Marooned off the south coast of England, just a few hours from the capital, there’s a nature-lover’s paradise. Here spectacular landscapes meet the ocean and time here reconnects you to the natural world.
It’s the Isle of Wight, and there’s no better way to discover this than with nature and wildlife days out with the National Trust.
National Trust Days Out: 12 Ways to Connect with Nature on the Isle of Wight – Quick Links
- Crabbing and Rockpooling – St Helens Duver and Nodes Point
- Walking on the Isle of Wight – Bembridge and Culver Downs
- Red Squirrel Spotting – Borthwood Copse
- Roaming with Old English Goats – Ventnor Downs
- Landscapes of the Island – St Catherine’s Downs
- Formal and Wild Gardens – Mottistone Gardens
- Butterfly Spotting – Compton Downs
- Swimming, Paddling and Surfing – Compton Bay
- Cycling on the Isle of Wight – Mottistone to Compton Cycle Trail
- Sunsets of the Island – The Needles Headland and Tennyson Down
- Sea Kayaking – Newtown Creek and National Nature Reserve
- Birdwatching – Newtown National Nature Reserve
come to the Isle of Wight:
Where, far from the noise and smoke of town
I watch the twilight falling brown
All round a careless-order’d garden
Close to the ridge of a noble down
– Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate 1850-1892
Crabbing and Rockpooling at St Helens Duver and Nodes Point
Crabbing is a fun way to spend family time on the coast. Kids love it and will keep them entertained for hours, plus it’s great fun for adults too.
The rocky, seaweed-covered beach at Nodes Point, St Helens is an ideal place to give it a go. Along the shoreline, and particularly in rock pools during low tide, you’ll find plenty of crabs willing to take your bait.
Make sure you do it the right way, taking care of the crabs and their environment.
Rockpooling is another way to discover the rich variety of low tide sea life at Nodes Point. Get started with the National Trust’s family rockpooling guide.
Walking on the Isle of Wight at Bembridge and Culver Downs
The Bembridge and Culver Downs marshes trail takes in some of the island’s best scenery. Along the way, you can visit two historic National Trust properties.
The 6.4 mile (10.4km) walk starts near Bembridge Windmill before heading towards the sea. At Culver and Bembridge Downs, revel in the spectacular panoramic views of Sandown Bay and surrounding countryside.
Arriving at Bembridge Fort, you’ll cut down into a valley before a chance to admire the bird life at RSPB Brading Marshes. The final stretch takes you along the picturesque River Yar before arriving back at Bembridge Windmill.
National Trust members get free entry to Bembridge Windmill and Bembridge Fort.
Bembridge Windmill is the only surviving windmill on the Isle of Wight. Learn about the how the mill works and climb the tower.
More Walking on the Isle of Wight
The National Trust looks after some of the island’s finest coast and countryside. Their downloadable Isle of Wight walking guides include:
- Detailed walking directions
- Information about nature, wildlife and local history
Step out of winter and see the best of the island with the Trust’s recommendations for spring walks.
Red Squirrel Spotting at Borthwood Copse
Borthwood Copse is home to some of the 3,500 red squirrels that live on the Isle of Wight. The red squirrel is easily recognised, but sightings are rare due to their shy nature.
Under threat from larger grey squirrels, the island is one of the few places in England they still survive, and National Trust managed countryside like Borthwood Copse really help to protect the red squirrels.
You’re more likely to hear and see a greater spotted woodpecker than a red squirrel while walking the trail, however. Also, look out for butterflies and wildflowers in the ancient oak woodland.
Less than four miles from the resort towns of Sandown and Shanklin, Borthwood Copse is the perfect place to connect with nature.
Roaming with Old English Goats on Ventnor Downs
The Ventnor Downs offer more dramatic views of the Isle of Wight and the English Channel. They also provide steep and challenging walks, especially on St Boniface and Luccombe Downs.
While walking the slopes, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re not alone. You’d be right, as roaming around on the downs are 37 or so Old English goats.
Introduced to help manage Victorian oak woodland, the goats have thrived on the hilly terrain. The best way to see them at their St Boniface Down home is via the Trust’s views of Ventnor walk.
Further along, challenge yourself to the invigorating Luccombe Down to Landslip circular walk. It starts on the high ground and descends to the coast, before heading back up the downs.
Landscapes of the Island from St Catherine’s Downs
The panoramic views of the island and the English Channel from St Catherine’s Down are breathtaking.
The landscape and seascape scene that unfolds to the west is arguably the finest on the whole island. Walkers and cyclists on the National Trust’s monk and merchant trail are rewarded with the sight of a multi-coloured patchwork of fields, the shimmering shades of the blue sea and the dramatic white cliffs of Tennyson Down.
The National Trust’s St Catherine’s Down and Knowles Farm also has an interesting history. Dotted around the local landscape you can see and learn about:
- A monument to honour a Russian Tsar
- The ‘Pepperpot’-shaped St Catherine’s Oratory
- Guglielmo Marconi’s pioneering wireless broadcasts
- St Catherine’s Lighthouse – the island’s only remaining inshore lighthouse
Formal and Wild Gardens at Mottistone Gardens
For a more tranquil experience, head to the sheltered gardens at Mottistone. Best known for their beautiful managed borders, there’s plenty more to see and do here.
Along with colourful herbaceous borders and tranquil rose gardens, in springtime you’ll find a blanket of wild daffodils and bluebells in the former orchard.
