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Bembridge and Culver Downs

The Isles of Wight, albeit looking miniature on a map of the UK, is home to several invigorating trails suitable for hikers of all levels. Most of these trails will involve a segment of the Isles of Wight's coastline, which looks beautiful, especially in the summer. An excellent example of one of these hikes consists of the village of Bembridge and part of the Culver Downs, which I enjoyed myself.

Bembridge Windmill, the starting point for this hike

As you begin this hike from the National Trust's Bembridge Windmill, the only windmill located on the Isles of Wight, you will become submerged in woodland thanks to Steyne Wood. Bearing left, the first main road will become visible, and upon crossing this road, you will approach Whiff Bay Glamping and Camping Holiday Park.

After passing alongside this army of static caravans, another main road will make itself known to you. Your aim here is to get to Jenny Streets Lane, and you can simply do this by turning left and right again. Once on this lane, you can proceed towards the Kingswood and Kingswood Adventure Sports Centre. This is where your senses will begin to tell you that you are nearing the coast, and they aren't wrong.

The coastal view of Whitecliff Bay

The South Eastern Isles of Wight coast becomes apparent as you emerge from this footpath segment. A left turn here will lead you to Whitecliff Bay Caravan Park. Here, you can pause the hike and head down to the bay to chill out, the sound of the crashing waves putting your mind at ease.

After this relaxation, and upon joining the path again, you will need to find a discrete entrance to a pathway that continues the route. This will lead you on a steady incline, which will guide you to the Yarborough Monument, another landmark being cared for by the National Trust. At this point, you can take a breather and admire more stunning coastal views of the Isles of Wight's South Eastern coast.

Looking down at the Sandhills Holiday Park from the Culver Downs

The Culver Haven Inn is on standby for hikers who wish to have a cheeky pint to celebrate completing the first third of the trail. But of course, you could also do this to escape any heavy wet weather if you want to and continue once the rain dies down.

Yarborough Monument, located on top of the Culver Downs

Passing this pub (or leaving it), the path will bear left and make you feel like you're walking toward the seaside town of Sandown. However, as a steep drop approaches, you will need to bear right, avoiding this drop and inclining instead. Ploughing through a crossing hedge gap, you will face another incline on the right, elevating you to Bembridge Fort. If you visit this in the Summer, it will be worth checking out this island's part of the defence against the French attack in the 1860s.

Coastal view towards the South Eastern town of Sandown

Hiking away from this fort, you will notice a grassy downward path opposite it. A valley will become visible on the immediate right, alongside the Culver Down Road. This valley will direct you down to the kissing gate that guards you against Sandown Road. After braving a short length of this road, you will be relieved by the next kissing gate, granting you entry to the Gander Down Reserve upon passing through.

After bearing right and a few minutes of hiking, a woodland will soon appear. Turning into this wood and taking another left turn, you will be hiking toward Braden Marsh, the best point on this hiking route for carrying out a bit of bird-spotting. Sea eagles are an excellent example of one of the birds you can locate using your trusty binoculars (if you have these, of course!).

The Braden Marsh, heaven for birdwatchers

After another break consisting of looking for birds, you can retrace your steps here and bear left into an area known as Centurion's Copse. After bearing left twice more, over 15 minutes, you will approach a clearing displaying Bembridge Windmill far away. This is your sign to continue with this hike's final leg.

Crossing the fields to come, you will notice Bembridge Airport on your right. Complete with its own Propeller Inn, it is available for you to pre-book your flying session whenever you wish to do this. If you do this regularly, you may want to consider becoming a member. As well as bird spotting on this hiking route, you get the bonus of doing a bit of airplane spotting.

As you hike alongside this airport, the fields ahead will approach you thick and fast. However, the more you wade through these fields, the closer you slowly reach Bembridge Windmill. Each field, and each kissing gate, will greet you and cheer you on as you approach your end goal. Upon reaching the final kissing gate, complete with a stile, crossing the final field diagonally will lead you back up to Bembridge Windmill.

Arriving back at Bembridge Windmill, which is seen from behind

Before departing the windmill, it may be an excellent opportunity to look back at the greenery that the windmill looks over daily. You can also take a moment to breathe and congratulate yourself for completing one of the Isles of Wight's most incredible hikes.

Useful Information

  • Bembridge Windmill is open from April to November every year. The standard adult price is £6, and the standard child price is £3.

  • Bembridge Fort offers slightly lower entry prices, with a standard adult entry price of £5 and a standard child price of £2.50.

  • Click Here for more details about the hiking route and what to look out for.

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