Unforgettable southern Isle of Wight cycle ride guide - Epic Road Rides Back to top
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The Ride Lighthouse, Needles and Downs: the most scenic Isle of Wight cycle ride?

Distance

Elevation gain

Difficulty

Epic rating

88 km
1,250 m 
  
 

Distance

Elevation

88 km
1,250 m 

Difficulty

Epic rating

  
  

When we set out, we intended to ride the challenging 9 Roads to Nowhere route. However, due to lack of time, navigation difficulties and, as it turned out, a low tolerance for roads to nowhere(!), our route ended up considerably shorter.

The happy result is the awesome Isle of Wight cycle ride you find here.

88 km of beautiful country lanes, nearly 1,300 m of climbing and three fantastic viewpoints. 

Big thanks to 9 Roads to Nowhere for giving us the inspiration for this memorable ride.

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HIGHLIGHTS

Riding out to the Needles is wonderful. It’s the Isle of Wight’s most famous landmark, and it’s a beautiful spot where cars are banned, and the panoramic views are of pristine coastline and sparkling sea.

We also love the quiet lanes and meandering British countryside.

Cycling to the iconic white Needles

The iconic Needles at the end of the quiet promontory

Quiet, meandering roads around Calbourne Isle of Wight

Meandering road near Calbourne surrounded by quintessential British countryside (photo credit: Ciphar Steve/Shutterstock.com)

Ex military brick building on top of Ventnor Down, Isle of Wight

Ex military defence building on top of Ventnor Down, surrounded by far-reaching views

RIDE LOG

1. Ventnor to St Catherine’s Lighthouse (0-10km)

There are some punchy hills as you leave Ventnor, though now Undercliff Drive has re-opened for bikes (Spring 2017), you can avoid the gruelling Seven Sisters Road. 

It’s a steep descent down St Catherine’s Road and then on to a paved, pedestrian path down to St Catherine’s lighthouse. The white lighthouse stands proudly beside the sea, surrounded by a gaggle of low buildings.

2. St Catherine’s Lighthouse to the Needles (10-42km)

It’s a bit of a grind back up to Niton (av. 6.7% over 1.5 km), but then you’re on the glorious network of lanes that are part of the round the island route.

If you have already done the round the island route, and don’t fancy repeating the section from Niton to Hulverstone, you could just bomb it down the Military Road (see what we did there?). This is the main road - but everything is relative, and it’s a nice ride, with little in the way of development and memorable sea views along this heritage coastline.

Without a doubt, the best part of this section (and perhaps the whole ride) is riding the headland out to the Needles. You get views of the lighthouse, Alum Bay and there’s a wild beauty that is only heightened by the lack of cars (it’s pedestrians and buses (every half hour) only). Hopefully, the endorphins released by being in such a beautiful place will reduce the pain of the short, sharp sections.

3. The Needles to Ventnor Down and Ventnor (42-88km)

Yarmouth is a lovely town with a busy marina full of yachts.

From here, it’s quiet roads to Calbourne. In Calbourne, you hit The Middle Road that takes you past Newport. Not one of the highlights of the ride, but not a disaster either.

East of Newport the roads get quieter again, and it’s a lovely meander south. Save some energy for the last few kilometres: after Wroxall it’s a steep climb up to Ventnor Down (17% in places). It’s worth it though - you get great views out to sea and south across the island. 

You finish the ride with a short spin back to charming Ventnor.

St Catherine's Ligththouse near Niton. A white landmark against a blue sky.

The impressive sight of St Catherine's Lighthouse (photo credit: Sterling Images/Shutterstock.com)

Military road sweeping through quiet countryside towards Freshwater

Military Road, sweeping through pristine countryside towards Freshwater

Ventnor Down and views out to sea

Gorgeous views from the top of Ventnor Down

CAFé STOPS

The best place to stop would probably be a short diversion into Yarmouth. You’ll be more than half the way around, and it’s a pretty town with great coffee shops. We’ve been to PO41 (St James Court, Quay St, Yarmouth PO41 0PB) on each of our last two visits, as we love their flat whites. They do a mean brownie too.

Alternative stops could include:

  • - St Catherine’s Lighthouse, PO38 2NF - there are no facilities here - but if you like climbing things and/or lighthouses, the short tours that volunteers run here get great reviews. You might want to check in advance about wearing cleats as some of the steps are very steep. Just up the road is The Buddle Inn, a cosy, stone pub with open fires, and decent food.
  • - The Old Battery at the Needles, PO39 0JH - this National Trust property has toilets and a tea room. The tea room is housed in a Second World War signal station and, if you sit in the upstairs section, it has 180-degree windows out to the Needles and lighthouse.  Check in advance whether you will be able to take your bike onto the property. You won’t be able to see your bike from the tea room, so you’ll need a lock.
  • - Chessell Pottery cafe, Brook Road, Yarmouth PO41 0UE, just off route before you reach Calbourne - they serve a mean cream tea (one of the best on the island by all accounts), and lunches too.

ACCOMMODATION

We did this ride from Pitts Keep in Bonchurch, near Ventnor. It’s a three-bedroom Victorian villa set around an enclosed courtyard. It has a fabulous garden with lovely sea views and inside it’s stylishly decorated, warm and cosy. 

If you’re looking for a hotel or want to stay on another part of the island, take a look at more of our accommodation suggestions in our ultimate guide to cycling Isle of Wight

Alternatively, our best towns for cyclists article should help you narrow down the best town for you. 

TIPS

This ride takes in some of the most beautiful spots on the Isle of Wight, but they’re in exposed positions that are often wild and windy. Pack accordingly.

Read our tips for cycling the Isle of Wight before you set out.


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Banner photo credit: RGParish/Shutterstock.com

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