Waking up from a good night’s sleep will undoubtedly set me up well and start the day in high spirits. After spending the previous day walking 6-miles from Freshwater Bay to The Needles, our limbs ached and we struggled to get warm. But heading to the guest house brought us welcome relief when the door opened, and we were greeted by a flood of warm light.
As we peeled off layer after layer of sodden clothes and pulled our heavy boots off, the warm glow of the guest house with the knowledge of a shower and bed awaiting us, filled me with great joy. I love walking long distances and am not one to shy away from bad weather – I live in Cornwall! But there is nothing better than finishing a walk knowing you can strip off (don’t get too excited now!) and wash away the mud and aches with a hot shower and a big comfy bed. This is exactly what Hannah and I did after checking in.
Famous for its thatched houses, Shanklin village is a quaint stroll away from where we were staying, so after warming up in the shower and making ourselves look fairly human again, we made our way to the village to find a place to sit and get a decent meal. We were recommended a few places, but the one that caught our attention most was The Crab where apparently, their portion sizes are immense. The legends are true, I’m still full to this day!!
Sipping on a well-needed and well-deserved violet gin, we chatted about the next chapter of our walking weekend. Our route for the following day would be taking us from Shanklin to our end point, St. Catherine’s Lighthouse. Between these two points we would be heading across the top of Luccombe Chine and The Landslip, via a darling little church at Bonchurch, along the sea wall towards Ventnor Esplanade, through a little fishing cove at Steephill Cove, through fields to St. Lawrence and finally across to Niton. Phew!
With plenty of mileage to get through and lots of varying terrain to navigate across, we decided to start the walk fairly early the next morning. Hannah and I are notorious for stopping to take pictures along the way, so we made sure to add an extra hour onto our timings to account for selfies and gawping at the views!
Our starting point was luckily a stone’s throw away from the guest house, so once we were up and ready, we could head off and start the hike straight away. Heading through Shanklin and up towards the coastal path, I was a little sad to see it getting further and further away. But with the glorious expansion of sea to our left, we were excited at what the next 9-miles had in store for us.
We eventually found ourselves on the coast path. As we found our rhythm, we walked one behind the other in comfortable silence and admired the views that surrounded us. We approached a bungalow and prepared ourselves to wave hello to the old chap who was outside in his garden, but rather than waving us on, he pulled us over for a chat. Something about the way he seemed so friendly and accustomed to greeting us, made wonder how many times he had spoken to ramblers before.
We nattered for almost 10-minutes and found more out about this gentleman than we anticipated. Chatting about Cornwall, he spoke fondly of the memories he had of holidays on the Cornish coast. By the end, he felt like a familiar friend that I was a little sad to say goodbye to. We waved a fond farewell and carried on, nodding to a couple walking towards us. I turned to see our new friend reel this couple in and smiled.
What I loved most about this walk was how we still had all the fantastic coastal views but were also able to spend a chunk of the walk more inland. With the well-kept trails and occasionally sheltered areas, we could admire the views without needing to carefully trace a map or worry too much about the wind. Part of the Isle of Wight Undercliff, the Landslip is accessed by many footpaths and is a wooded coastal landslip zone between Luccombe and Bonchurch villages.
The coastal path runs through the reserve and hikers can climb up and down the inner cliff via The Devils Chimney or The Chink. As we made our way across Luccombe Road via the Landslip, we stumbled across an area on the wooded path called The Wishing Seat. Tradition has it that if you sit on the Wishing Seat and make a wish, it will come true. So naturally, both myself and Hannah took turns in clambering on and making a wish.
Although I am not religious, I have always been drawn to churches and cathedrals, so I was very happy to learn that along the way to Bonchurch (should have guessed by the name really), there would be a church for me to wonder at. St. Boniface Church is a parish church dating back to 1847 and on peering round the doorframe, I was not disappointed. As we silently took it all in, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional. Having recently lost a close member of my family at Christmas time, it all seemed a little overwhelming.
After spending a lot of time admiring the history that seeped out of St. Boniface Church, we finally continued our walk. Whilst in the area, we detoured a little and went and had a look around Bonchurch village. One of the oldest settlements on the Isle of Wight, Bonchurch is full of personality and riddled with history. In the mid to late 19th Century, characters such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle were known to stay in Bonchurch and in 1545, the battle of Bonchurch was fought.
As we made our way to our next destination, Ventnor, we first had to walk along the 1-mile sea wall that curved its way along the skirting of the sea. Dodging the splashes as the waves hit the edge of the sea wall, it was a fun yet gentle amble towards the seaside town that was once described as the ‘English Mediterranean’. A traditional seaside resort, Ventnor is full of your typical seaside holiday attractions.
In the summer months, the Ventnor beach is a suntrap and the sand and shingle beach are perfect for sunbathing – however not at the end of January when it’s blowing a hooley and all you want is a hot chocolate and a radiator. Taking the opportunity to stop for a bite to eat, a hot drink and a sit down, we found a little café and bunkered down for an hour. Looking at the map we could see we were half way to the end of our walk.
Feeling refreshed, refuelled and a lot warmer than when we arrived, we left Ventnor and headed for Steephill Cove. A pretty little area with no road access, Steephill Cove is a traditional fishing cove that has been likened to my beloved Cornwall. No wonder I fell in love a teensy bit. Making our way out of Steephill Cove, our next landmark was St. Lawrence, a village that takes its name from the parish church, which is dedicated to Lawrence, Archdeacon of Rome, who was burnt to death on a gridiron in AD258!
Following the edges of field after field, we eventually made our way to Niton, a traditional village situated on the very south side of the Isle of Wight and our last leg of the journey. Making our way through Niton, we suddenly picked up a bit of speed, like a horse that knows it is on its way home. St. Catherine’s Lighthouse was in spitting distance, and after 10+ miles of hiking, we were ready to see our final landmark.
St. Catherine’s Lighthouse is located at St. Catherine’s Point at the southern tip of the Isle of Wight and according to The National Trust, ‘was built in response to local need for reliable light to guide shipping following the shipwreck of the Clarendon’. After spending the day walking, we really were glad to see this beauty!
After exploring a little while around St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, we then made our way to our third and final accommodation. As we settled for the night, we chatted briefly about the walk and both commented at how varied it was. The twist and turns of the pathways muddled with the open expanse of fields and coast, plus the little villages and seaside towns amongst the intriguing history and architecture … quite frankly, this walk had it all and albeit we were both shattered, I already longed to get back out there and see what else this island I’d grown to love, had waiting for me.
Until next time …
“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretence and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself” Maya Angelou
~ Dedicated to Michael ~