Cycling The Isle of Wight
Where can you go in the British Isles that is close enough to London to not require expensive train journeys, a place which in many ways exists in its own time warp, where you can walk to beautiful scenic, historical places on scenic coastal paths and across hilly grassy downland, through ancient woodlands, past rustic farms? This has to be the Isle Of Wight.
The Isle of Wight is a limited holiday opportunity; you only have about another 4000 years before the island disappears into the sea! Parts are going at rates of 3.5 metres a year….. See it while you can!
Famous for its sailing regattas, for the white chalk cliffs and the stacks called The Needles and for the coloured sands at Alum Bay. The Island may be a bit of a cliché in British tourism, but it exists in its own time. Beyond the big tourist towns of Shanklin and Sandown, and the sophistication of Cowes harbour, everything is on a manageable scale – no huge towns, or big industrial blights, but long chalky downs, sandy beaches and enchanting woodlands. Seaside rock, ice cream and fish ’n’ chips of course, but also great pubs and restaurants, quiet paths, historical churches and gems of villages.
Let’s face it if it was good enough for Queen Victoria, it’s good enough for most of us! After all, Queen Vic despite ruling a quarter of the Earth and being Empress of India, elected to spend her holidays on the Isle Of Wight where she had her husband build a little holiday cottage called Osborne House- her little ‘pied de terre’. She painted and sketched nature, rode horses, went for long walks, went swimming and even died there.
Our cycling holiday on the Isle of Wight is an easy-going ride circumnavigating the island on the Taste Round The Island Bike Route, which we follow, with some variation for its entirety over three cycling days. This keeps the days almost equidistance in length. The rides are undulating and only on the last day will you find it particularly hilly.
It is a ride that will appeal to novices, and those used to cycling will find it easy and enjoy time spent visiting various sights on the ride. So although the days are quite short, you can easily spend much of the day visiting Osbourne House, or the Needles etc. The second cycling day can be made shorter and easier by missing out cycling to the Needles and over hilly Tennyson down.
It is so easy (and cheap!) to go somewhere as different as the Isle of Wight. An hourly train from London Waterloo takes you directly to Portsmouth Harbour (1.5-2 hours), where you can seamlessly walk onto the passenger ferry. Less than half an hour later, the ferry arrives at an old pier, where an antiquated City and Metropolitan tube train serves as the main train into Ryde, the island’s largest town. Those who can’t get there quickly enough can take the only scheduled passenger hovercraft service in the world, which plonks you onto the beach by the esplanade. Both ferry and hover options cost only around £12.