This walk has a great variety; a stroll along low sea cliffs leads towards St Lawrence, after which it heads inland and clambers up onto the far higher cliffs inland. These grant superb views over the Undercliffs and the English Channel below. Sadly it does not visit the lighthouse at St Catherine's Point - the southernmost point of the island - but instead continues on along the cliffs. Good views of St Catherine's Hill are granted inland before the path descends to reach the small village of Chale.
3 hours 38 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
(In these notes, a ‘chine' is a local word for a valley.) This leg starts off at the harbour below the main town of Ventnor.
At the harbour, turn right and follow the promenade westwards for a third of a mile beside the beach. When the Spyglass Inn is reached, turn right up a road that climbs above the pub. The road soon turns into a hairpin bend; here continue straight on westwards through a car park. A path starts seawards of the car park; continue on until ;Ventnor' is written in white letters on a bank to the right. Shortly after this turn right up another path that swings to the left and then starts to descend to meet the cliffs once more. Follow the path westwards as it crosses some grass and meets a track at SZ553770. Continue on down this track until it reaches a promenade that can be followed all the way to Castle Cove.
Pass in front of the buildings at the cove until a cafe is reached and then turn right up a path between buildings. It turns to the right before meeting another track; turn left along this to follow a path westwards along the top of the cliffs, passing to the seaward of the Ventnor Botanical Gardens. It leaves the gardens beside an old brick-built incinerator; continue on along a field with a hedge on the right. When the hedge ends continue straight on, aiming for a gap in a hedge that leads to a track.
Follow the track westwards past a house; when it ends continue straight on along a path for three quarters of a mile as it follows the edge of the cliffs. At SZ535761 a track is met; turn right and follow the track northwards. It soon reaches a track by some houses; continue on until the track ends at a T-junction. Turn left to follow a green track across a field; as it curves to the left turn right up another path. This climbs uphill before ending at Woolverton Road in St Lawrence.
Turn left and follow the road westwards; it soon ends at a T-junction. Here turn right up Old Park Road. This curves to the right before ending at the A3055 road. Turn right along this for a few yards, then turn left up Spindlers Road. When this ends at a T-junction with Seven Sisters Road, turn left to climb uphill along this road. The brow of the hill is reached after about a hundred yards; here turn right up a footpath opposite a driveway. The path heads through three and climbs up steps, eventually emerging out onto grassland at SZ530765.
A post marks a junction in the paths; turn left and start following the path westwards along the top of the cliffs. After 1.5 miles at SZ506760 the path curves to the right and starts to descend to meet a track. Turn right along this track, then left to descend down to the A3055 road.
Carefully cross the road and then turn right for a few yards uphill to reach a driveway. Turn left and follow this driveway as it curves to the right and ends; ignore the separate entrances to the house and join a footpath that runs past fields along the edge of the cliffs. SZ489766 is reached after a little over a mile; here the path curves sharply to the right (still following the cliff) to head inland. After a short distance a path heads on to reach a car park.
Go through the car park to the far left-hand corner. Here a footpath leads off to the left, curving around through some scrubland. It emerges out into a field; keep the hedge on the right and follow it around until a gap is reached. Cross a stile to reach the A3055 road. Turn left along the road and follow it downhill to a roundabout; at this turn right (second exit) and continue on northwestwards.. Shortly after the road curves to the right, turn left to join another footpath that heads northwestwards, initially with a fence on the left.
The path curves to the right and enters some woodland as it descends before ending towards Chale Church, where this leg ends.
Places of interest
Ventnor is a seaside resort built on the seaward flank of St Boniface Down, the highest point on the island. Originally it was a small fishing village that expanded rapidly once the Isle of Wight railway arrived in 1866. Because it is built on a hillside getting around town often involves steep walks. The town’s two railway stations were closed by 1966, although the town has good bus links running down the coast to Ryde and inland to Newport.
The Victorians recognised that the area has a distinct and healthy microclimate, and that led to the construction of the Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest in 1869. It lasted a century before medical advances made such hospitals redundant. It was demolished a few years later, and was replaced with a botanic garden that is open to the public. The coastal path skirts the gardens, and an old furnace is the only obvious sign of the building.
Ventnor does not have a pier, and it is a surprise to find that it once had three. The first two did not last long, but the third, the Royal Victoria Pier, lasted until it was demolished in 1993; it was replaced by a bandstand on the shoreward side.
location UID #22
The Ventnor Undercliffs
The eight miles of coast between Luccombe and St Catherine’s Point, including the town of Ventnor itself, are dominated by historic landslips. These are most prominent to the southwest of the town where the sea cliffs are towered over by much higher cliffs half a mile inland.
A road, Undercliff Drive, leads along part of the Undercliff between Niton and Ventnor. The remaining part stretching west from Niton to Blackgang was swept away in a landslip in the early twentieth century. The slips occur because hard rocks overly a blue clay called Gault, with the strata dipping towards the sea. The clay becomes saturated after heavy rain until it cannot support the mass of rocks above, causing the lot to slump. This process is worsened by the sea eroding the toe of the slope.
The coastal path follows the low cliffs at the very edge of the sea before heading inland through St Lawrence to reach the high cliffs behind.
location UID #23
St Catherine's Point and Lighthouse
St Catherine's Point is the southernmost point of the Isle of Wight, and is located within the Undercliffs. The lighthouse was built in 1838 to a height of 40 metres; it was later lowered to 27 metres due to problems with fog surrounding the light. Unfortunately the coastal path does not approach the lighthouse, although it can be viewed from the path that runs further inland.
location UID #24
St Catherine's Hill
St Catherine's Hill is a large hill situated just inland from St Catherine's Point, the southernmost point on the Isle of Wight. It is one of the highest points on the island, and is topped by a prominent stone building called St Catherine's Oratory, colloquially known as the 'Pepperpot'. This is a stone lighthouse, almost immediately built as long back as 1323. Fires were lit in the building to warn ships about the distant sea, but frequent bouts of fog would obscure the light.
Another lighthouse was started in 1785, but this was never completed and is known as the 'Flowerpot'. Seafarers had to wait for another 50 years for the lighthouse on the point to be constructed. The views from the hill are superb and expansive, and in good weather are well worth the climb.
location UID #25
Blackgang and Chale
Blackgang is a small village near the southernmost point of the Isle of Wight. It nestles below St Catherine’s Down and is at the very western end of the Ventnor Undercliffs. Landslips have literally changed the landscape, entirely removing all traces of a chine in the process. Similar landslips also destroyed the road that wound around the undercliffs towards Niton. The modern road at the top of the cliffs was its direct replacement.
It is home to an amusement park called Blackgang Chine, which includes attractions including one based around the BBC’s Coast series. It was the first such amusement park in Britain, first opening in the nineteenth century.
Chale is a small village situated slightly inland from Blackgang and the coast. It is a quiet, sleepy place that is perfectly summed up by its quiet church and a strangely-named pub, the Wight Mouse Inn. Nearby is Walpen Chine, a deep chasm that carries a stream down the high cliffs towards the beach below. Erosion means that much of Walpen Chine will soon disappear into the sea.
location UID #26
The infrequent Southern Vectis Route 6 service runs between Newport and Ventnor, calling at Chale and Blackgang Chine on the way.