Isle of Wight Coastal Trail

The Isle of Wight Coastal Trail is a series of geography resources which can be used on a mix-and-match basis across 12 iconic Island and mainland locations ideal for teaching or self-led learning of key curriculum topics. These resources were kindly sponsored by Red Funnel Ferries, who have one of the UK's most comprehensive sets of geography teaching resources.

Use them as a set to develop a day trip or residential visit, or add them to existing visits to nearby venues and attractions. Most of the resources are timed at half a day making them ideal "add-ons" to an existing trip.

Age Group - Suitability Matrix

The resources are grouped in such a way that there are 6 key stage specific resources for the most appropriate of the 12 locations included, plus one general interest / family oriented edition for each location numbered in red on the map below

The following table details this:

Alum Bay 10
Chines of the IW 7 - -
Compton Bay 8 - - -
Cowes / East Cowes 1 - - -
Freshwater 9 - -
Hurst Spit 11 - -
Newtown & Hamstead 12 - - -
Ryde 2 -
St Helens/Bembridge 4 -
Seaview 3 - - -
The Undercliff 6 - - -
Ventnor 5


Isle of Wight Coastal Trail locations map
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Alum Bay
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Ventnor
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - St Lawrence Undercliff
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Chines
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Compton Bay
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Freshwater Bay
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Hurst Spit
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Newtown Nature Reserve
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Cowes & East Cowes
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Ryde
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - Seaview
Isle of Wight Coastal Trail - St Helens & Bembridge

Locations Suited to Age Group

Depending on your age group, different Coastal Trail sites are appropriate

Alum Bay

World-famous coloured sands
Alum Bay is the location of a classic sequence of upper Paleocene and Eocent beds of soft sands and clays. The strata in the main section of the bay are near vertical and the sands are coloured due to oxidised iron ore compounds formed under different conditions.

Plus, there's a great view of the Needles stack and lighthouse!

Find out more about Alum Bay...

Logo for Chines of the Isle of Wight - part of the Coastal Trail

Chines of the Isle of Wight

What is a Chine?
A Chine is a steep-sided river valley through soft eroding cliffs of sandstone or clay. The Isle of Wight is home to at least 20 different chines including perhaps the best known at Shanklin. Most, however, are in the AONB 'West Wight' area.

Fascinating folklore is attached to chines, many of which have links to smuggling and shipwrecking.

Find out more about our Chines...

Compton Bay

Home of actual dinosaur footprints
Compton Bay is the best place on the Isle of Wight to see actual dinosaur footprints in the rocks at low tide.

A stunning sandy beach running from the white cliffs of Freshwater along to soft red and orange cretaceous rocks at Blackgang which are rapidly eroding, spilling their fossil treasures onto the beach as they retreat.

Find out more about Compton Bay...

Cowes & East Cowes

Part of the Island's seafaring heritage
Cowes and East Cowes are seaport towns located on opposing sides of the River Medina estuary where it meets the Solent.

Separated by a narrow stretch of water over which a 'floating bridge' ferry shuttle runs back and forth, Cowes is world famous for yachting, boatbuilding and watersports, with the annual summer Regatta the highlight of the tourism calendar.

Find out more about Cowes / East Cowes...


Stunning rock formations
Noted for its stunning geology and coastal rock formations that have resulted from thousands of years worth of erosion.

The soft sandy Freshwater Bay is the starting point for a walk to the Tennyson Monument, high on the downs overlooking the bay, named after local resident Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Victorian poet laureate.

Find out more about Freshwater...

Hurst Spit

Scheduled monument
Hurst Spit is a shingle bank at the end of Christchurch Bay extending 2.5km into the Solent and is the nearest mainland point to the Isle of Wight, reached from the Island via charter boat service from Yarmouth.

Home to Hurst Castle built in 1544, it is a scheduled monument whose defences, salt marshes, geology and fine beaches make great learning resources.

Find out more about Hurst Spit...

Newtown Nature Reserve

Medieval harbour
Previously a medieval harbour serving the then capital of Newtown, now a nature reserve with extensive mud flats and salt marshes.

Newtown is bursting with wildlife throughout the year, with ancient woodlands, meadows and mudflats. It is home to rare butterflies, red squirrels, wetland wildlife and abundant bird life.

Find out more about Newtown...


Victorian seaside resort
Ryde is a Victorian seaside town and transport interchange - where ferries and hovercraft meet trains and buses for onward distribution of the Island's many tourist visitors.

Noted for its expansive sands which are revealed at low tide, as well as its listed Victorian pier - the 4th longest in the UK - which houses a ferry terminal, car park and rail head.

Find out more about Ryde...

St Helens & Bembridge

Large natural harbour
St Helens and Bembridge are adjacent small towns across a large natural harbour to the east of the Isle of Wight with a unique ecosystem.

Learning opportunities are around the physical geography of St Helens Duver - what sand dunes are, how they develop and what they are like. Also the human geography of the heavily utilised area and the interactions between the two.

Find out more about St Helens & Bembridge...


Edwardian seaside resort
Seaview is a small Edwardian seaside resort which now boasts significant sea defences.

Several of the Palmerston forts, such as No Mans Land Fort, are clearly visible from Seaview, as is the busy entrance to Portsmouth harbour across the Solent.

Find out more about Seaview...

St Lawrence Undercliff

Cretaceous landslide complex
St Lawrence Undercliff is a 5 mile long landslide complex in cretaceous soft rocks, slipped clays and sands. It is the largest urban landslide complex in northern Europe.

Stretching from Niton to Bonchurch, its sheltered south facing location gives rise to a microclimate considerably warmer than elsewhere on the island. Still prone to landslips and subsidence, this is an ideal location to study coastal erosion as well as investigating the civil engineering challenges of maintaining urban facilities in an ever changing landscape.

Find out more about the Undercliff...


Wall lizard capital of the UK
Lying underneath 241m high St Boniface Down, and built on steep slopes leading down the sea, Ventnor's sheltered location results in more sunny days and fewer frosts than most of the UK.

Famously a site of World War 2 radar stations, Ventnor is now home to the largest British colony of wall lizards. It has extensive sea defences and a unique scale model of our solar system along the sea wall, where every inch represents 100,000 miles.

Find out more about Ventnor...

Follow the Coastal Trail on your next Isle of Wight school trip!

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