A beginners guide to a short break on the Isle of Wight: walks, pubs, shops & a bit of culture

It's so easy to fill a few days on the Isle of Wight this Autumn. Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons as the vibrant Autumnal colours make the landscape a photographer's paradise. Quieter than the summer holidays, there's an Autumnal tranquility that begins to settle down over the countryside, whilst the towns and villages continue to bustle before the long winter nights set in.

Cowes is the gateway to the Isle of Wight and makes the perfect base to explore the island from. With a superb choice of bars and restaurants open all year round, you have the choice of a quiet night in at Firefly House or a meal and few drinks in town. Try Mojacs for a quiet dinner, The Coast Bar for the cafe-bistro atmosphere or The Basque Kitchen for some great tapas.

The Island splits easily into North, South, East and West, so we have put together an itinerary for 4 days, one spent in each corner of the Island with a few bolt-on ideas.

Most of the walks featured below are listed on our every growing walking page,

(web links below lead to the property/pub/village's own website or NT)

North - Cowes and Gurnard

  • Culture - A trip to Osborne (Queen Victoria’s residence) would fill a day. Take a passenger ferry from West Cowes to East Cowes, and then it’s about a 20/30 minute walk up hill to the house (or you could get/book at taxi, or drive around). It’s easy to spend a couple of hours wandering around the beautiful terraces, formal gardens and grounds that wind their way down to the beach. Visiting the sumptuous interior of the main house is a great way to learn about the private lives of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their 9 children, how they entertained foreign royalty and visiting ministers, as well as how society developed in the 19th century. VisitIOW are currently promoting Victoria’s Island Trail to celebrate the release of the new Victoria and Abdul film partly shot at Osborne. The trail features several buildings and landmarks that you can visit which were associated to Queen Victoria and her family.

  • Coastal walk - A walk from Cowes to Gurnard takes about half an hour. Beginning in the centre of Cowes, walk along to the Esplanade, past the Royal Yacht Squadron, canons and lions, along the beach and continue along the seafront all the way to Gurnard (all on flat paved footpaths and suitable for buggies). Gurnard is small coastal village with a beach, beachside cafe, a couple of shops and sailing club. There are two pubs, the Woodvale which overlooks the sea, and the Portland Inn, which is more inland near the church. A further stroll from Gurnard takes you to Gurnard Marsh where there is a fine dining beach restaurant The Little Gloster, the perfect stop for a few sundowners with a spectacular view, or a longer lazy lunch (M, T closed, W, Th open for dinner, F, S, S open all day – but do check before you set out)

  • Estuary and town walk - Walking inland from Cowes, you can explore the Medina Estuary, a haven of tranquility and home to an abundance of wildlife. Stroll along the cycle path track from West Cowes to Newport on the west bank of the River Medina. Cross over at Newport Quay, and you can walk back on the east bank through Island Harbour, past the Folly, through Whippingham and you will arrive in East Cowes where you take the passenger ferry back across to West Cowes. If you have less time you can turn around at any point, or get a bus back to Cowes from Newport. If you want to lengthen the trip, explore the Quay Arts Centre in Newport, pay a visit to Osborne in East Cowes, St Mildred's Church in Whippingham, or stop for refreshments at The Folly or the Bargeman's Rest at Newport Quay.


West - Yarmouth

  • Explore the town - Yarmouth is a historic nautical town, which sits on the Solent and the River Yar. There is plenty to fill a day in Yarmouth, around the villages of Freshwater and Totland, the stunning beaches and bays of Totland and Colwell and/or the famous Needles. You could also day trip over to Lymington on the mainland on the Yarmouth ferry. Around Yarmouth, explore the marina, Yarmouth Castle, the quaint shops and galleries, or have a leisurely lunch in the pubs (Bugle, Kings Head, Wheatsheaf), restaurants (Saltys, On the Rocks, ), or at The George Hotel,.

  • Estuary walk - The stunning and tranquil scenery of the River Yar estuary provides the backdrop for an estuary walk, inland, south from Yarmouth. You can cross the river further down and return to Yarmouth on the opposite bank, or you can continue the walk as far as Freshwater Bay.

  • Coastal walk - If you take the western coastal route from Yarmouth, towards Freshwater Bay the route takes you through Fort Victoria country park and the bays of Colwell Bay and Totland Bay. If you don’t want to walk all the way to Freshwater, there are a couple of restaurants you can stop at: The Hut at Colwell Bay is a fine dining fish restaurant (mainly outdoors) with bar (note that it closes at the end of September), or there is The Waterfront at Totland Bay, pub/restaurant, both have fantastic views over the bay.

  • Other ideas - Other things of interest near to Yarmouth include good food at Tapnell Farm (cowco.com), the Planetarium and other attractions at Fort Victoria, Dimbola Lodge photographic museum, Tennyson's Farringford House, The Needles and West Wight Alpacas.

