Walking The Isle of Wight Coastal Path: Part 3 - Bembridge to Chale

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Stage 3: Bembridge to Sandown

5 miles, 2 hours

From the RNLI Lifeboat station at Bembridge 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'. A 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. 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 Monument. Built 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. 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 wall along Sandown Bay. This 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. 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 park. Sandham Grounds was built on the site of Sandown's second castle which was built in 1636 and demolished in 1901. 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 lift1, 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 Gardens. This 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.

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 Lighthouse, constructed in 1840 on the Isle of Wight's southernmost point after the loss of the Clarendon, is visible far below. St 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.

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 below. Blackgang 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.

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.

Walking The Isle of Wight Coastal Path
1The first lift was built here in 1892 but the present one dates from 1956.

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