs to Gore Cliff and Blackgang Chine below29. From Gore Cliff it is possible to get a good view inland of the Pepper Pot as well as of the attractions of Blackgang Chine, including the 'Cliff Hanger' rollercoaster and the cowboy town. From Blackgang it is only a short 10 minute walk to the village of Chale and St Andrew's Church, which dates from the 12th Century.
Stage 7: Chale to Brighstone
6 miles, 3 hours
From Chale the walking experience changes quite dramatically as you head to the West Wight. The next stretch involves walking exposed on a cliff top with no shelter for the next few hours. It is recommended that you wear a warm jumper, as, especially when compared to the suntrap of Sandown Bay, the exposed West Wight walk is cold and breezy. This part of the Island is quiet and all but deserted, with few buildings to see or places to stop and rest at. This is because all the villages are inland – there is no point in building near the cliff edge when in a few years time it will be at the bottom of the cliff.
The path is close to the cliff edge at all times, with no fences to prevent you from falling off. The cliffs have a very high clay content, which means that in wet weather it is very difficult to get a secure foothold. There are, however, several chines. Some of these can be traversed by climbing down one side and scrambling up the other. In wet weather this is not recommended and can be dangerous. With some Chines the Coastal Path heads inland and around the chine before returning to the cliff edge. As this area is subject to coastal erosion the path constantly changes, however this does have the advantage of making the area particularly well suited to the discovery of dinosaurs. In poor weather it is probably best to follow the course of the Military Road30 which runs parallel to the coastal path, although this does not have the same spectacular views.
The coastal path is easily found behind Cliff Farm, after which point the path between here and Brighstone consists of navigating the Chines. These are, in order of encounter: Walpen Chine, Ladder Chine, Whale Chine, Shepherds Chine, Cowleaze Chine, Barnes Chine, Granges and Marsh Chine. Most of these are V shaped chasms in the cliff. This section of the Island was well known for the number of shipwrecks here, with 14 ships reported to be wrecked in one night in 1757. Near Cowleaze Chine there is a campsite which, in the summer, has a café where one can get a heart-warming and well-deserved cup of tea. Past Granges and Marsh Chine, a Chine where two rivers have combined to form a Y shaped chine there is a road that runs inland to the village of Brighstone. Brighstone is a charming village off the cliff path which has a pub, The Three Bishops31, as well as thatched cottages, the National Trust Brighstone Shop and Museum and a thatched post office, as well as the village church, St Mary The Virgin, which dates from 1190.
Stage 8: Brighstone to Freshwater Bay
6 miles, 2.5 hours
If you stopped at Brighstone, return to the cliff path. This is again quiet with only occasional coastguard cottages as landmarks, other than the constant chines to navigate; Chilton Chine, Brook Chine, Shippards Chine and Compton Chine. At the first chine along, Chilton Chine, there is a local tourist attraction, Isle of Wight Pearl, which as well as jewellery also has a café and toilets.
Continue along the lonely cliff path, admiring the chalk cliffs of Tennyson Down and Highdown Cliffs in front of you. Carry on along the cliff path passing the National Trust owned Compton Down and Afton Down, site of the ELM monument, an obelisk on the cliff edge in memory of a child whose initials were ELM who fell to her death here in 1846. From here it is a short walk to Freshwater Bay, where you are treated to a sight of civilisation, shops, hotel and public toilets, as well as the landmark of Arch and Stag Rocks in Freshwater Bay.
Stage 9: Freshwater Bay to The Needles
3 miles, 1 hour
From Freshwater Bay, near Dimbola Lodge photography museum, the path follows the Tennyson Heritage Coast. Head uphill passing Freshwater Redoubt, a fort built during the 1860s French Invasion scare, into the National Trust land, heading towards the distinctive Tennyson Memorial. This was built in 1897 at the top of what is now Tennyson Down to commemorate the Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson, who lived nearby in Farringford House. This is 482 feet above sea level. Continue along the edge of the high chalk cliff a further mile and a half to Scratchell's Bay, site of where the Isle of Wight's Black Knight, Black Arrow and Blue Streak space rockets were tested in the 1950s32. Sadly when the National Trust bought the land in 1975, rather than preserve this historic site, the only rocket-testing facility in Great Britain, they decided to bulldoze and demolish everything. This is something they now regret, and the National Trust have placed a few information boards about the rocket facility around in an attempt to make up for this disastrous blunder.
You may well wish to continue along the path, noticing how the amount of land in front of you and to your left and your right is rapidly diminishing, and enter the Needles Old Battery. This is a National Trust owned fort constructed in 1863 and is the westernmost part of the Isle of Wight, with views overlooking The Needles, chalk stacks to the west of the Isle of Wight, with a lighthouse constructed in 1859 on the furthermost rock.
Stage 10: The Needles to Yarmouth
6 miles, 2 hours
From the Needles Old Battery follow the path that heads Northeast to the Needles Pleasure Park and Alum Bay. The Needles Pleasure Park has several attractions and places to eat, and also includes a memorial to Marconi33 and fine views out to sea. Alum Bay is famous for its multi-coloured sand cliffs, 20 different coloured sands naturally occur here. Perhaps the best way to descend the cliff is by the chairlift which has operated here since 1973, a rare opportunity to sit down.
