“It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot.” Such were the words of Queen Victoria after her visit to the Isle of Wight in 1845. With the great lady’s words ringing in our ears we set off to discover if she really was right about an island that measures 23 miles by 13, and is scattered with picturesque villages and bustling small towns.
Ever since we started offering the Arran Coastal Way we’ve been keen to add another island to our walking trails. As the Isle of Wight boasts the largest walking festival in the UK (over 25,000 people took part last year) – the Isle of Wight Coastal Path seemed a perfect choice. With rocky coves, beautiful beaches, and dramatic cliff tops, this 67-mile trail hugs the spectacular coastline and offers a wonderfully contrasting landscape.
As we had the youngest member of the Absolute Escapes team with us we decided to base ourselves in Shanklin and cover the trail in day trips rather than tackle the whole route. While 3-year-old Will is pretty hardy he’d still rather build sandcastles and hunt for dinosaurs than walk 14 miles in a day. This still allowed us to experience the wide variety of this walk and discover the many delights of the island.
There’s something immensely satisfying about walking around an island. As with completing any long-distance walk, there’s always a real sense of achievement, but when you end a walk where you began there’s a real feeling of completeness.
The start and finish of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path is at the Victorian seaside resort of Ryde, with its expanse of sandy beach stretching right along the seafront. As soon as you step off the ferry or hovercraft you’ll be on ‘island time’, ready to take on the challenge that lies ahead – an exhilarating walk around the island’s coastline.
The coastal path itself is very well way-marked and follows the coast for the majority of the way, with a couple of small detours inland in the north of the island. The trail can be walked in either direction, although the bag transfers operate anti-clockwise, so we’d recommend walking it that way.
While the walking trail offers some amazing scenery it also provides the perfect opportunity to sample the huge variety of local produce available in the local bars, restaurants, and cafes. As with any walking holiday, discovering local flavours and specialties is an important part of the experience.
The mellow climate of the Isle of Wight ensures the island is home to the freshest seafood straight from the fisherman’s catch, locally brewed beer, wine and cider, organic fruit and vegetables, and delicious locally-made ice creams and desserts. With an abundance of tea shops, cosy pubs, beachside cafes, and fine restaurants ready to serve you this local fare, you’ll certainly be well rewarded after your day’s exertions on the trail.
As with all of our walking routes we’re always keen to promote the virtues of additional days to any itinerary, allowing you to rest your weary legs and explore the local area more fully. With the Isle of Wight, you’ll be spoilt for choice. We’ve made a number of suggestions on our Additional Days page, but we had to reserve a special mention for two of our favourites – Osborne House and The Needles. Both quite different, but equally dramatic.
Osborne House was Queen Victoria’s palatial holiday home and she spent many happy days here with her family. You can visit Victoria and Albert’s private apartments, their bathing beach and stroll through the garden terraces where the stunning views across the Solent reminded Prince Albert of the Bay of Naples.
Our other favourite spot is the island’s most famous landmark – The Needles. This row of three distinctive chalk stacks feature in all the classic views of the island and must be one of the most photographed groups of rocks in the world. There’s plenty to experience here and you could easily spend a day taking the famous Needles chairlift from the multi-coloured sand cliffs above Alum Bay down to the beach below, where boat trips depart for close-up views of the Rocks and Trinity Lighthouse.
So after our week exploring the Isle of Wight, was Queen Victoria right in thinking it is impossible to imagine a prettier spot? We certainly think so. And the coastal path is the perfect way to experience the island’s many pretty spots.
P.S. We’re offering a range of itineraries for this walk, from 4 days to a more leisurely 7, and we’d be delighted to tailor an itinerary to suit you.