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 Park. Seaclose Park has hosted the revised The Isle Of Wight Festival since 2002. Pass 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 Avenue1 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 quarries of the Quarr and Binstead area on the Island. Stone was first quarried here in Roman times but was used extensively in the mediæval period, as limestone from this part of the Island was of a remarkably fine quality and sought after. Stone quarried here was used to build Winchester and Chichester cathedrals, castles such as Southampton castle and town walls
as well as abbeys, including Beaulieu. 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 old2 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's3 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 end4 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 tower whose seaward side has been painted white as a sea marker5. St 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'.
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.