If someone asked you where the best place to go walking or hiking in the British countryside is, whereabouts would you think of? In the UK we have lots of beautiful countryside and we are certainly spoilt for choice. The first place that I would think of would be one of our National Parks, probably the Lake District, or the Highlands of Scotland. For countryside which is less rugged, possibly the White Peak or the South Downs would come to mind. One place that would probably not spring to mind is the Isle of Wight. Yet the Isle of Wight walking festival is advertised as “The UK’s Largest Walking Festival.” As of 2010, it is in its twelfth year and with around 300 walks over two weeks there is certainly plenty of opportunities to do some walking. Indeed, some 24,500 people took part in the 2009 festival!
The Island has over 500 miles of well-maintained and signposted footpaths around 30 miles of Heritage Coastline, while more than half of the Island is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Walks and Hikes
With three speeds of walk to choose from, gentle, moderate and brisk, and five difficulty level from easy to strenuous, the Isle of Wight Walking Festival something for everyone. Some of the walks are themed, for example the “Isle of Wight Ghost Experience”, “In the Footsteps of Thomas Rowlandson” and “Climate and Energy Walk”. There is plenty for nature lovers including “Red Squirrels in the Park” and “Dawn Chorus Magic”. If you like gardens then the “Glorious Garden” walk could be for you, it is a long but gentle walk through the lovely Parish of Shalfleet visiting some outstanding private gardens. If you are looking for romance there is the “Speed Dating Walk”, which boasts no less than three marriages of people who met on this walk in the past. For information about all of the walks visit the Isle of Wight walking festival website. They have a fun navigation bar depicting animated walkers and cute rabbits enjoying the Isle of Wight countryside.
Some of the walks are free whilst others require that you make a small charitable donation. In this way the Isle of Wight Walking Festival raises money for the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, which cares for over 800 patients facing life-threatening conditions every year.
The Isle of Wight enjoys better than average UK weather. Considering that half the time I go walking in the Lake District it is raining and the cloud base is just above my tent, heading south to the Isle Wight sounds like a tempting idea. That said, its is always a good idea to take waterproofs when hiking anywhere in the UK!
The 12th Annual Isle of Wight Walking Festival will take place from the 8 – 23rd May 2010. However if you cannot make it then, there are still plenty of opportunities to get out your walking boots throughout the year. There are 14 trails on the Isle of Wight Walking Festival website that can be downloaded as PDFs. The trail guides contain detailed descriptions of the walk, a map and brief notes about interesting landmarks.
Interesting Facts about the Isle of Wight…
- It was an Independent kingdom briefly in the 15th century
- It has a rich maritime history: Cowes Week is the longest-running regular regatta in the world
- There are no grey squirrels and the red squirrel population is thriving
- The 1980s pop group Level 42 is from the Isle of Wight
- There are three breweries on the island
- One of the island’s largest events is the annual Garlic Festival
- The Isle of Wight is made up of a wide variety of different rock types
- There are two rivers called “Yar”, the Eastern and Western Yar.
There is undoubtedly something for everyone and it is hardly surprising that the Isle of Wight is often referred to as Britain in Miniature!