An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

50.818658, -0.916720
Distance: 13 km
Difficulty: Easy
Method: Walking
Wow Factor: 7 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: West Sussex
  • Terrain: Easy path; near West Thorney path can be overgrown to the south and can be very muddy after rain to the north, where higher tides may also affect the path
  • Access: Bridge
  • Height gain: 54 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer 120.
  • Starting point: Emsworth Yacht Club. Lat/Long 50.842840, -0.930315. GR SU 75410 05358
  • Accommodation/food:

    There are no facilities on the island itself but The Deck cafe at Emsworth Yacht Club serves a full range of food. The Scout Hut at Prinstead serve teas on weekends from April to October. Basic snacks are available at Thornham Marina. Emsworth itself has a full range of pubs, cafes and supermarkets a favourite being The Coal Exchange, close to the harbour, for changing real ales, good food and a big fire if Thorney’s weather has chilled you.

  • Island Summary:

    Thorney Island juts out into Chichester harbour in West Sussex and is separated from the mainland by the stretch of water known as the Great Deep. It is owned by the Ministry of Defence and although the large Baker Barracks buildings are currently home for the Royal Artillery there are few visible signs of the military’s historic presence. The lack of commercial development on the island makes this a wonderful haven for wildlife and people alike.

  • Look out for:
    • Ospreys in Autumn at the sandy Pilsey Island nature reserve
    • A warm summer swim off Pilsey Sands
    • Nature-filled and ever-changing views of Chichester Harbour
    • Historic soul of the island in the atmospheric St Nicholas Church
  • Route description:

    This is a clockwise walk on an easy coastal path, part of the Sussex Border Path, along the wildlife-filled Thorney and Emsworth Channels that skirts around the secretive military interior. There are fabulous views of the whole expanse of Chichester harbour, and the wild sandy beach at the southern tip is a great place for a swim.

  • Getting there:

    Thorney Island is easily accessed by rail (Emsworth Station) where a short walk takes you to the start of the walk. By road there are plenty of public carparks in Emsworth, or for starting at The Deck café, leave Emsworth on the A27, go over the bridge and take the first right after the Sussex Brewery. After 500m turn right onto Thorney Road and right again into Mill Quay. The walk can be undertaken in the opposite direction with limited parking at Prinstead.

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