On the summer bank holiday weekend, Dani and I decided last minute to tour the Isle of Wight on our bicycles. After some brief research into the route and a lot of luck with the weather we toured the full route around the island over 2 days.
The Isle of Wight is the England’s largest island, and it is positioned off the south coast below Southampton and Portsmouth. There are regular ferries which run from Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington.
We used Wight Link to travel from Gosport Harbour in Portsmouth to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. During the day ferries run every half an hour, but this is reduced to hourly at off peak times. You can find a link to the Wight Link website here. https://www.wightlink.co.uk/
The Isle of Wight cycling route is approximately 105 kilometre/65 mile with 1380 meters/4500 feet. There are a few long ascents but for the most part, it is undulating rather than excessively steep. The whole route is well sign posted with blue and white signs. Blue signs with a white island go anti-clockwise, and white signs with a blue island go clockwise. The signs can be relatively spaced out, but they are present at every junction, crossroad or roundabout. Further information on cycling the Isle of Wight can be found at the official website linked here. https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/cycling/round-the-island-route
The island can be cycled in a day, but it can easily be enjoyed over 2 or more days. There are plenty of hotels available, so you do not necessarily have to carry have to pack as much as we did but the camping was a lot of fun.
I have been slowly kitting my previously commuter bike (now I am working from home commuting is a thing of the past), a Kona Rove AL cyclocross bike for touring. I now have a pannier rack and 2 pannier bags as well as a bunch of bungie cords to attach things to my bike. Dani had recently bought herself a new bike and was keen to get out for an adventure. Touring the Isle of Wight seemed to fit what we wanted.
We planned to split the route in half cycling from the North of the Island to the South coast and camping the night when approximately 50 kilometres/30 miles in. I own a lot of light weight trekking gear so that was sorted but when travelling with Dani I would need to take a few more luxuries including at the very least a Mokka pot for real coffee (worth the extra weight on my bike).
We travelled to Portsmouth on the Sunday, me in my van from Bristol and Dani via trail from London. The ferry arrived in Ryde at about midday and after a few final adjustments and faff, were ready we set off.
From Ryde, we followed the coast east towards Seaview before cycling south to Nettlestone where we picked up the route. What we had not realised until we started cycling through Ryde was that this weekend was hosting the Isle of Wight International Scooter Rally so when we got to Nettlestone, we stopped for about an hour to watch thousands of scooters ride past.
After the scooters had passed, we followed the white signs with a blue island as we were travelling clockwise around the island. The cycling route travels to the most easterly point of the island before coming away from the coastal roads and heading inland and south towards Ventnor. Most of the path follows small lanes which weave through the beautiful countryside but are quite undulating. This is especially noticeable when travelling with a tent, sleeping bag, food, and cooking equipment on your bike.
After leaving Ventnor, we chose to follow the main road, the Military Road (A3055). The main cycle path is set back from the main road to help avoid the worst of the traffic but as it was getting late on a Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon, we felt that it was safe to cycle on the main road. The benefit of cycling on the main road is that it is smoother and closer to the beautiful coastline.
While nearing the 60 km point of our ride along the coastal road we passed a large sign saying “campsite”. We cycled into Chine Farm campsite and headed along the gravel track. We stopped and chatted to a group outside their caravan. They assured me that the campsite was suitable for tents and we could pitch anywhere available as well. The only issue being was there were no facilities other than a water point. Toilet stops would have to wait until the morning (fortunately there are several public toilets on route). They directed us towards the end field which is at the top of the cliff with a glorious view overlooking the beach and sea.
We set up our tent, got our sleeping bags and roll matts ready and then walked along the coastal path marvelling at the beautiful view before returning to get started with boiling our water for some surprisingly delicious refreeze dried food. A cup of hot chocolate later and a fair bit of star gazing, and we were in our tent for the night.
The next day, the weather was not as bright and sunny but still dry. After a slower than planned start, we were packed up and back on the road. We continued down the military road to Freshwater Bay. The route then turns northwards but we decided to travel to the most westerly point to see the Needles. The Needles are 3 chalk stacks that rise out of the sea off the western part of the island. There is also a very impressive lighthouse on the final stack.
Note – We didn’t get to see the needles clearly as to see them from the top of the cliffs you need to enter a small National Trust site that cost £7 per person. We opted to miss this to save money and time as we were running a bit behind.
Having left the needles, we re-joined the Isle of Wight cycle route and travelled north towards Yarmouth. Yarmouth is a small port town on the west of the island and is named for its location at the mouth of the River Yar. We stopped in Yarmouth in a cafe near the coast for a late lunch. Being so close to the sea it is essential to have some local sea food so fresh crab on a jacket potato later; we were well fuelled for the next leg of our journey to Cowes.
We were wanting to catch the ferry from Rydes at 18:00 but we had spent a little bit too long enjoying our potatoes by the coast, so it was going to be tight. In Cowes, we needed to cross the River Medina. This is done by using the Floating Bridge however, this is currently suspended and there is a replacement service. This service is 1 man and a small boat, not a large ferry sized shuttle.
If you are planning to do this route, the lack of Floating Bridge could cause serious delays if you arrive at peak time. A link to the Floating Bridge Service can be found here. https://www.iow.gov.uk/council/otherservices/Cowes-Floating-Bridge/Cowes-Chain-Ferry
Once across the river, it was a race against time to get back to Rydes on time. We really pushed our tired legs and heavy bikes to get back on time. We blasted into Rydes, through the town and towards the ferry station.
I shot around the corner to see the ferry staff lifting the access bridge. They left at 17:59!! Begrudgingly, we retired into the building and waited an hour for the next one.
As last-minute plans go, this was a great one. Any questions about what I took, how to get to the Isle of Wight or anything else. Please get in touch.