A Weekend Cycling Break on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight was recently reviewed by the Lonely Planet as one of 'The World's Best Cycling Destinations'; perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised; but in many ways I was. Could this small island off the south coast of England where I was born and grew up, really be one of the best places to saddle-up and ride? I was sceptical, but the more I think about it, the more I really do love the Island for what it offers the two-wheeled world.
I've visited a few of the other areas that Lonely Planet rank in their top ten, including the Vietnamese Highway and the Luberon Provence area of France - they were both stunningly beautiful (even if Vietnam was from the saddle of a scooter rather than a push-bike), and they both offered the cyclist's dream mix of hills and rolling scenery. 
However, the more time I spend away from home, the more I realise that the Isle of Wight really does offer a huge amount for a keen cyclist. Perhaps more importantly though, for most readers of this blog, it is a far more accessible weekend break than SE Asia or even Southern France. 

This blogpost is a guide to a cycling getaway on the Isle of Wight - there is already extensive information on the net about how to get to the Island and bike friendly places to stay, so here I will just link to other good websites. What I hope to provide instead is a personalised guide to good routes, both on-road and off-road; and my favourite places to eat on the Island.
It's quite a long post; so settle down, grab a cuppa and hopefully you'll consider the Diamond Isle as your next cycling getaway.

How to get there 
Wightlink Ferries operate a regular car ferry timetable from Portsmouth and Lymington throughout the year; in addition there is a high-speed service from Portsmouth to Ryde, which takes just 20 minutes and is very cycle friendly. Look out for special offers on the Wightlink website.

Where to stay

Bike Shops and Rentals
Link to: Isle of Wight Bike Shops

Where to Ride!
Off-road - The Tennyson Trail
The Tennyson Trail runs from Carisbrooke in the centre of the island to the famous Needles on the western tip. Comprised mostly of wide chalk trails, the route takes you over some impressive downland, with blasting descents and sharp climbs.
Take a short diversion off the trail into Brightstone forest to ride some great single-track built by local riders. Or head down into the villages such as Brighstone on the southern side of the trail to stop for a cafe or pub lunch. The final section of the trail out towards the Needles is only a footpath, but there are bridleways that run parallel to it and can take you all the way out to the western point and Alum bay if you desire. It would make a great out-there-and-back route to park in Carisbrooke and ride out; or alternatively, there are some great bridleways running alongside the trail that could form a circular route back to your chosen start point, making it around a 25-30 mile circular route.

On-road - Randonnee Route
So called because every May the local 'Wayfarers Cycling Club' runs a free 'sportive' style event around the course called the 'Isle of Wight Randonnee'.
The signposted route is around 60miles and takes you round the coast roads of the island, over 1400 meters of climbs and some fast descents.

In early 2011 a large portion of the roads on the route were re-surfaced, including many of the smaller lanes in the West-Wight that were worth avoiding before, for being too akin to a stage of the Paris-Roubaix!
The result is that you can now ride the whole signposted route in comfort, and enjoy the real mix of fast 40+ mph descents, wide open roads and deserted country lanes.
The route provides great variation and the opportunity to extend by diverting off and throwing in a few extra climbs in Ventnor or the SW Wight if it takes your fancy. It also takes you very close to some of my favourite cafes and pubs on the Island, so you can integrate a well deserved re-fuel halfway round!
If you are really looking for a challenge - try it twice round - I've done this twice, it's tough!

Off-road - Eastern Downs
This route takes in some great bridleways and fire-roads in the eastern part of the island.
My route guide says that it starts in Ryde, but you could begin anywhere along the route.
Again the trails are pretty good all year round, as most of them have a hard-pack base; the riding provides a mix of technical single track, long fast descents and some challenging climbs.

If you are looking for a half-way refuel point, there are many great cafes and pubs in Godshill, Shanklin and Sandown where you could grab a hot drink and food mid-ride. [Link to Route Guide]

On-Road - Fast and Furious
This is a 30mile quick loop that takes in the biggest hill on the Isle of Wight: Blackgang! As well as the picturesque Military road, and some fast, often-deserted roads in the SW Wight.

Where To Eat After A Hard Ride
Cafe Stops
See my review for the following Isle of Wight Cafe:
The Royal Garden Cafe - Ventnor Botanic Gardens

My favourite pubs on the island [Links]:
The New Inn - Shalfleet
The Crab and Lobster - Bembridge

Both close to or on the 'Randonnee Cycle Route'!

Writing this blog has reminded me how much the Isle of Wight has to offer a cyclist - and left me yearning for a proper country pub!
I hope it has inspired you to make the trip across the water and try out the trails and roads first-hand.
It really is an ideal stop to get away for a weekend of cycling - enjoy!


  1. Wow! Great detail and very useful. I am visiting in a few weeks and this has really got me thinking. Thanks for posting this. R

  2. Wow. I bet cycling is the best hobby to take while having holidays in Isle of Wight. I really find the place so beautiful and relaxing.


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