Children will also love the flowerpot trail and playing hide-and-seek in the shrubs.
The surrounding Mottistone Estate has some fabulous country walks as well. Explore the diverse wildflowers and wildlife on the common, fields and downs and uncover the secrets of a mysterious Neolithic longstone.
Butterfly Spotting on Compton Downs
Butterfly lovers will be in their element spotting different species on the Compton Downs walk. Butterflies colonising the slopes include the chalkhill blue, adonis blue, small blue, brown argus, grayling and dark-green fritillary.
If you’re lucky, you may spot the rare Glanville fritillary – one of the smallest butterflies of its kind. Look out for its brown and orange checkered pattern on top, with cream and orange on its underside.
The best place to see a Glanville fritillary is the area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) between Mottistone and Freshwater Bay. To help protect them and other wildlife, the National Trust recently bought 165 hectares of land in the area.
Swimming, Paddling and Surfing – Compton Bay
Compton Bay, located on the island’s south-west coast, is a firm favourite with locals. It’s not hard to see why – this two-mile stretch of sand, set in unspoilt natural beauty, is world’s away from the busier beaches of the south-east coast.
Compton Bay is a fun place to swim as often there are choppy waves to jump or surf around in. The end nearer the white cliffs and Freshwater Bay is the best place for swimming, as there are fewer rocks in the sea there.
That sandier part of the beach is also better for paddling. Coupled with the gradual slope between beach and sea, it makes an ideal place for younger children.
If you prefer more action on the water, Compton Bay is also the most surf spot on the Isle of Wight.
Access is easy as there are a few National Trust car parks dotted along the coast. Parking is free for members.
Cycling on the Isle of Wight at the Mottistone to Compton Cycle Trail
Cycle the Mottistone to Compton trail for spectacular views of the island and mainland. Ride along the downland chalk ridge and descend to the coast on this scenic circular ride.
Leisure cyclists can stop off and enjoy the National Trust’s:
- Mottistone Gardens
- Mottistone Estate
- The Long Stone
- Butterfly Spotting
- Afton, Brook and Compton Downs
- Compton Bay and Coast
Those who take their cycling seriously can tackle the entire trail – the hilly off-road terrain makes it a challenging and rewarding ride.
More Cycling on the Isle of Wight
Lonely Planet names the Isle of Wight in their world’s top ten destinations for cyclists. Discover it for yourself with these cycle routes, rides and events:
- National Trust downloadable Isle of Wight cycle trails
- Family friendly cycling on the Red Squirrel Trail
- Taste Round the Island and discover culinary delights by bike
- Serious off-road cycling on the challenging Chalk Ridge Extreme
- Wayfarer Cycling Touring Club Isle of Wight Randonee – round the island leisure ride
- Isle of Wight cycling festival IW Cycle Fest
Sunsets of the Island at The Needles Headland and Tennyson Down
You’re spoilt for choice for spectacular sunsets on the western side of the Isle of Wight. There’s no better place to see them than from The Needles and surrounding downs.
The Needles is a row of three distinct chalk rock stacks that rise to 30 metres from the sea. The Needles Lighthouse stands at the end of the formation. It’s the far western point of the island and looking over them from the island is the perfect sunset-watching spot and makes for a classic photo opportunity.
Two of the National Trust’s walks in fact offer different angles for sunset seeking photographers.
At Hatherwood Battery on the Headon Warren walk, you get a fantastic sunset view of The Needles and white cliff headland that links with Alum Bay.
For a closer shot of The Needles, stop off at the High Down Rocket Site on the Tennyson Down and Needles walk. From there take a picture postcard sunset shot of The Needles and white cliffs above Scratchell’s Bay.
Sea Kayaking at Newtown Creek and National Nature Reserve
Newtown National Nature Reserve is a nature lovers’ dream. Its unspoilt beauty makes it a contender for the island’s number one nature spot.
Sea kayaking at Newtown Creek is a fantastic way to enjoy the wildlife and scenery. The picturesque tributaries of Newtown River and Clamerkin Brook are ideal for relaxing jaunts on the water.
Shalfleet Quay is another good spot to enter the water, but there’s also several opportunities to launch just off the local roads.
Don’t worry if you left your sea kayak at home! Providing you have a qualified member of your team, you can hire all the gear at Sea Kayaking Isle of Wight.
Birdwatching at Newtown National Nature Reserve
Newton National Nature Reserve’s remote location is rich in wildlife, and none more so than resident and migratory birds. Birdwatchers can use three National Trust bird hides that overlook the estuary.
You don’t to be a serious twitcher to enjoy watching birds at Newtown, however. Knowledgeable volunteer guides are on hand to help you identify what you see.
From the Mercia Seabroke hide you get close up images of the birds with its solar powered periscope.
And throughout the year you can take part in free birdwatching events at Newtown.
The Trust’s estuary and town walk is also a splendid way to enjoy nature, wildlife and the area’s history. Visit Newtown Old Town Hall and learn about the town hall, with no town then head to the estuary to continue onwards through quiet country lanes.
National Trust members get free entry to Newtown Town Hall.
The natural beauty of Newtown National Nature Reserve makes it a must-see on the Isle of Wight.
National Trust Nature on the Isle of Wight
The National Trust on the Isle of Wight looks after some of the island’s best nature and wildlife. Spend the perfect day out with family and friends at their coast and countryside.