The Isle of Wight Coastal Path is hiking heaven. Exploring cliff-tops and hidden coves, golden beaches and wildlife havens, picturesque harbours and historic sites, seaside towns and salt marshes, this is an enchanting loop of one of the UK’s most beautiful islands.
The 70-mile (113-km) route fully encircles the island, with the exception of detours around Newton Estuary and the Royal estate at Osborne Bay. The trail stays close to the sea for the most part and affords classic coastal walking.
As more than half of the island is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you experience spellbinding scenery along the entire trail. You also visit places that are steeped in history, culture, and tradition, as well as areas where rare wildlife thrives.
Highlights along the way include: Newtown National Nature Reserve, the only national reserve on the island; the Needles, stunning chalk stacks off the west coast; St Catherine's Oratory, a medieval lighthouse with amazing views; Bembridge Windmill, an iconic 18th-century landmark that retains much of its original machinery; Quarr Abbey, one of the most important 20th-century religious structures in the UK; and Osborne Estate, which was built as a holiday home for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The idea of walking around an entire island is a big attraction for many walkers. The great thing about the Isle of Wight Coastal Path is that it is big enough to be challenging but small enough to complete in under a week.
Whilst this is by no means an easygoing hike, the walking is generally steady with mostly mild ascents and descents. There are a couple of tough sections, of course, but this coastal path is good for all abilities.
In this Collection, I split the route into five stages; 17.4 miles (28 km), 16.2 miles (26.1 km), 16.8 miles (27 km), 15.6 miles (25.1 km), and 10 miles (16.1 km), respectively. Now, that is an ambitious itinerary but is definitely manageable, especially during summer. On every stage except the final one, I have given advice on how to shorten/split the hikes.
Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with or walk any single stage.
As the coastal path is a full island loop, the choice of where to start/finish and which direction to walk is entirely up to you. In this Collection, I opt to start at the pretty seaside town of Cowes as this is where the super-fast Red Jet ferry from Southampton docks, and walk anti-clockwise.
You are well-served by accommodation along the route. However, places to stay can be limited so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling your rest days accordingly.
To get to the start of the trail, you can catch a train to Southampton, which is served by direct trains from London and Brighton and has connecting services around the UK, then the ferry to Cowes.
The first stage takes you along a serene section of the coastal path through scenery that is alive with wildlife.The gradient is steady on this hike, but 17.4 miles (28 km) is a challenging distance and a good level of fitness is required. (For suggestions on how to shorten/split the stage, see below).From Cowes, the trail rises and falls around Gurnard Bay and Thorness Bay before cutting inland through Great Thorness.
Expect classic coastal hiking atop white cliffs with breathtaking views on this stage. With 16.2 miles (26.1 km) of distance and 1,325 feet (404 m) of uphill to contend with, …
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You reach the highest point of the trail on this stage and experience jaw-dropping views from a medieval lighthouse.The toughest hike in a tough itinerary, this stage will really test your endurance with 16.8 miles (27 km) of distance and an equal 1,450 feet (442 m) of ascent and descent. (For a suggestion on how to split the hike, see below). From Brighstone, it is level walking over cliffs to begin as you follow the coastline southeast.
This stage takes you to one of the most iconic landmarks on the Isle of Wight, Bembridge Windmill, and explores bustling harbours and beautiful nature reserves.With 15.6 miles (25.1 …
The final stage visits Queen Victoria’s holiday home and one of the UK’s most important 20th-century religious structures.Short-but-sweet, this stage is a leisurely way to end the trail with 10 miles (16.1 km) of distance and an equal 550 feet (168 m) of ascent and descent. From Ryde, the trail winds out of town on roads and then crosses the golf course via Ladies Walk.