Route for an Isle of Wight walk at Niton

PUBLISHED: 11:19 18 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:43 18 September 2020

St Catherine's Lighthouse

St Catherine's Lighthouse

Fiona Barltrop

We head south to the Isle of Wight to discover the delights of Niton on a long walk


- Start/finish: Niton, considerate roadside parking, eg in front of church (SZ505767); alternatively large car park at pt 2 (SZ490767)

- Map: OS Explorer OL29

- Distance: 4¼ miles (6.8km), additional loop 4 miles (6.4km)

- Terrain: Grassy cliff top coastal path; downland paths and tracks; village roads

- Time: Allow a couple of hours for each.

- Refreshments: Joe's Bar & restaurant/café at Niton Post Office, Buddle Inn, Niton and Castlehaven Beach Café

- Public transport: Wightlink car ferries between Lymington & Yarmouth and Portsmouth & Fishbourne; passenger catamaran from Portsmouth to Ryde

Sometimes referred to as 'England in miniature', the Isle of Wight has a remarkably diverse landscape. Over half the Island is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there's an excellent network of footpaths and bridleways, including a coastal path that encircles it and quite a number of named and waymarked trails. Spring is a particularly lovely time to visit with all the daffodils and bluebells, and from May 4-19, one of the country's biggest and longest running walking festivals takes place on the Island, offering around 100 free walks to choose from.

Duly popular with both locals and visitors alike, there are walks to suit all ages and abilities, spread across the width and breadth.

Whether you join one of the Festival's walks in the area or explore independently, the southernmost tip of the Island shouldn't be missed. Surrounded by unspoilt countryside and situated near one of the most dramatic stretches of the Island's coast, the attractive village of Niton makes an ideal base for walkers. This walk takes you along the coastal path westwards, then climbs to St Catherine's Hill atop which stands St Catherine's Oratory, known as the Pepperpot, a striking 14th century octagonal tower (resembling a stone rocket) which served as a lighthouse. Some earthworks are the only visible evidence of the former adjoining oratory. A new lighthouse was begun nearby in the 18th century - the remains at the base of the nearby mast - but being located so high, both were often mist-shrouded. St Catherine's lighthouse, built at sea level, followed in the 19th century.

The walk continues north along the beautiful downland ridge of St Catherine's Down to the Hoy monument, a 72ft high column built to commemorate the visit to Britain in 1814 of Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Thereafter it's back to Niton, but for those with the time and energy an excellent additional loop heading down to St Catherine's Point, where the lighthouse is situated, is much to be recommended.

The walk

1 (SZ505767) With your back to the church turn right to the junction with the main road. Continue in the same direction and after the last house turn left up the footpath which leads across fields to the Coast Path. Turn right along the cliff top path, St Catherine's lighthouse soon visible below you, situated in the area called the Undercliff. This is the name for the narrow strip of landslipped terrain, lying between the sea and high cliffs, which stretch for some eight miles from Luccombe Bay in the east to Blackgang in the west. Once above Blackgang, ignoring the theme park below you, there's a splendid view along the coast towards the distant chalk cliffs. Bear right to the car park.

2 (SZ490767) Cross the road, climb the steps and follow the path signed to St Catherine's Oratory diagonally left up the fields, aiming to the left of the mast. According to local legend, St Catherine's Oratory was built as penance by Walter de Godeton, Lord of Chale, who helped himself to wine from a shipwreck in Chale Bay that came from a French monastery. There are wonderful views from up here.

3 (SZ493772) Continue to the nearby fence, on the other side of which is the trig point. Keeping the fence on your right, turn left alongside it and head downhill along the ridge-top path. Pass a gate on the right and bear diagonally left to go through a gate (St Catherine's Down National Trust sign here) and continue north along the delightful grassy ridge - carpeted with bluebells in spring - to the Hoy monument. The inscriptions on either side are somewhat incongruous. As well as the plaque commemorating the visit of the Tsar, there is another in honour of the British soldiers killed in the Crimean War.

4 (SZ495788) Retrace your steps to the gate by the NT sign, go through it and bear left to the gate passed before. Turn left through it and head across the grass, soon with the fence alongside on your left and a lovely view northwards across the downland towards the Hoy monument. Go through another gate onto a defined, enclosed track and continue to a junction of paths.

5 (SZ500774) Fork right down the bridleway (called Bury Lane) that leads to an access road that takes you back down to Niton.

For the additional loop around Catherine's Point, turn left along Church Street to the crossroads/High Street and turn right. Take the next footpath on the left, Puckwell Lane, and follow it to a multiple path junction. Follow the footpath signed to the Coastal Path (or for a shortcut turn right along the bridleway). Turn right along the Coastal Path and before reaching the main road turn sharp left down an enclosed path between walls. Turn left at the A3055 and immediately right down St Catherine's Road. Take the next left, Castlehaven Lane, continuing down the rough access road/bridleway to Castlehaven. Turn right to follow the path beside the coast to St Catherine's Point and the lighthouse, skirting it on its landward side, and continue to Watershoot Bay. Here turn back heading inland to NT owned Knowles Farm, and thence up the access road/St Catherine's Road, left at the T-junction along Sandrock Road, bearing left along the A3055 (pavement) back into Niton.


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