Isle of Wight

Walks: Lake to Ryde, Lake to Shanklin via Venter, Yarmouth Circular

There are two ways to get to the Isle of Wight by train. Both take 2.5 hours from London but offer very smooth connections between train and ferry, and return journeys at least hourly. You can usually stay till around 9pm on the island and still get back to London the same day, though of course it is even better to stay the night.

1) Train from Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour and then seacat (it goes from just next to the railway station) to Ryde. From there you get the island railway to Sandown or Shanklin. Both of these places are on a magnificent five mile sandy beach that runs along the eastern side of the island. This is very pleasant swimming territory, with a shallow bottom and good breakers when the sea is a bit lively. Sandown is a bit more of a resort, with a pier and some 1930s style buildings. Shanklin is more villagey, but has an interesting coastline, particularly at the southern end where the cliffs get tall.

  • Sandown and Shanklin stations are both a fair walk from the sea. To get to the beach quickest, disembark at Lake, the station between them. It has a suburban setting, but is only a couple of hundred metres from the clifftop path, from where there are steps down to the beach.

  • Other things to do in Sandown include walking out to the chalk headland of Culver Point and beyond - see the Lake to Ryde walk. After Culver Point this walk many swimming opportunities when the tide is reasonably high, including Whitecliff Bay, Bembridge, Seagrove Bay near Seaview, and Ryde beach. At low tide the sea retreats quite a long way, however

  • The walk along the clifftop from Sandown to Shanklin, though backed by suburban houses throughout, is also very pleasant with fine views, and you will find a seasonal cafe or two up here.

  • South of Shanklin there is the wonderful coast path to Ventnor, which takes an hour or two and is a fascinating exploration of subtropical vegetation, hidden valleys and the curious jungle of The Landslip - see the Lake to Shanklin via Ventnor walk.

  • Ventnor has a charming beach, with the town rising romantically up the hill behind it. It is swimmable at most states of the tide, though with shallow water covering underwater rocks when the tide is very low. Buses back from there to Shanklin are very frequent. The Spyglass Inn at the western end of the beach is a wonderful place for lunch or dinner.

  • Twenty minutes walk to the west of Ventnor on the east path, Steephill Cove, backed by a cosy cluster of houses, is a scenic place to swim - but only during the top two hours of the tide. Outside of that it has too many rocks. There is a seasonal cafe.

2) Train from Waterloo to Brockenhurst (between Southampton and Bournemouth), which connects with a branch line to Lymington. The train stops on the pier, right beside the ferry to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight – a very rural and attractive ferry crossing, with fine views of the bird life at the mouth of the Lymington River.

Once in Yarmouth, your best swimming option is to walk the couple of miles or so west along the coast path to Colwell Bay or Totland Bay. The latter has a sandy beach, covered at high tide, along with a bar-restaurant - the Waterfront - and a cafe. This is a pleasant sheltered spot for a dip, with gently shelving sand making it ideal for those who don't like to go out of their depth. In summer there are also wonderful sunsets over the sea here.

  • Other things to do from Yarmouth include walking or taking the bus to The Needles (the rocky end of the Isle of Wight, or to Freshwater Bay on its south coast, which has a dramatic rocky cove (also swimmable), a pub and a tea room. Between The Needles and Freshwater Bay is the glorious clifftop walk along Tennyson Down, one of the finest promenades in England. From Freshwater Bay, there is also a pretty walk along the marshy Yar valley to Yarmouth - see the Yarmouth Circular walk. You can do all or any or this, get a very frequent bus back to Yarmouth, and be back in London by bedtime.

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