On the Wight track

 

The Isle of Wight Walking Festival – a celebration of walking

You may have visited the Isle of Wight many times before, but have you ever truly stepped off the beaten track and explored it on foot?

With more than 800km/500 miles of footpaths cutting through beautiful countryside or along a breathtaking coastline, the Isle of Wight is the ideal place for your rambling adventure.

Helping visitors explore that bit further, every year Visit Isle of Wight hosts walking festivals as a celebration of walking and nature. Spanning nine days, the Autumn Walking Festival takes place between 8 and 16 October, with more than 40 bookable treks.

Walk it with family, take a stroll with friends or connect with like-minded new people in the great outdoors. Why not reconnect with nature and learn about the island’s thriving wildlife or make a spooktacular night of it with a ghost walk? There’s something for everyone to enjoy.

A family walking along a path under trees and by a field

The tours are guided by volunteer walk leaders from groups such as Isle of Wight Ramblers, National Trust and local businesses. There’s nothing these passionate islanders couldn't – or wouldn't – tell you about their favourite routes, special viewpoints and cosy cafés or pubs to sit back and relax with a drink at the end of a day on your feet.

If you can’t make it across for the festival this year, top tips and routes can be downloaded from the Isle of Wight Walking Festival website. Come across any time and walk the island at your own leisurely – or speedy – pace. Whether you enjoy a light stroll, are looking for your next heart-racing challenge or are simply after a new destination to discover, take inspiration from the locals sharing their most trodden paths. So go for the day or stay a while, but be sure to make time to explore and enjoy some of the island’s best autumn rambles.

The Autumn Walking Festival runs from Saturday 8 until Sunday 16 October. All guided walks must be booked via isleofwightwalkingfestival.co.uk

People gathered outside a windmill, in the late afternoon sun

Say yes to autumn adventures on the Isle of Wight

Treat your senses to the sights, smells and sounds of autumn on the Isle of Wight.

With 50% of the island designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and one of the few places in the UK to gain UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status for its unspoiled landscape, clear waters and thriving wildlife, the Isle of Wight is awash with photo opportunities of autumn foliage and sweeping views, all tinted with red and orange.

Join the Isle of Wight Ramblers

Isle of Wight Rambler David Howarth will take walkers on a route he knows well: across Brading Marshes nature reserve, the only Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve on the island. The route takes in Bembridge Harbour and Windmill. Fellow Rambler Linda Jones will host a walk in Gatcombe and the surrounding areas.

Four pairs of legs and boots walking over a small wooden bridge

The wild west

Walk the route of the internationally renowned Needles Half Marathon with Rachel Richards, taking in Freshwater Way, beautiful views of Compton and Totland Bay, the National Trust’s Headon Warren (a designated AONB), The Needles and Tennyson Down.

Staying in West Wight, Rachel also takes walkers on one of her favourite routes – Grammars Common, The Longstone and The Downs – starting in the pretty village of Brighstone, heading across National Trust land to The Longstone and over Mottistone Down. Camp Wight also enjoys sharing its best trek with visitors, The Western Headland of Newtown Creek, walking around the nature reserve and through Bouldnor Forest.

Even island MP Bob Seely is a keen walker. His favourite route is the Warrior Trail from Mottistone. The Warrior Trail was created in celebration of one of the Isle of Wight’s most prominent First World War stories, that of Bob’s great-grandfather, General Jack Seely, and his horse, Warrior – a real-life war horse.

For something more leisurely, try The Terrace restaurant’s Yarmouth River Loop. Make your way up the River Yar and keep your eyes peeled for sea eagles and other wildlife. Cross the causeway and wander back through fields and woodland until you’re back at The Terrace. Stay to enjoy beautiful views of The Solent over lunch.

