What does the Isle of Wight have to offer?
On the Isle of Wight you can pace your holiday to suit yourself. You will find the peace & quiet of the countryside, also the beauty of the coastline.
Considering the island is just 147 square miles, you will be surprised at the amount & diversity of its flora & fauna … the grandeur of its unspoilt coastline & secret forests. There are some 65 miles of coastal paths, & it is possible to walk around the island.
On the other hand, if you want sports & entertainment, the island also has a great deal to offer. There are five 9-hole, & two 18-hole golf courses, year-round fishing (sea, coarse, & trout), a bowling alley, skating rink, & sports centre.
The island is one of the hidden treasures of England & was a favorite playground of the Victorians, who came to enjoy the beautiful unspoilt countryside, the high chalk downs, the gardens & the sea. Today, the island offers the same attractions, as well as many other interesting activities & interests to suit all ages.
Tourist Attractions providing fun days out for all the family
Children will love BLACKGANG CHINE THEME PARK and THE NEEDLES PLEASURE PARK where you can see the famous coloured sand on the cliffs.
OSBORNE HOUSE will provide a wonderful insight into the private life of Queen Victoria & you will be able to view the countryside from the battlements of
CARISBROOKE CASTLE where Charles 1 was kept prisoner for a time. If you are interested in sports, Colwell & Compton Bays are well known venues for surfing. The varied terrain & network of bridleways are ideal for cycling & horse riding, & there is a local hang-gliding school for the more adventurous. Bays & Chines along the Isle of Wight’s sunshine coastline
Safe sandy beaches sheltered from the prevailing west winds are for many the main attractions of the south coast of the Isle of Wight. But the coastline includes more dramatic landscapes – isolated bays, narrow ravines or ‘chines’ and, on the more exposed south-west coast, precipitous cliffs revealing chalk beds that are the thickest in the country. All these features are linked by the coastal footpath which runs round the entire island.
The horseshoe-shaped cover has a steep pebbly beach & a short promenade, rimmed by low cliffs of white chalk. A few hundred yards inland is the source of the River Yar which flows north to Yarmouth & almost divides Western Wight from the remainder of the island. To the west of the bay rises Tennyson Down, a grassy , whale -backed ridge of chalk which rises 480 feet above the sea. The view embraces Portland Bill to the west & to the east, The Solent up to Southampton Water, a sweep of 50 miles. Tennyson down is named after the poet Lord Tennyson who lived at nearby Farringford House for nearly 40 years. The poet used to walk on the down almost every day, saying that the air was worth “sixpence a pint.” There is a monument to Tennyson on the summit of the down. Plants growing on the down include cowslips, hairy violets, betony, ragworts & several species of orchids. Cormorants, Shags, Guillemots & other sea birds nest in the cliffs.
From the tiny hamlet, a 3 minute walk down Brook Chine leads to a sandy beach with some pebbles. This is one of several ‘chines’ or ravines, which cut through the cliffs along the south coast of the Isle of Wight. The word derives from the Anglo-Saxon cinan, meaning ‘to crack’; others that lead to the sandy foreshore around Compton Bay are Compton Chine & Shippards Chine. Brook is also the southern starting point of the Hampstead Trail, one of the Isle of Wight’s marked cross-country walking routes. At nearby Hanover Point, the Pine Raft – the fossilised remains of a forest – forms rock flats visible at low tide. Behind the 200ft chalk cliffs facing Compton Bay soars Compton Down, popular with hang-gliders. To the south-east of Brook Chine more chines lead down to extensive sands with safe bathing in calm weather around Brighstone Bay. The soft clay cliffs are, however , constantly being eroded, & there are many landslides & cliff falls.
This ravine, which is easily missed, leads down from a small car park beside the A3055, 1 mile west of Chale. Descent to the beach is by some 126 wooden steps, & as a result of this descending approach, the beach – all 2 miles of it – is refreshingly uncrowded even at the height of summer. There are no facilities on the beach, which is free of rocks & consists of shingle & low-tide sand. Fishing is good, particularly for mackerel. The cliffs are clearly stratified & some of the strata – the Wealden Beds, formed in a lake about 100 million years ago – are famous for their fossilised oysters, ammonites, and lobsters.
This chine, supposedly named after a local band of smugglers, has now been overlaid with a large fantasy theme park, which includes a maze, models of Isle of Wight houses, an Indian camp & a series of model dinosaurs, most of them full size. In the entrance hall hangs a 75ft whale skeleton – the largest & best preserved in Britain. The 80 ton animal was washed up nearby in 1842 & for almost a century its skeleton was preserved, encased in cement, beside the road. From the chine’s top, 400 ft above the sea, there is a superb view of the cliffs leading north-west past Whale Chine. The rocks along the base of these cliffs have claimed 180 ships since 1750. At the base of the cliffs can be seen the Gault Clay – known locally as ‘blue slipper’ – which by acting as a lubricant to the overlying layers, causes continual cliff-falls along this coast. Blackgang Chine shows many signs of the slippage, which in recent years has taken away the original coast road & many houses. Until 1913, there were steps to the shore at this point, now there is no access.
Just east of St. Catherine’s lighthouse & its treacherous Rocken End rocks, lies perhaps the most seclude beach on the island. A road declared to be unfit for cars drops down for about a mile to a bay some 300 yards across which is otherwise completely cut off by sheer cliffs. There is safe bathing & fishing from a tiny dock. St. Catherine’s lighthouse is open to the public at the discretion of the keeper. Bathing is dangerous near the headland, but the walks in the National Trust’s Knowles Farm area offer breathtaking views. Paths across the landslip area below the cliff, &the main coastal path passes along the cliff top. Just inland off the coastal path, on the 780 ft summit of St. Catherine’s Hill, stands an unusual octagonal tower known as the “Pepper Pot.” It is the relic of a lighthouse built in about 1323 by a local landowner Walter de Godeston, as an act of penance for having received casks of wine looted from a wrecked ship. A second circular lighthouse was begun in 1785, but never completed; its base still stands today. The new lighthouse, on the coast near St. Catherine’s Point was built in 1838.
Reaching us here on the Isle of Wight
You reach the island by car ferry, takes about 35 minutes. The two main routes are LYMINGTON to YARMOUTH (most convenient & more scenic) & PORTSMOUTH to FISHBOURNE. These routes are operated by Wightlink. A third route, SOUTHAMPTON to EAST COWES is operated by Red Funnel Ferries. Reservations should be made well in advance of your holiday.