Heading away from Alum Bay and the Needles Pleasure Park the path turns Northeast, up Headon Hill to your left, passing Heatherwood Battery and through Headon Warren, a heather-covered cliff top. Follow the path around the prehistoric burial mound and then down hill, follow the road to the left, heading into Totland Bay and the coast. In Totland Bay you can actually descend to beach level at steps at Widdick Chine and walk on the beach, passing Totland Pier, which has a café, round Warden Point and into Colwell Bay. Colwell Bay, a sign proudly informs you, is a Coastal Award Area, although a Second World War pillbox reminds you that visitors weren't always so welcome here. However, you can get a very good view of Hurst Castle on the mainland side of the Solent from here.
Halfway along Colwell Bay you will see a road that leads to the beach. The coastal path signs are a bit misleading, but you need to go along this road inland to the top of the cliff and then follow the coast at the top of the cliff. If you continue along the beach you will soon reach a dead end with no way round the coast and a very slippy sheer clay cliff34, with the brick battleship of Fort Albert nearby.
From the top of the cliff follow the path inland around Brambles Chine Holiday Camp and Cliff End Fort, another Victorian fort, down Monks Lane and follow the cobbled path at the end of the lane into the wooded grounds of Fort Victoria Country Park35. There is a café, toilets and good views of the Solent from here.
Follow the path out of the country park, across the road and along the coast on the outskirts of Norton before arriving at Bridge Road, and the Yar Bridge swing bridge across the River Yar36 and into the town of Yarmouth.
Stage 11: Yarmouth to Shalfleet
6 miles, 2 hours
Yarmouth is one of the oldest towns on the Island and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as the town as Ermud. It has a castle, built in 1547 after the French invasion of the Isle of Wight in 1545 and owned by English Heritage, and a pier that opened in 1876. Yarmouth also has shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants and a Tourist Information centre next to the ferry terminal, where cars and passengers travelling from Lymington disembark.
From the ferry terminal follow the High Street through the town of Yarmouth onto the A3054, the coastal road that heads due east to the hamlet of Bouldnor. Here walk to the end of Victoria Road and pick up the coastal path. The coastal path follows the outskirts of Bouldnor Copse37 rather than the coastline, as the path follows the top of the cliff. Enter into West Close, then head down Sea View Road on the left, then take a right towards Werst Hamstead Farm, then follow the path to Hamstead Farm, rejoining the Coastal path that follows the top of Hamstead Cliff to Hamstead Ledge, round Hamstead Point to Lower Hamstead Farm near Hamstead Quay and through Lower Hamstead onto the Hamstead Trail. This part of the Island is known as Hamstead. At the end of the Hamstead Trail turn left onto Hamstead Drive, pass Hamstead Road and the Lower Hamstead Plantation as you cross Ningwood Lake, part of the Newtown Estuary.
Back on the A3054 main road, turn left and follow the road past Nunnesys Wood into the small village of Shalfleet, which despite its small size has a proud history and is mentioned in the Domesday Book and has a Manor and mill.
Stage 12: Shalfleet to Thorness Bay
5 miles, 2 hours
From Shalfleet head left past the New Inn pub up Corf Road. This leads past Corf Camp, an area owned by the Scouts and used as one of their main campsites. Past the lane to Corf Camp take Town Lane on the left, over Newtown Bridge up to Newtown, an area owned by the National Trust.
Newtown was once the capital of the Isle of Wight, having oyster beds and the Newtown Estuary made it an easily accessible and busy port. However as a town it never had much luck, being destroyed first by Sweyn, father of King Cnut, during the reign of Æthelred II in 1001, suffering frequent raids from the French before finally being completely destroyed by the French in 1377. Newtown did continue to be the political capital of the Island, sending two MPs to Parliament, until the Great Reform Act of 1832.38 The remains of the Town Hall, dating to 1699, is open to the public.
Take the lane on the right past the Town Hall and follow the path, and later the road, Southeast around the Newtown estuary, before heading North up the road into Porchfield, a small hamlet with a pub known as the Sportsman's Rest. It is important to keep to the road in this area as the land near the estuary is owned by the Ministry of Defence who use it as a Firing Range, which is why it is labelled 'Danger Area' on all maps. Follow the road up to the top of Bunts Hill and just before Bunts Hill Copse there is a footpath on your left to Thorness. Follow this footpath to Thorness Bay Holiday Centre, holiday chalets around a central Osborne-towered building, and then take the lane north to Thorness Bay, where you will be reunited with the Solent seashore.
Stage 13: Thorness Bay to Cowes
5 miles, 2 hours
Thorness Bay is a quiet, secluded spot where marsh land, mud flats and sand combine to form a bird lover's paradise. Follow the beach to your right, heading along the coast until the path takes you up the bank onto what becomes a low cliff top. Follow the path round to the village of Gurnard, following the coast until you see the luck run out. The Gurnard Luck is a river with a small harbour at its mouth39. From here follow the road, Marsh Road, Northeast a short distance around Gurnard Cliff, as it becomes Solent View Road. At the end of this, turn left down the hill down Worsley Road to the Esplanade. This Esplanade, known as Princes Esplanade, was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1926 and links the village of Gurnard with Cowes along the Solent coast.
