Isle of Wight Coastal Path

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Isle of Wight Coastal Path
England, UK

The Isle of Wight is an island located just five miles off the south coast of England. It is known for its beaches, Victorian seaside resorts, cliff tops and sea views.

The Isle of Wight Coastal Path is a 108 kilometre route that takes you around the whole island, dipping inland at Thorness Bay and Osbourne Bay.

Over half of the Isle of Wight is a designated area of natural beauty, so it is an amazing place to explore if you like getting close to nature. It is a diverse area where you can enjoy beaches, cliffs of chalk or dramatic layers of colourful sediments, and plenty of wildlife and natural habitats.

Highlights
  • Sea views
  • Chalk cliffs
  • Fossils
  • Victorian heritage
  • Coastal villages
  • Harbours
Walk Map
About the route

Being a circular walk, the Isle of Wight Coastal Path can be started at any point, however the most popular start and finish location is the town of Cowes.

This walk takes you along 180 kilometres of seaside scenery, historic harbours, sandy beaches, rugged clifftops, Victorian heritage and much more.

Rich in geology, you will be able to walk back in time to the Jurassic era and explore the land where dinosaurs once roamed, look at the colourful layers in the cliffs at Alum Bay, and marvel at the bright white chalk cliffs at The Needles.

As the geology is so diverse, it means that a wide range of wild flowers flourish.

  • Travel

To get to the Isle of Wight, there are regular ferry services from Portsmouth and Southampton.

The Portsmouth ferry takes you across The Solent in less than an hour and arrives at Fishbourne. There is also a catamaran service that takes you from Portsmouth to Ryde.

If you are catching the ferry from Southampton, you will arrive in Cowes.

If you don’t have your own transport, there are regular bus services throughout the island, so accessing any part of the coastal walk is just a matter of hopping on the right bus.

There are less buses to the south coast of the island, so that is worth bearing in mind if you want to walk that part as a day hike.

A single rail service operates along the east side of the island with convenient stops near to the coastal path.

There are hovercraft services available from Southsea to Ryde.

  • Length

The Isle of Wight Coastal Path is 108 kilometres long. With good bus services throughout the island, this walk can be divided into segments.

This walk can be done over four to six days, but it is possible to lengthen or shorten it to meet your fitness levels.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

This walk is graded 2-3. Hikers of average fitness should be able to manage the full route. While the walking is fairly easy, there are some short climbs and descents.

The way is well-marked with blue signs, and it is marked on OS maps.

  • Experience

You don’t have to have a lot of hiking experience to be able to complete the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.

The route is easy to find and people of average fitness will be able to complete this walk.

There are some steep sections and although the path is mostly good underfoot, there may be some loose or muddy parts.

If fitness is a problem, choosing flatter and easier parts of the trail is advisable.

One of the good things about this trail for beginners is that there are plenty of places to rest, get a snack or drink along the way, so apart from your day pack essentials you won’t need to carry excess supplies as you hike.

  • Permits

No permits are requires to walk the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.

  • Guided or Self-Guided

Most hikers choose to do this route self-guided as the way is easy to follow.

There are companies that offer guided walks where you have an expert on hand to point out all of the interesting features along the route, as well as transport your bags to your next accommodation.

It is also possible to just have you bags and accommodation arranged for you, and walk self-guided.

best time to walk

The climate in the south of the UK is usually milder than the rest of the country, so the Isle of Wight Coastal Path can be walked all year round.

The best of the weather is during the spring, summer and autumn. Being a tourist spot, the trail will have more people on it during summer, so if you prefer things quieter, choose a different season.

Another benefit of walking outside of the summer season, is that there is more choice in available accommodation and prices may be cheaper.

A typical itinerary would be:

Day 1:
Cowes to Yarmouth – 26 kilometres

Day 2:
Yarmouth to Brightstone – 23 kilometres

Day 3:
Brightstone to Niton – 13 kilometres

Day 4:
Niton to Sandown – 14 kilometres

Day 5:
Sandown to Ryde – 19 kilometres

Day 6:
Ryde to Cowes – 13 kilometres

Accommodation

The Isle of Wight is a tourist spot, so you will find a wide range of accommodation available. From large hotels in the towns, to smaller BnBs, hostels and campsites, there’s a place to stay to suit any budget.

During summer, places may get booked up quickly. There is usually more choice in accommodation if you choose to walk this route in spring or autumn.

What to do

Spend some time admiring The Needles, a famous landmark. They are three tall, chalk rocks that rise from the sea at the western tip of the island.

The southern beaches on the Isle of Wight are a fossil hunter’s haven! The island is one of the places in Europe with the highest concentrations of prehistoric and dinosaur fossils. Fossils and bones are regularly discovered, due to the erosion of the coast.

The Isle of Wight was an important part of the defence of the nation during the World Wars, and relics of this can still be seen along the coast.

Osbourne House was the holiday home of Queen Victoria. The house and grounds are open to the public. The interior and grounds are well preserved, so you can get a feel for what life was like for a Victorian royal.

If you like birds, the marshland and mudflats at Bembridge wetlands is home to a wide variety.

Look at red squirrels in the forest and woodland areas. The Isle of Wight is one of the last places in England where this species of squirrel still exists.

Published: January 2, 2020 Modified: April 24, 2020
Operators
Mickledore
Mickledore
Mickledore specialises in self-guided walking holidays in the UK for the independent traveller.
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At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking, Walking
Difficulty 2/5 - 3/5
Starts at Cowes, UK
Finishes at Cowes, UK
Length of route 108 Km
Average time to complete 5 - 7 Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsYes
Highest point 160 metres
Permit requiredNo
Equipment neededTrekking gear, walking boots
Countries visited England, UK