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Isle of Wight Coastal Path

The Isle of Wight is often referred to as being Southern England in miniature. The Isle of Wight Coastal Path is a great way to get a flavour of what people mean by that.

Stretching to 67 miles in all, this path is a series of engaging walks which take you round the coast of the island, visiting most of the well known island attractions and sights on the way.

Handfast Point
Handfast Point © Jim Champion via Flickr

The Isle of Wight as a whole is well catered for when it comes to officially defined walks, boasting 8 trails over and above the 6 which comprise the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.

Sandown to Shanklin Section of  Isle of Wight Coastal Path
Sandown to Shanklin Section © Ronald Saunders via Flickr

The coastal path from Steephill Cove to Ventnor.
The coastal path from Steephill Cove to Ventnor.

The walking is easy on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path with generally only mild ascents and descents to be made en route, though some are steeper.

The northern sections spend more time away from the coast itself than the others, but this tends to be necessitated by the lay of the land and it happens pretty infrequently considering the rest of the route.

There is much to be seen on the path with striking chalk geology featuring heavily in the south and west.

Sandown to Shanklin Clifftop Walk
Sandown to Shanklin Clifftop Walk © Ronald Saunders via Flickr

There are great views out to sea and many interesting places to visit, reflecting the island's heritage and royal patronage over the years.

Alum Bay looking towards the Needles.
Alum Bay looking towards the Needles © David Short via Flickr

It should be noted that many of the cliff edges can be unstable, so you should make a point of not venturing too near to them.

Hurst Castle from the coastal path at Cliff End,near Yarmouth
Hurst Castle © Brambling via Flickr

Regular ferry services sail between the Isle of Wight and

  • Keyhaven
  • Lymington
  • Portsmouth
  • Southampton

Bembridge Fort
Bembridge Fort © Andrew via Flickr

Here is a summary of The Isle of Wight Coastal Path sections:




The startpoint of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.

Cowes - Yarmouth

Length: 16 miles
Total since start: 16 miles

A gentle introduction to the Isle of Wight Coastal Path with mildly rolling landscape to follow. There's plenty to see on this section, starting out with the Royal Yacht Squadron as you leave Cowes. In addition to the world-famous Cowes Week in early August, there tend to be boating events on at most times throughout the season. The trail leads you along cliff tops before descending onto the beach at Thorness bay.

After the Thorness Holiday Village you veer away from the coast and inland through the Newton National Nature Reserve with rich bird watching opportunities on offer.

Shortly thereafter, the trail makes its way back towards the coast, eventually arriving in the attractive, bustling town of Yarmouth.

Yarmouth - Brighstone

Length: 14 miles
Total since start: 30 miles

This section of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path is dominated by the three pinnacles of the Needles and the multi-coloured cliffs of Alum bay. When at the cliffs, the 19th Century Old Battery is well worth a visit. This is a striking defensive fortress built into the chalk cliffs to repel French invasion.

From The Needles and Scratchell's Bay, the trail continues along the chalk ridge of Tennyson's Down past the Tennyson Monument following chalk cliff tops past Compton Bay with its excellent beaches. From there you pass along Brighstone Bay before arriving in your destination of Brighstone.

Brighstone - Niton

Length: 8 miles
Total since start: 38 miles

This section of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path features the Isle of Wight's famous chines (coastal gullies) with Whale Chine being the most spectacular of these. With these and features like the St. Catherine's Lighthouse at St. Catherine’s point, many feel this section offers the best walking and views of the entire Isle of Wight Coastal Path.

This section contains some steeper ascents and descents than the others so far. You should be especially wary of the cliff edges in this section as they're prone to landslip.

Niton - Sandown

Length: 9 miles
Total since start: 47 miles

Walking on this section of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path is easy once you've made the ascent onto the cliffs over Packaster Cove.

The Ventnor Botanic Gardens lie just after Steephill Cove and offer an impressive range of exotic plants and other facilities, not least a smuggling museum.

Bonchurch and Landslip offer picturesque and engaging sites of historical and geological interest.

Thereafter, as you approach the modern resorts of Shanklin and your destination of Sandown, the trail passes along Victorian beachfront walks and a more developed landscape.

Sandown - Ryde

Length: 12 miles
Total since start: 59 miles

There's lots to see on this section of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path, running as it does along the island's popular east coast. There's the zoo and big cat sanctuary at Yaverland, the Maritime Museum at Bembridge, Flamingo Park and Puckpool Park. In addition, there are National Trust areas of interest at Bembridge Down and The Duver.

The walking on this section is easy with few climbs or descents to negotiate.

Ryde - Cowes

Length: 8 miles
Total since start: 67 miles

This final section of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path tends to run further from the coast than other sections, in much the same way that the first section did. Here, you move inland after crossing the Wootton Creek. Before that, a highpoint is Quarr Abbey, originally a Cistercian site dating from the 12th Century. The present abbey, however, was built in the early 20th Century by Benedictine monks.

This section arguably keeps the best, or at least the most popular, 'til last though. The stunning Osborne House, a favourite retreat of Queen Victoria is the singular most popular attraction on the Isle of Wight.

Thereafter the trail continues back to East Cowes and the end of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.

You can continue reading about other National Trails and Long Distance Walks using the links at the bottom of the page.

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