Explore – 5 Best Gravel Cycling Routes on the Isle of Wight

Tim Wiggins Isle of Wight Cycling Routes
I ride a gravel bike on the Isle of Wight more than I ride any other; it is the perfect way to explore the vast network of quiet roads and exciting open trails. In this 'Explore' blog post I have tailor-made five of the best gravel cycling routes on the Isle of Wight; with suggested pit-stops and highlights.

The Isle of Wight roads, trails, and tracks are my home. I have toured all over the world, but whenever I come back to this small island off the South Coast of the UK I am amazed at how diverse and beautiful the riding is here.

The Island is very easy to get to with a bike — use one of the three car ferry routes from Portsmouth, Lymington or Southampton; or come as a foot passenger and bring your bike for free on the Wightlink FastCat from Portsmouth Harbour train station. You can get to the Island from Central London in just a little over three hours.

Once you are here, there is a plethora of bike-friendly accommodation: from hotels and B&B's, to campsites and Eco-lodges. Check out the Visit Isle of Wight website for more details.

Onto the bike riding...



Wight Gravel Route #1 – The Ryde Twist

  • Difficulty – Medium
  • Distance – 68.5 kilometres (43 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Moderate (700 metres elevation gain)
This route is a great first gravel ride on the Isle of Wight, and you can start straight out from the ferry port at Ryde Pier. It offers traffic-free cycle paths, challenging downland climbs, and amazing views.

The route begins on Ryde Esplanade, and heads west along the cycle track to the beautiful Quarr Abbey. From here you do a quick loop around Wootton Creek before heading inland towards the hills.

You climb up to Briddlesford along back-roads of gravel, then descend down to Havenstreet where you might catch a peek of the steam railway. Then the real climbing begins, as you head off-road up onto Arreton Downs, along a wide chalk path.

Once on the top of Arreton Down it is a quick descent before another off-road climb up St George's Down. By this point you will know if your gravel tyres can hold their grip on the mixed and exciting surfaces!

A fast descent (take care) brings you out into Carisbrooke, where a mix of cycle-paths and small country lanes then brings you through to Chillerton and Chale.

Things begin to flatten out a little from Godshill, and a sandy track brings you back into the Arreton Valley where you re-join the cycle track heading east. An opportune pit-stop comes at 45 kilometres in – at Pedaller's Café on the cycle path at Langbridge.

You then head back up over Brading Down, and out to St Helens. Once this climb is done you have really ticked off the majority of the elevation, and it is worth rewarding yourself with an ice-cream or cream tea at Baywatch On The Beach on the Duver at St Helens.

After your beach stopover, it is just a short climb up to Nettlestone and then a coast along the seafront back to Ryde. 



Tim Wiggins Gravel Cycling Isle of Wight




Wight Gravel Route #2 – Newport Up 'n' Over

  • Difficulty – Medium
  • Distance – 55.6 kilometres (34 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Moderate (730 metres elevation gain)
This route is another 'starter' route, but do not be fooled — it contains some BIG Isle of Wight hills.

Starting from the superb Caffe Isola in the centre of Newport, the route heads out along quiet roads and bridleways towards the small village of Shorwell. Before you reach Shorwell though, you divert off up the concrete track that takes you up to Chillerton Radar Mast; this is the first big climb of the route, and the steep washboard concrete road will have you pushing hard to keep momentum.

Descend down from Chillerton, through Chale Green, and onwards to the next big climb — Blackgang. This is often the most 'feared' climb on the Isle of Wight Randonnee route, and will have you clicking down gears, but looking out on spectacular panoramic views.

Next comes Niton, and a right turn down onto Niton Undercliff. This road was shut several years ago after a cliff-fall, but remains open to bikes, horses, and pedestrians — enjoy the amazing ancient path laced along the coast.

The hills of Ventnor are next, but first... coffee and cake. Stop off in The Plantation Room Café at Ventnor Botanic Gardens for some much needed refreshment.

Now the real climb begins. From the Botanic Gardens it is straight up — up the ironically named 'Down Lane' to the St. Boniface Down summit. I climbed this route from the seafront 38 times in 2017 on a charity 'Everesting' — I recommend that once will be enough for most.

It is a fast and bumpy descent down to Shanklin from the top of the Downs, and then thankfully a flat section along the old railway line to Wroxall. If you need further refreshment then call into the Old Smithy in Godshill at kilometre 45, and enjoy their coffee and cake (or ice cream).

From Godshill it is sandy trails and traffic-free National Cycle Network bike paths all the way back to Newport.



