Isle of Wight Coast Path

Island walking

This page describes the Isle of Wight Coastal Path. The island has a unique character and the people are more friendly and relaxed than their south coast counterparts.

2014: Compton Bay - a geological timeline - this is one of many Isle of Wight Coastal Path images in this album.

Description of the path

The Isle of Wight Coastal Path largely follows to coast around the island. In several places there are some inland deviations eg defence sites and at Osborne House. There are also regular diversions due to coastal erosion.

The terrain is generally flat with few hills on the north half of the island. The chalk downs in the south introduce some gradients but you will always be rewarded by spectacular views.

The route also takes in the established resorts of Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor as well as Cowes. To cross the Medina here there is a chain ferry (free to pedestrians).
As a visitor the bus service provides an easy and often spectacular way of getting around the island and the islands railway serves the east coast well.

The sea is continually eating away at the island with the south west coast in particular suffering from rapid coastal erosion. The southern coast has its own micro climate - largely due to the fact that the high cliffs have continually broken off and slumped in stages into the sea resulting in south facing terraces.

There are different views depending in whether your walk is clockwise or anti-clockwise. The listing below is clockwise from Yarmouth. In places the official route misses out on some spectacular viewpoints eg at the Needles and on Bembridge Down.The stages below incorporate minor extensions these features in the routes. The walk is suitable all year round though the northern clays lead to slippery paths when wet.

Isle of Wight Coastal Path Stats

1. Overall

Topic Info comment
Terminus Yarmouth Town Hall
Terminus Yarmouth Town Hall
Total Distance 121.5 km
Lowest point Beaches - high water line 2m [amsl]
Highest point Tennyson Down 147.0m [amsl]

2. Stages Completed

Since the path is a circular walk it is possible to start anywhere and there are suggested stages on the Isle of Wight path web pages [see references below]. However the stages listed here are based in the experience of a day visits to the island and are therefore aligned with public transport links. The bus service (Southern Vectis) generally provides an excellent service and is the recommended way of reaching most parts of the island.

The stages below follow a clockwise order around the coast. The distance is taken from the gps track data.

Stage Distance Terrain
Yarmouth-Windgate Copse 15.9km coast-flat
Windgate Copse-East Cowes* 13.0km coast-flat
East Cowes - Ryde** 15.8km coast-flat
Ryde - Sandown* 20.1km coast-moderate
Sandown - Ventnor 10.1km coast-moderate
Ventnor - Chale 11.0km coast-moderate
Chale - Freshwater* 18.8km coast-moderate
Freshwater - Yarmouth* 15.8km coast-hilly

*These paths had small diversions due to coastal erosion. Some of these are temporary and others may become permanent.

**This stage distance includes a small diversion of approx 1.5km to the1969 Isle of wight Festival site at Wootton Bridge,

3. Percent and total distance walked to date

Completed % Who Distance Year Notes
100% completed KM 121.5km 2011-2012 clockwise
100% completed HM&KM 121.5km 2012-2013 anticlockwise
100% completed HM&KM 121.5km 2013 - 2014 clockwise

The distances in practice have varied very slightly. This is owing to minor diversions because of coastal erosion on some stages.

For a change we are currently walking the chalk ridge along the Isle of Wight from The needles to Culver Down.

Points of Interest

Cowes Chain Ferry - high tide Chain ferry - Cowes: - one of only five operating chain ferries today. This links Cowes on the west bank of the Medina to East Cowes. It is alwasy busy and is free to foot passengers.
Ventnor South coast - micro climate: - the successive "rotational slumping" of the high cliffs into the sea has led to a sheltered south facing coast that is also protected in the winter. The slumps tend to generate terraces parallel with the coast and occasionally small ribbon ponds as at Bonchurch. It is not surprising that the Botantic Gardens chose the site near Ventnor.
Approaching Atherfield Point Coastal erosion approaching Atherfield Point: - the rapid erosion ensures that the rock colours are always fresh and bright along this section of coast as far as Freshwater.

Getting there - access

The stage termini are all generally determined by public transport access (bus or ferry).

The island has four main ferry routes:

  • Lymington-Yarmouth, Fishbourne-Portsmouth, Ryde Pier-Portsmouth [Wightlink]
  • Cowes-Southampton, East Cowes-Southampton [Red Funnel].
  • Ryde Esplanade-Southsea [Hovertravel]

The entire path is well served by Southern Vectis bus services.

Some stages are shorter than others to accommodate time travelling to the island and on to the stage terminus.

Each page includes a section regarding access to start/end points. In all cases this is based on experience using public transport.


Start: 19 October 2011
End: 16 July 2014

References & Links:

Date Title
20140615 Isle of Wight [Wikipedia]
20140615 Isle of Wight paths [IoW Tourist info Site]
20140615 Isle of Wight path closures [IoW Council]
20140615 Southern Vectis bus services
20140615 Red Funnel & RedJet ferry
20140615 WightLink ferry
20140615 Hovertravel
20140615 Geology of the Isle of Wight [Ian West]

Updated KJM 09 December 2014