It’s nearly the holiday season so chance are, you will be off out on a good walk or bike ride at some point over the break and with over 500 miles of award-winning footpaths, bridleways and tracks you are never too far from a start and finishing line. Both are a great form of exercise (especially after the indulgence of December) and also a brilliant way of exploring the Island, you might still even find footpaths and cycle paths you never knew existed. So dust off those boots, stick a warm coat on and set out with our guide to discover some great routes on the Isle of Wight
The magic of the Island’s small scale is that you don’t have to go very far to find yourself well away from the bustling towns and villages. The gently rolling chalk downs hide many valleys and pathways that lead off, seemingly to nowhere – but before long take an adventurous explorer to another part of this patchwork of countryside. Even at the busiest time, a canny walker or cyclist can quickly find themselves all alone, with just the song of the birds and the distant sound of the sea for company. And when it’s time for a cuppa, a mulled wine, or even a thoroughly indulgent pub dinner, it never takes that long to find your way back to civilisation again.
On foot or by bike is without doubt one of the best ways to experience the Island’s beauty. There are walks and cycle routes available across the whole Island, really making the most of the miles of coastline and bridleways. Try the Hamstead Trail – An easy, family-friendly walking route, just seven miles long and crosses from the north to south coasts of the Isle of Wight in the West Wight. It crosses salt marches, woodlands and open countryside with a great opportunity for spotting wildlife too.
Or, Shepherds Trail – Another walk suitable for the whole family, this trail starts at Carisbrooke Castle in the centre of the Island and heads south to finish at Chine Farm. Passing chalky hills with stunning countryside views and close by historic manor houses.
There’s plenty to please those who want a challenge. Sailors will be familiar with the annual ‘Round the Island Race’, where racing yachts compete to circle the Island in a day. But walkers and cyclists have both got routes to make their own circumnavigation, with the celebrated Isle of Wight Coastal Path.
At 65 miles long it is one of the best-known and popular long-distance coastal walks in the country. It’s particularly attractive to walkers because of the absence of steep hills and the spectacular sea views along most of the route. Sections of the walk are easy to complete in a day, or if you are really keen, you could do the whole lot over several days.
Similarly the 62-mile Round the Island Cycle Route is a popular day’s ride and the ideal day-trip for a keen cyclist – or take it easy and make a week of it. The permanently-signed route can be started and finished at any point, leading along country lanes and through towns and villages, without too many busy roads. It’s not always quite as close to the coast as the Coastal Path but you can still be sure of some superb views along the spectacular coastline, especially on the Military Road in the southwest of the Island, which has one of the most glorious views in England.