An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

50.666205, -1.562079
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Distance: 11.5 km
Difficulty: Moderate
Method: Walking
Wow Factor: 9 out of 10
  • Location: Isle of Wight
  • Terrain: Coast path; footpaths and tracks; clifftops
  • Access: Ferry
  • Height gain: 327 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer OL29
  • Starting point: Freshwater Bay
  • Accommodation/food:

    Highdown Inn, Totland – country inn and B&B on the route; Piano Cafe, Freshwater Bay – cafe and mezze bar, good coffee and island produce

  • Activity Summary:

    Experience a number of the Isle of Wight’s highlights in this 11.5 kilometre circular walk. Tennyson Down offers a fabulous vantage point with great views of the island’s south and north coastlines, and it’s one of the only places in the world to find the rare Early Gentian. There are also Bronze Age burial mounds and a Mortuary Enclosure, where bodies of the dead would have been left exposed to the elements and their bones subsequently collected and buried. The large Celtic cross is the Tennyson Monument. The Needles, with its lighthouse and iconic chalk sea stacks are best viewed from the National Trust’s pay-for-entry Old Needles Battery – a Victorian-era coastal defence. Further up the headland the free-to-enter underground rooms of the New Needles Battery tell the fascinating story of the secret British rocket testing programme here between the 1950’s and 1970’s. The route also includes Alum Bay with its famous multi-coloured sands.

  • Look out for:
    • Closest point to The Needles
    • Panoramic views
    • Cold War rocket test site
    • Find the rare gentian flower
  • Route description:

    From Freshwater Bay follow the coast path west to climb the chalk downland above Fort Redoubt and on to Tennyson Down. Continue past the large Celtic cross of the Tennyson Monument and on to The Needles. The route continues towards Alum Bay with its famous multi-coloured sands. From here walk east to Headon Warren Barrow to re-join the coast path at Tennyson’s Monument via the popular Highdown Inn. Head back to Freshwater Bay. As you reach the road, turn left for a detour to the popular Piano Cafe, or turn right to complete the walk.

  • Getting there:

    By car take the A3055 along the south coast to Freshwater Bay and the long stay car park (Lat/Long 50.670665, -1.510860; GR SZ346 857; What3Words between.surpasses.weekday). By bus, Southern Vectis No 12 runs from Newport

    Whilst you are on the Isle of Wight why not try:

    Walk to the Isle of Wight’s highpoint on St Boniface Down

    Enjoy a swim and crab pasty at Steephill Cove

    Watch an Isle of Wight sunset

    Circular walk St Catherine’s Oratory

    Look for the Milky Way

    Spot a sea eagle

    Other islands nearby:

    Brownsea Island

    Hayling Island

    Portsea Island

    Thorney Island

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