Yarmouth is an excellent base from which to explore the West Wight. From the Western Yar estuary a bridleway follows the route of the former railway line to Freshwater, a village which has the air of a town. It has a variety of shops, a sports centre with indoor swimming pool and an 18 hole golf course in a spectacular location on Afton Down, overlooking the sea.
The West Wight is renowned for its wonderful scenery, most of it is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). A coast road and coastal footpath give access to vast stretches of Heritage Coast, with cliffs of amazing diversity, fringed by beautiful sandy bays and rocky inlets.
Discover the russet fossil-rich clay cliffs of the south west, rugged white chalk cliffs of Freshwater Bay, the landmark Needles rocks and the amazing multi-coloured sandstones of Alum Bay. Eastwards the shoreline changes, the descending cliffs embrace the popular family beaches of Totland Bay and Colwell Bay, then give way to the broad estuary of the Western Yar, the wooded shores of Bouldnor and the estuary of Newtown, a National Nature Reserve.
The Needles is the most westerly point of the Island’s central chalk ridge, traversed by the Tennyson Trail. This spectacular walk with stunning views was much loved by the poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, who declared the exhilarating air to be “worth sixpence a pint!”
It was Tennyson who unwittingly put the West Wight on the tourist trail, when he purchased Farringford House at Freshwater, and the tranquil countryside has changed little since Tennyson’s day. Enticing country lanes and footpaths invite you to explore the peaceful woodland, river valleys and magnificent downs. There are many picturesque villages whose historic pubs offer the visitor a wonderful excuse to relax with a glass of local ale and some appetising food.
Visitors to the West Wight can choose from a range of quality graded hotels, B&Bs, camp sites and a host of delightful self-catering cottages set in the most idyllic locations. Details are available from Isle of Wight Tourism on 813813.
Full details of attractions’ opening hours and admission prices are available in a free pocket guide distributed by the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce. They can be contacted on 0844 8886212.