Secret Strolls & Picnic Knolls

If you're coming to the Isle of Wight you have to take at least one walk to discover the real beauty of the Island. Getting up high to look out over our green and pleasant land and the sparkling seas that surround the Isle is a must, or get off of the beaten track with a picnic hamper for a quintessentially Isle of Wight experience. Here are a few of our favourite ambles.

Up to the Longstone - overlooking the south west coast

Park at Mottistone Manor car park and take a look around the beautiful gardens. The house is only open twice a year, but the gardens are lovely and a riot of colour and textures. Take the public footpath up the side of the garden to the Longstone, which is only a stone's throw (upwards) from the top of the garden.

This is the Island's only neolithic site – a former burial mound that is now a large standing stone with one recumbent beside it. New Forest ponies graze wild in the field around the stone and there are stunning views across the valley to the downs and Brighstone Forest. Or walk a little further down the 'road' to the stone and you will have panoramic views of the coast. Stop and enjoy a picnic on one of the many grassy knolls along the path and just take in the vista.

Stay: You can rent the Longstone Cottage just beneath the stone from the National Trust. This Victorian cottage once only had gas for cooking and lamps but now boasts a solar array for some electrical power.

A Railway Ramble - to the West

The River Yar in the West Wight is a great place to explore the marshes and their wide range of wildfowl and wildlife. Wander up the old railway track from Yarmouth to Freshwater old village for lunch at the Red Lion. The churchyard next-door is carpeted with flowers in the spring and you can find the graves of Tennyson's wife Emily and his sons and some of their offspring too, all looking out over the ever-changing estuary of the Yar. Grab breakfast at Off the Rails bistro situated in the old railway station at the Yarmouth end of the line - great homemade food and seriously nice coffee.

Stay: You could hire the Boathouse at the Yarmouth end of the old railway line and wake up looking over the water every morning.

Newtown Creek - in the north west

Newtown on the north west coast of the Island is an amazing nature reserve, which is best enjoyed from a boat moored in the creek. You could then take your tender to the shore for exploring or indulging in a bit of evening fishing. There are loads of unusual birds to see here, such as Ospreys who return to nest each year and Lapwings, who nest on the ground in the surrounding fields. Up in the old town there is an ancient building that was once the Town Hall – this area was once a rotten borough and returned two MPs to parliament including a former Prime Minister.

Stay: You are so far from civilization that the only option in these parts is to camp and Pickpockets, the site here is so special that you have to join the camping and caravan club to get in on it and it only takes five caravans or motorhomes, including campervans that you can hire. Or if you come by boat you could moor for the night.

The Lush Landslip - in the deep south

Walk from Shanklin to Ventnor through the lush green vegetation of the Landslip that runs from Luccombe to Bonchurch. Sit on the huge stone wishing seat and plan your next life moves, then climb up the Devil's Chimney to the Smuggler's Haven tearooms for one of their special recipe scones with your cream tea. Cross the road and trek on up to the top of the downs from here for a panoramic view of this end of the Island. Or you could carry on through the trees to Bonchurch's Horseshoe Bay (you'll see why when you get there) and a meander up to the Old Church – one of the two oldest churches on the Island as Christianity first came to the Island at Bonchurch with missionary monk St Wilfred, who was also known as Bonne Face because of his countenance – or so legend has it.

Stay: At the Hillside Hotel in Ventnor, nestled beneath the greenery of the downs, which has great reviews for its food. Or the Bourne Hall Hotel at the Luccombe end of this lovely walk, which has its own indoor and outdoor pools and far reaching views over the Bay Area of the Island.

Brading Estuary - in the East

Start at the railway station in Brading and walk across the Eastern Yar estuary to see the former sea walls of the port that once extended this far inland. This is now an RSPB reserve and there are loads of wildfowl and visiting birds to see so make sure you bring your binoculars and/or a camera. Meander up into Centurion's Copse, then further across the fields to Bembridge Windmill (now owned and maintained by the National Trust) and you can carry on right up to the top of Culver Cliff from here, which has panoramic views over the eastern end of the Island and to the mainland beyond.

Stay: For a spot of luxury the Priory Bay Hotel in nearby Seaview is one of the Island's top hotels.

Jo Macaulay

22 April 2016

By Jo Macaulay in Articles

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