The Isle of Wight Coastal Path
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This trail circumnavigates the Island and stays beside the sea most of the way around. The total length is approximately 60 miles (100 km) and for convenience the trail is usually split into four equal length sections. The northern side trails border the Solent with it's multitude of craft, the southern side trails are along sandy beaches and magnificent cliff edges. In all, it is a microcosm of all England has to offer.
Starting at the North of the Island, by the ferry port of East Cowes, the trail ascends the main road to Queen Victoria's home of Osborne House, thence past Whippingham with it's very interesting church. The trail then follows the country roads to Wootton, over the creek and on past Quarr Abbey into Binstead then Ryde. This is a typical English seaside town with plenty to see and do. The trail then proceeds along the shore into the quiet village of Seaview, thence to St Helens and Bembridge. This is a gentle, quiet area of the Island, good for bird watching.
South East Wight
From Bembridge the trail edges the cliffs beside Whitecliff Bay then climbs to the top of Culver Down from which the magnificent vista of Sandown Bay appears. There is a gentle drop into the bay then the trail follows the seashore through the resorts of Sandown and Shanklin before climbing slightly to negotiate the landslip west of Luccombe. On through the delightful village of Bonchurch into the seaside town of Ventnor, which was a great favourite of the Victorians. West from Ventnor the trail follows along the "undercliff", an almost tropical area of lush vegetation below the cliffs. Finally, the trail reaches Niton, once the smuggler village of the Island, but now a pleasant village with nice pubs. Just south of the village is the southern most point of the Island, St Catherine's Point with its lighthouse.
South West Wight
From Niton the trail edges the cliffs all along the undeveloped south-west coast to the Needles at the western end of the island. Initially passing below the huge Greensand cliffs and over the fast eroding clay below, the trail flattens out to follow the edge of the low cliffs into "Dinosaur Country". The eroding cliffs along this coast are world-famous for the spectacular Dinosaur remains continually being discovered. There is a Dinosaur museum beside the road near Atherfield. Compton Bay has a great beach and is the Island haunt of Surfers. Just past there the path climbs with the chalk cliff edge before dropping down into the quiet Freshwater Bay. This is just a short respite as the trail then climbs high over Tennyson Down, past the Tennyson Memorial, before arriving at the Needles. There are some wonderful views here, especially from the old rocket test site. Departing east again from the Needles, the trail now follows the northen edge of the cliffs into Alum Bay with its spectacular coloured sands. This is a great sight in the low afternoon sun when the colours are accentuated. Finally, the trail ascends again to cross Headon Warren, a heather covered down with wonderful views from Swanage in the west to Southampton in the east. The trail then gently descends into the small coastal village of Totland.
North West Wight
Leaving the high country behind, the trail now follows beside the Solent to Cowes, sailing capital of the world. From Totland the trail follows the beach to Colwell Bay before moving inland slightly then down into the delightful town of Yarmouth. This is a ferry port and also a busy leisure boating harbour. It has a fine fort and a pier. The trail then follows the coast road for a short distance but stays by the sea when the road moves inland. This next section to Newtown Creek is most secluded and has no facilites. Once past Hampstead, the trail turns inland around the creek, passing the Old Town Hall at Newtown then through the village of Porchfield before leaving the road and heading back to the seashore at Thorness Bay. Newtown Creek is a haven for waterbirds and a hide has been erected close to the village. From Thorness Bay the trail follows along the top of a low grassy cliff into Gurnard Bay then beside the sea all the way to Cowes.
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Maps are available for all these and other walks from the local tourist information offices.