Route for an Isle of Wight walk near Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle gatehouse entrance

Carisbrooke Castle gatehouse entrance - Credit: Fiona Barltrop

For a memorable day out combine a visit to Carisbrooke Castle with a fine downland walk

Situated on the downland above the village of Carisbrooke, close to the Isle of Wight's capital town of Newport, the mighty medieval fortress of Carisbrooke Castle is well worth visiting. Over its long and colourful 1,000-year history it has served both as a royal prison - during the Civil War Charles I was held captive here - and as a royal residence, home to Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, in her role as governor of the Isle of Wight.

Today it is in the care of English Heritage and makes an excellent family day out, with much to see, including the castle's resident donkeys working the 16th century treadwheel to draw up water from the well and the Princess Beatrice Garden (Isle of Wight in Bloom winner). Far-reaching views can be enjoyed from the castle walls and the top of the Norman keep (allow 30 to 40 minutes for the wall walk). Events are held throughout the year, notably the Knights' Tournament in August followed by the spectacle of the Grand Medieval Jousts in the same month (check website for details and to book).

Not only is Carisbrooke Castle worth a visit in its own right, it also makes an ideal starting point for some fine walking over the nearby downland. Even if you choose not to visit the castle, its magnificent ruins can easily be viewed from without the walls. The outward leg of this walk along the lovely ridge of Bowcombe Down follows a stretch of the Tennyson Trail, one of a number of named and waymarked trails on the island, while the return leg makes use of a section of another, the Shepherds Trail. The castle is passed near the start, but given its proximity to the car park (which provides a good view) it could be left to visit at the end of the walk.


- Start/finish: Car park (free) opposite Carisbrooke Priory (SZ489875)

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- Map: OS Explorer OL29

- Distance: 6¾ miles (10.75km)

- Terrain: Downland paths and tracks

- Time: Three hours. Allow a couple of hours extra for a wander around Carisbrooke Castle.

- Refreshments: Carisbrooke Castle tearoom, open daily April to October and winter weekends; Carisbrooke Priory Tea Room, open Tues, Wed and Fri 10am-4pm

- Public transport: Wightlink car ferries between Portsmouth and Fishbourne (nearest port to Carisbrooke) and Lymington and Yarmouth; passenger catamaran from Portsmouth to Ryde, Bus service no 6 from Newport to Ventnor via Carisbrooke,

- Recommended accommodation: Chilton Farm (self-catering and B&B) peaceful location near coast and just a 20-minute drive from Carisbrooke.

The walk

1 (SZ489875) Facing Carisbrooke Priory (a Victorian Grade II listed building formerly occupied by Dominican nuns) turn right along the grassy verge of Whitcombe Road. As it bends left, keep ahead down Froglands Lane, soon turning right down a footpath along the field edge. At the bottom continue uphill along the hedge-enclosed path, although you can also walk up the left hand side of the field keeping the hedge on the left and go through a gap at the top bearing left uphill to the castle walls. Bear left following the path that curves round to the right alongside the castle walls. Keep ahead to a gate and car park. The main entrance to the castle is just along the road to the right. Even if you decide to visit another time, it's worth walking up to the entrance to see the impressive gatehouse.

2 (SZ484877) Turn left at the car park and head down the public footpath signed for Millers Lane. At the bottom turn right along the road, keeping ahead down Clatterford Shute, ignoring Millers Lane which forks right. Cross a footbridge beside a ford and continue uphill to the B3323. Turn briefly right, cross the road and head up Nodgham Lane opposite.

3 (SZ481881) At the brow of the hill, turn back sharp left along a path (to the right of a drive) signed Tennyson Trail to Freshwater. Follow the path/track uphill. At first enclosed, it gradually becomes more open providing fine views over the surrounding countryside. Ignore the various path/bridleway junctions and keep to the ridge-top track for about 2¼ miles (3.7km) until you reach a multi-armed signpost just after a gate.

4 (SZ455859) Turn left along the public bridleway N135 signed for Bowcombe Road. Where the track curves round to the right, keep ahead through a gate and follow the bridleway that becomes a more defined track heading downhill. Another track joins from the left where the bridleway curves right to go through a gate. Carry on down to the road. The onward route is along the bridleway diagonally left across the road. This follows the right hand side of the field, alongside the hedge on the right, then goes through a gap in the hedge turning left to continue along a clear track. Ignore a turn on the right and carry on to a T-junction.

5 (SZ473863) The main walk turns right here, but for a slightly shorter return you could go left and then right through the field and either head along the valley beside the Lukely Brook (best avoided during/after wet weather) or follow the bridleway via Froglands Farm. Continuing on the main route, follow the bridleway/track to the right which leads to Garstons. Pass the house on your left and fork left along the bridleway at the junction with Snowdrop Lane. Ignore the first left turn and continue to a path intersection.

6 (SZ486856) Turn left along the Shepherds Trail and follow this north back to Whitcombe Road at the junction with Froglands Lane. Turn right and retrace your outward steps to the start.


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