Walking the West Wight

Walking is the best way to get to know the hidden corners of West Wight.

Coastal Path

Photo: Albany Associates

The classic walk from the bothy at Freshwater Bay is over Tennyson Down and West High Down to the Needles.

Rambles by Bus

Another good option is walking the Pilgrim’s Way to Brook Down and then back via Compton Farm. Or just stick to the coastal path to Hanover Point or Brook Chine and walk back towards Freshwater Bay along the beach to the steps near Compton Chine.

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West Wight local history

The name Freshwater in West Wight comes from the spring in Witches’ Copse.

Freshwater Gate (now Bay) is the opening to the Channel where merchant ships and navy vessels called in to fill their barrels for the voyage ahead.

Needles Old Battery

Photo: Albany Associates

In the 19th century eminent Victorians came to visit Tennyson at Farringford; Prince Edward stayed at a number of holiday villas with Lillie Langtry; and the government built forts and gun batteries to protect Britain from invasion from France.

The West Wight military installations also served in the 20th century. The Needles Battery hosts living history re-enactments and on the headland to the south you can see the remains of a top-secret rocket-testing station. This is all within easy walking distance over the downs from the bothy at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.

 

West Wight painters, photographers and writers

The coast and landscape of West Wight have inspired painters, photographers and writers for more than 200 years.

George Morland stayed at The Inn, now The Albion hotel. JMW Turner’s first oil painting Fishermen at Sea portrays a storm in Freshwater Bay. He must have witnessed the raging waters from the windows of the same inn in 1796.

Freshwater Bay

Photo: Albany Associates

Victorian photography pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron fell in love with the intense stillness and clarity of light. Her home at Dimbola Lodge is now a museum of photography. Famous visitors included Tennyson, Darwin, Thackeray, Longfellow, Sir Arthur Sullivan, Edward Lear, Ellen Terry, John Ruskin, John Everett Millais, Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, Lewis Carroll and little Alice Liddell. This Victorian cultural circle was satirised by Mrs Cameron’s great-niece Virginia Woolf in her play Freshwater.

Later visitors to Freshwater Bay include TS Eliot (on honeymoon), George Bernard Shaw (also on honeymoon!), John Betjeman, JB Priestley, WH Auden, Christopher Isherwood and DH Lawrence. The Trespassers includes recognisable descriptions of the beach and cliffs… all within a few minutes’ walk of the bothy at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.

 

West Wight Watersports

There is an abundance of watersports to choose from in West Wight. 

West Wight watersports

Photo: Albany Associates

Freshwater Bay and Compton Bay are popular with surfers. Compton Bay also attracts paddle-boarders and body-boarders. Divers favour the sheltered waters of Freshwater Bay. You will also see SUPers on the river Yar at Old Freshwater and Yarmouth, and at the foot of Colwell Chine.

Swimming from the beaches at Totland Bay and Colwell Bay is popular with young families. There is an indoor pool at Moa Place, Freshwater. Yarmouth is the place for yachting and river canoeing. Sea kayaking and coasteering is based near the bothy at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.

 

Cycling in West Wight

There are plenty of choices when it comes to cycling in West Wight. 

West Wight

Photo: Albany Associates

You can walk from Coastguard Lane through Afton Marsh or cycle from the beach along Afton Road and then  follow the former railway line from the End of the Line cafe to Yarmouth.

Cyclists also head for Alum Bay passing Farringford and the High Down Inn; Brook Bay and Chale along the Military Road; and Shorwell via Mottistone and Brighstone.

The bothy at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, is an ideal choice for walkers and cyclists… perfect for two.