Tim Wiggins 3T Exploro Bike




Wight Gravel Route #3 – Cowes Gravel Cocktail

  • Difficulty – Hard
  • Distance – 81.4 kilometres (50 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Moderate (940 metres elevation gain)
This route starts mostly on tarmac, and you head out from Cowes along the seafront to Gurnard, and then south, crossing the 'Middle Road'.

As you get more inland the trails begin, and you ride up onto Brighstone Down. The forest can be a little muddy at times, but then the track evolves into a rocky and fast descent.

You speed down into Brighstone and then turn eastwards along quiet lanes to Shorwell, where the next big off-road climb begins on the chalky trail up to Chillerton Radar Station. This path is sure to have you grappling for a low gear.

Down into Chillerton village, and then out on the 'White Wight' gravel paths to Bowcombe, before turning north into Carisbrooke.

Stop off at Caffe Isola (43 kilometres) in the centre of Newport for incredible coffee and locally made cakes.

The route out of Newport takes you up the steep road climb to Newport Golf Club, from where you traverse St George's Down, and then descend down into the Arreton Valley. It is a fun and sandy trail along the back of the village then, and if you are looking for a great lunch call into The Garlic Farm at Newchurch.

It is a sharp road ascent up onto Arreton Down from The Garlic Farm, but then an equally fast off-road descent down to Havenstreet the other side.

The final section of the route is a flatter tour of Wootton Creek, then along the new cycle path past Island Harbour, into Newport Quay, and back to Cowes along the traffic-free bike path alongside the River Medina.

Celebrate with an ice cream on the seafront at the finish!



Tim Wiggins Cycling Isle of Wight




Wight Gravel Route #4 – West Wight Whopper

  • Difficulty – Hard
  • Distance – 93.3 kilometres (57 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Moderate (1350 metres elevation gain)
This route is undeniably tough. It takes in the biggest climbs of the West Wight; traversing the chalk back-bone of the island, and taking in the biggest hills of Ventnor and Arreton.

The route begins at the harbour in Yarmouth, and heads out along the dismantled railway track through to Freshwater Bay. Here the climbing begins...

Up the ramp out from the bay, and onto the Tennyson Trail. This is an undulating off-road trail that bridges across the western side of the island, and includes technical ascents and descents on the loose and sometimes slippery chalk.

The route turns south from Chillerton Radar Station, and you head down to Blackgang Road. This road climb is a challenge in itself, but to add a sting in the tail you head off the road at the top of the pass, and do an out-and-back to St Catherine's Oratory — one of the most spectacular viewpoints on the Isle of Wight.

After descending into Niton, head into Ventnor for a café stop at The Plantation Room Café at Ventnor Botanic Gardens for some much needed refreshment; before tackling the mega hills out of the town.

It is an off-road climb up onto Week Down, and then a hair-raising road (although a very broken road) descent down into Wroxall.

You can then recover, with a long flat section along the dismantled railway line to Shanklin, and onwards to Sandown Airport. I highly recommend the great lunch at The Garlic Farm at Newchurch (at 56 kilometres in).

The route is then a fast up and over of Arreton Down; descending down to Havenstreet, and taking the off-road cycle path from Wootton to Newport. If you need another break here, call into Caffe Isola in the centre of Newport.

The final section of the route takes you back onto the Tennyson Trail, but this time heading west (you will be relieved to hear). Through Brighstone Forest, and down to Chessell Pottery Café (85 kilometres) — from here it is all downhill back to the seafront at Yarmouth.

This is a real Whopper of a route.



Tim Wiggins Cycling Photography Isle of Wight




Wight Gravel Route #5 – Wight Giara 100

  • Difficulty – EPIC
  • Distance – 163 kilometres (100 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Moderate (2200 metres elevation gain)
I am not going to say a huge amount about this final route, because the numbers should speak for themselves; and if you are considering a 100 mile gravel route with 2200 metres of elevation gain, then you should know that you should expect the unexpected!

I highly recommend a pit-stop at Grace's Bakery in Yarmouth (62 kilometres) — they have amazing take-away Island Roasted Coffee and freshly baked cakes. You could also stop at The Plantation Room Café at Ventnor Botanic Gardens (a short diversion at 105 kilometres) for some refreshment.

Approach this one with caution, if you dare.



Tim Wiggins Cycling Isle of Wight


ENJOY THE TRAILS

Drop me a message on Twitter (@timwiggins1) or Instagram (@tim_wiggins1) with any questions.


Comments

  1. Excellent timing on this post! I've been thinking about a riding trip to the Isle of Wight!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoyed the ride Andy! which routes did you choose?

      Delete
  2. Just starting to plan a two day MTB tour with a group of Friends for next year. I may borrow from your routes, good job :-)

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