Following the Esplanade, passing the public convenience on the right, you soon pass a charming town sign labelled 'Cowes' on a yacht background. Shortly after that you reach Egypt Lighthouse. This small, beacon-shaped lighthouse marks Egypt Point, the northernmost tip of the Isle of Wight40. From here it is a short walk East to Cowes Castle, home of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the home of international sailing. From here follow The Parade south to the end where the seafront promenade ends. Head up the hill up Watch House Lane, and take the road on the left into Cowes town centre. Here there are numerous restaurants, pubs, shops and cafes, including a Beatles themed one, and in following the pedestrianised High Street you will soon arrive back at the Red Funnel ferry terminal, where the walk around the Island began.
as well as abbeys, including Beaulieu.17The stones from Quarr Abbey were used to build Yarmouth Castle18A coaching inn built in 1806 that is still a hotel to this day.19Piers have two ends and to avoid confusion, colloquially, the 'dry end' refers to the end at the shoreline, the 'wet end' is the end at sea.20St Helens was extensively used by the Royal Navy, who anchored off shore in the area known as St Helens Roads. Water from St Helens was believed to be exceptionally pure and stay fresh for longer. Stones from the eroded remains of St Helens Church were also used to scrub the decks of naval ships, which gave rise to the word 'holystoning'.21A landmark used to help navigate at sea. Also known as a day mark as, unlike a lighthouse, it is only visible during the day.22A private school was housed in these buildings until the late 20th Century. It now serves as boarding accommodation for Ryde School and an activities centre.23Built in 1849 in memory of Charles Pelham, Earl of Yarborough, and inaugural Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron. The Monument was moved to its current position in 1860 to make way for Bembridge Fort.24This stretch of sea wall was built by conscientious objectors during the Great War, and their graffiti, such as 'Socialism – the hope of the world' and appeals to vote for the SDP – the Socialist Democratic Party – can still be seen to this day.25Sandham Grounds was built on the site of Sandown's second castle which was built in 1636 and demolished in 1901.26The first lift was built here in 1892 but the present one dates from 1956.27This exotic garden was built on the site of the Royal National Hospital For Diseases Of The Chest which owned 22 acres here between 1869 and 1964. The hospital was built to take advantage of Ventnor's healing micro-climate before the development of antibiotics made it redundant, and now the micro-climate is used to the best advantage of rare plants and animals.28St Catherine's Lighthouse is the third most powerful lighthouse in the UK, with the main light visible for 30 nautical miles. Construction began in 1838 and the lighthouse was sadly automated in 1997.29Blackgang Chine is one of the Island's premier tourist destinations and claims to be the UK's oldest Theme Park, open to the public since 1843 when a whale washed ashore there, the skeleton of which is still on display to this day. Blackgang Chine is also the part of the Island where cliff erosion is at work the fastest, with over 2 metres of cliff lost on average each year and with spectacular cliff falls in 1978 and 1994.30A road first built in the 1860s to allow the quick deployment of troops based in Freshwater to any spot on the West Wight in the event of a French invasion.31So named as three of Brighstone's rectors have later become bishops – Thomas Ken, Rector at Brighstone 1667-69 and later Bishop of Bath and Wells, Samuel Wilberforce, son of William Wilberforce, Rector at Brighstone 1830-1840 and later Bishop of Oxford followed by Bishop of Winchester and George Moberley, Recotr 1866-9 and later Bishop of Salisbury.32This cliff top rocket testing facility was one of the inspirations for Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Moonraker.33Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio, sent his first over-water radio signal from this point in 1897, initially to a boat and later to Bournemouth and Poole. In 1898 he transmitted the first paid radio signal from Alum Bay and in 1899 he contacted Alum Bay from 70 miles away at sea.34These cliffs cannot be climbed and any attempt to do so would result in sinking into the cliff. Hence the warning signs which state, 'Danger of Death - Blue Clay - Do Not Climb'.35This Victorian fort, built in 1852-5 to defend the narrow straight of the Solent, is now the site of an aquarium, maritime museum, planetarium, and model railway as well as nature trails.36This is the Western River Yar. There are two River Yars on the Island, with the other at Bembridge, as 'Yar' was an old English word meaning 'River'.37Bouldnor Copse is owned by the Forestry Commission and is one of the best places on the Island to catch a glimpse of a rare red squirrel.38Sadly since the 1832 Great Reform Act the Isle of Wight has only had one MP representing the entire population of the Isle of Wight, over 135,000 people, making the Isle of Wight's inhabitants the least politically represented people in the entire United Kingdom.39Gurnard is named after a type of bird known as the Gurnet that was once common here.40Egypt Point Lighthouse was operational between 1897 and 1989 and is now used as a sea marker for yachts coming into Cowes.