The most famous local

Luckily for wildlife lovers, you’re likely to get a glimpse of the island’s most famous local, the native red squirrel, come rain or shine. Walking with Ray Braithwaite through Alverstone Mead, a lowland freshwater wetland nature reserve, is a good place to start. Naturezones offers opportunities in both annual walking festivals to get even closer to these animals, with their Squirrel Valley Trail, Eco Valley Trail and Nature’s Table treks. 

Southern adventures

Join Francis Quinn for his Two Saintly Lighthouses tour to view a medieval lighthouse at a high level and a fully operational Victorian one at sea level. You can expect some of the most spectacular views from the south of the island.

A couple close together looking out at a sunset over the sea

Step back in time

Island historian and author Tim Wander takes you on a stroll around Puckpool Battery and down to Appley Tower. He will explain the many changes the Palmerston gun battery underwent, reveal its secrets and highlight its pivotal role as HMS Medina during D-Day.

Tim will also give you an insight into the quaint sailing town of Cowes with the Royalty, Racing and Rigging walk, a fascinating stroll to look at this small town’s important historic connections with the Royal Family, as well as its role at the centre of world yacht racing and a glimpse into its boat-building past.

Across the river, the Queen Victoria’s Historical Visitors walk starts just outside Osborne House and takes you on a journey from when Queen Victoria was in power.

Or why not join the Lost Crypt Ryde Walk, inspired by Aspire Ryde’s The Lost Crypt Escape Room? Hear stories of the Linds and the Maybricks and their suspected connection to Jack the Ripper. Plus, there’s the opportunity to book the escape room afterwards.

Out west, the Robert Hooke Trail takes you back even further by introducing the life and career of the internationally renowned scientist, born in Freshwater in 1635.

Celebrate the island’s coastal footpath 

For the Autumn Festival, The New Carnival Company are creating a programme of short and longer walks celebrating the island’s coastal footpath as part of a three-year arts and walking project linked to the opening of the new national trail – the England Coast Path – and a designated national Year of the Coast festival planned for 2023. They will have different locations spread out across the island and bring together local artists, schoolchildren and communities – and all the walks are free. Stand by for further booking information! 

Getting to, from and around the island

The Walking Festival has partnered with local travel companies Red Funnel, Wightlink and Hovertravel to provide exclusive offers and discounts for journeying across The Solent. Once on the island, Southern Vectis offers discounted day- and week-long travel passes across its great bus network.

In the spirit of walking, event organisers are promoting sustainable travel where possible, encouraging walkers to leave their cars at home and use public transport to get to, from and around the island. There are excellent rail links to the main crossing ports of Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington with South Western Railway.

Walking up an appetite

The Isle of Wight offers a wonderful culinary experience wherever you may end up, but some great walker pitstops across the island include:

Tearooms 

Try Quarr Abbey Teashop (between Ryde and Fishbourne) for home-made sandwiches, cakes and quiche, and Smugglers Haven Tea Gardens (Ventnor) for a light lunch steeped in history.

Local produce

Check out The Garlic Farm (Newchurch) for a delicious brunch made from local produce. Off the Rails (Yarmouth) offers exciting plates at the old station on the marshes or you can enjoy a doorstop crab sandwich and a glass of fizz at The Best Dressed Crab in Bembridge, a floating café with views of the harbour and the duver (an Isle of Wight term for an area of sand dunes).

Pubs

Try The Sun at Hulverstone for a hearty local roast; the old pub is nestled beneath The Longstone and the Warrior Trail with views across West Wight. For the best pub on the beach, see the charming, thatched Fisherman’s Cottage at Shanklin beneath the Chine.

Whether you are a serious walker looking for a challenge or just want something to entertain the family this autumn, pack your walking boots and wellies, layer up your woollies and enjoy the beautiful Isle of Wight landscape at this special time of year. The best way to see the island is on foot!

Take part

The Isle of Wight Autumn Walking Festival runs from Saturday 8 until Sunday 16 October. All guided walks must be booked via isleofwightwalkingfestival.co.uk