The Isle of Wight Coastal Path is a circular, long distance footpath of 70 miles which runs around the island.
It’s quite a big walk, therefore this might also be quite a big blog post so you might want to grab a cuppa first.
My friend and I have had the trail on our must-do list for a while now, when finally came the sod it, let’s do it moment. We booked ferry tickets, and central accommodation in Ryde as neither of us fancied carrying all our gear around each day, besides you should see the size of my suitcase. 😉
We decided to take advantage of a bank holiday weekend but knew we’d always be pushed for time with only three full days walking.
Then the fun bit, well if you’re geeky like me anyway – route planning.
It was then that I made a terrible, terrible discovery.
Our trip coincided with the annual Isle of Wight Challenge, the small matter of 1600 people walking, jogging or running a 100km ultra set on the coastal path. Bugger.
Route planning suddenly became a lot more challenging. A desire to avoid the masses and yet also achieve our own challenge, whilst also relying on public transport. I soon found someone with local knowledge though and came up with a plausible plan which should fit around local bus routes whilst avoiding the incessant clacking of 3200 walking poles.
Day 1 Best Laid Plans…
With a quick and uneventful journey to Portsmouth we had plenty of time to kick back, enjoy the sunny weather and some rather lush gin. Suddenly walking doesn’t seem quite so appealing.
A short ferry ride to the island and our bags dropped off at our accommodation, there was no choice though – if we were ever going to achieve our goal, we had a tight schedule to keep.
The warm fuzzy glow of the gin was to be short-lived, as we soon encountered a major hurdle. Buses which I had been informed had regular services running, well not so much. A few towns boasted a regular service, but on the whole and more to the point, where we needed to go right now – buses were few and far between.
There’s nothing like having to think on your feet to sober you up. We decided to ditch our plans, worry about the rest later and for now head to East Cowes – just because we could and walk back to Ryde. At 7 1/2 miles it would also be a decent warm up distance.
This section is fairly notorious for being a bit dull, so maybe it was a good idea to get it completed and out of the way first. You know what though? I quite liked it.
Sure a bit of roadside walking (Queen Victoria’s fault.) which wasn’t exactly thrilling, but there was certainly plenty to keep us interested along the way.
Wooton Bridge with its picturesque creek and super tempting pub.
Then the delightful Quarr Abbey, a working Benedictine monastery.
The nearby ruins of the old Abbey equally stunning as the light begins to fade.
We were soon back at Ryde, just in time for crap chips by the sea.
Day two – Needles in a haystack
Friday, and the day before the ultra kicks off. We are keen to get the section of the island where the challenge begins covered.
It’s actually part of our original plan and due to travel logistics only achievable on this day, and with the added pressure of ensuring we complete a fairly long section in time for the last bus back.
A great start *Rolls eyes* as we miss the bus stop we need to get off at, so add on an extra bit of distance for the day. We eventually end up jumping out of a bus at Blankgang Chine and for both of us childhood memories are instantly shattered. Many a school trip involves a visit to the UK’s oldest amusement park, I remember having a great time there on my first trip away from home, these days a tired and shabby looking place awaits. This big guy is still hanging on in there though…
We make our way towards the coastline and it confirms what we’d hoped, that today’s walking will be filled with spectacular views.
Our aim is to cover the entire length of the South Western coast, ending somewhere near Alum Bay at a suitable bus stop, preferably before the buses end for the day. No pressure then.
With such gorgeous views though the miles soon fly by.
With numerous, dramatic chines to circumnavigate.
Shepherds Chine being the most fun.
A steep descent down the ravine. With uneven ground and plenty of mud it’s a little unnerving, and bloody good fun…
well until you have to go back up the other side that is. 😉
As we ascend a passer-by helpfully informs us there’s a bench just round the corner. Turns out this is clearly some hiking code I’m unaware of.
What it actually means is that there’s a guy with his doodah out, having a pee. 😳
Not awkward at all, especially when he starts referring to his said bits and commenting how it might be a bit prickly if we were to do that.
We pass through the picturesque Brighstone…
before a rather bizarre stroll through the deserted Atherfield
concentration holiday camp.
A creepy place to walk through as long-deserted chalets balance precariously on the cliff top, it then gets worse as you find a cage…
erm definitely time to move on.
The chalk cliffs of Alum Bay have been all day in our sights, and now they seem to loom closer. My friend is desperate to see The Needles.
As we approach the western tip of the island (which truly takes forever to walk round) I suspect due to our position, we may not actually see them until much further around the other side of the island.
She’s not best pleased.
The beauty of course of doing challenges like this independently, apart from not feeling like a sheep in a 1600 strong flock, is that at moments like this you can explore. Take the road less travelled and experience what life offers along the way.
We venture far away now from the official path, and with a fence negotiated we can go no further.
The National Trust owned Needles Old Battery blocking our view.
My friend by now quite unamused, this view has been what has spurred her on all day.
I tell her I have National Trust membership. She grumpily reminds me she doesn’t.
With a wink I beckon her to come with me. What does any good friend do in such a situation?
Yep, Blag and flutter their eyelashes.
On a charm offensive I explain our predicament to the chap at the entrance. I can see things are working in my favour and with the magic words ‘Let’s just pretend she’s my wife…’ grants us immediate entry and the view we’ve walked all day for.
As we set off again we’re pretty knackered, we continue our way back to the path and continue a little further around the coast but decide to call it a day, pleased that we’ve reached civilisation before buses end for the day.
A good section of the coastline now completed it seems fitting to celebrate with a hearty dinner, a cold cider and a rather stunning sunset.