River War Estuary

Colwell Bay

South West Wight

The South West Wight area really justifies an extra day to fully enjoy this stunning area of outstanding natural beauty, but if time does not permit, make sure that you at least drive along the Military Road from either Freshwater or Niton. There are several car parks you can stop to fully enjoy the breathtaking views over the Needles and across the channel.

  • Villages - The South West area of the island is a dedicated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and some of the most beautiful walks and prettiest villages on the Island are around these quaint villages: Brook, Brighstone, Shorwell, Hulverstone, Chale. These traditional villages and hamlets are picture perfect with thatched cottages, little churches, village greens, manor houses and country pubs. The Sun Inn at Hulverstone, The Crown Inn in Shorwell and the Wight Mouse at Chale are all traditional country pubs with real fires, pub menus and car parks from which to explore on foot (most are open all day, but do check websites for winter hours).

  • Beaches - The stretch of the southwest coast known as Compton Bay has a long stunning, windswept and rugged beach. The best area for fossils on the Dinosaur Island, explore as the tide goes out and hunt for the dinosaur footprints (the National Trust website gives advice). Trails and overland walks lead off from the Military Road carparks in all directions, along the coastline, up to the villages, or onto the downs. Don't forget to look out for the ice-cream van which is parked in almost all weathers.

  • Trails - The Tennyson Trail stretches west to east along Compton Down, Brook Down, Mottistone Down and Brighstone Down. At Brighstone Down you turn off onto the Worsley Trail towards Shorwell over Limerstone Down. Design your own walks along the trails, starting from nearby car parks: the National Trust beach carparks at Compton Beach or Brook Chine, Mottistone Manor (NT but apparently free), free car parks at either end of Strawberry Lane in Brighstone, Warnes Lane in Brighstone, Chilton Chine on the Military Road.

  • Other ideas - Other things of interest around the area include: Isle of Wight Pearl, Mottistone Manor gardens, and Calborne Water Mill.

Brook Down

South - Ventnor and Niton

  • Niton Village - Niton is a small village on the most southerly point of the island, just inland from the lighthouse. It has a couple of pubs (The Buddle and the White Lion), Tregear Pottery and small village shop. Knowles Farm in Niton for used by Marconi, inventor of the radio, for his early radio experiments.

  • Walks around Niton - St Catherines Lighthouse sits on the lower coastal part of the village and is fairly easy to walk to from the lower part of the village if you park near the Buddle pub. You can take a tour of the lighthouse through Trinity House. Niton is also a great starting point to walk east to Ventnor and on to Sandown, west to Brighstone or north up to St Catherine’s Oratory (the Pepperpot).

  • Ventnor town - Ventnor is a traditional seaside resort which bustles in the summer months. It grew rapidly in Victorian times as its mild climate was suitable for the treatment of turberculousis. The town now has several streets of shops, pubs and restaurants, a beach, crab and fish shops on the pier, a museum, Ventnor Park, Ventnor Botanic gardens and a thriving arts scene.

  • Walks around Ventnor - From Ventnor you can walk to west to Steephill Cove (about 30 minutes from Ventnor), a pretty, seasonal cove of restaurants and holiday lets. Walking east will take you to Bonchurch and Sandown, or explore north walking up to St Boniface Down.

  • Other ideas - Other things of interest around the area include St Catherine’s Oratory and Appuldurcombe House,

Ventnor Town

East - Bembridge, St Helens, Seaview

  • Bembridge Village - Bembridge is a large village on the east coast of the island and is spread out around the Culver headland. There is a large harbour, small marina, several beaches, lifeboat station, windmill several shops (including fish and crab), art galleries, a deli, a few restaurants and a couple of pubs. There are quite a few restaurants and pubs around Bembridge but some of the favourites are the beach bar The Beach Hut, the cafe boat in the Harbour The Best Dressed Crab, and Lockslane Bistro.

  • St Helens Village - St Helens is between Bembridge and Seaview. The main village is settled around a traditional village green, with a pub, couple of restaurants, and a post office. At the coast, St Helen's Duver has a beach, old church ruins and a beach cafe, Baywatch on the Beach and makes a beautiful setting to explore

  • Seaview Village - Seaview is a small Edwardian resort overlooking the Solent. There are several restaurants including fine dining options Priory Bay Hotel (between Seaview and St Helens) and the Seaview Hotel, as well as The Seaview Bistro , several cafes and a dining pub, The Boathouse.

  • Walks around the area - You can spend quite a long time just exploring the villages and their nearest beaches, but if you want to explore further afield head out to Culver Down, Brading Marshes or Priory Bay.

  • Other ideas - Other things of interest around the area include: Yarborough Monument at Culver Down, Bembridge RNLI Station, Bembridge Windmill, Bembridge Heritage Centre, Bembridge Fort

Bembridge Harbour


#Cowes #walking #walks #Gurnard #Osborne #RiverMedina #Yarmouth #RiverYar #Brook #Brighstone #Shorwell #Compton #TennysonTrail #WorsleyTrail #Ventnor #Niton #StCatherinesLighthouse #SteephillCove #Bembridge #StHelens #StHelensDuver #Seaview #Hulverstone #Chale