The Isle of Wight is the perfect place to explore by bike — with traffic-free cycle routes, quiet country lanes and fantastic places to visit. For family bike rides and leisurely tours, it is tailor-made.
Wightlink asked local cycling expert, Tim Wiggins, to tell us about his favourite Isle of Wight cycling routes for families.
This blog post initially appeared on wightlink.co.uk.
1. A West Wight Wander (easy)
Distance – 71 kilometres (6.3 miles) | Elevation Profile – Flat (50 metres elevation gain)
Tim’s first route is suitable for those with young families or for those inexperienced on a bike. It begins in the town of Yarmouth — perfect for arriving on Wightlink’s Lymington to Yarmouth ferry – with a large car park and plenty of cafés and restaurants in the town.
From Yarmouth, the route follows the disused railway line alongside the Western Yar river through to Freshwater. This is a traffic-free and shaded route, which is perfect for a summer cycle. Look out for the wildlife and enjoy the views.
When you arrive in Freshwater, the End of the Line Café is an ideal halfway point for a quick ice cream or coffee, before getting back in the saddle.
The route back to Yarmouth takes a quiet lane through to Thorley, before re-joining the disused railway line for the last section back to Yarmouth. This ride offers an ideal way for children to get comfortable riding on the road, and there is little climbing or descending.
2. Lighthouses and Smugglers (easy)
Distance – 11.7 kilometres (7 miles) | Elevation Profile – Flat (140 metres elevation gain)
Tim’s second recommended route really is a hidden gem. The Undercliff Road used to link Ventnor and Niton, but several years ago the road slipped away in a cliff fall. It has been reinstated, but only as a bike and footpath meaning that from Ventnor to Niton you have an almost traffic-free cycle route on pristine tarmac alongside the coast.
Start from the large car park at Ventnor Botanic Gardens. You’ll head west along the road through to Niton, passing along the southern coastline dotted with bays that are famous for their smuggling history.
When you reach Niton, you head down to the iconic St Catherine’s Lighthouse — one of the most beautiful structures on the Isle of Wight.
If you are looking for a pit-stop then The Buddle Inn at Niton is the perfect place to sit in the sunshine in the summer, or in front of a roaring open fire in the winter.
3. West Slow Lanes (easy)
Distance – 20.5 kilometres (12.7 miles) | Elevation Profile – Flat (140 metres elevation gain)
This route takes you out onto the lanes between the villages of Brighstone and Chale. Your ride begins from the car park in Brighstone village, before heading east out through the lanes.
The quiet roads skirt around the back of Shorwell, and down to the Wight Mouse Inn at Chale — a family-friendly pub stop to refuel.
After refreshments, you have a short section along the famous Military Road, with spectacular views, before heading inland again to return to Brighstone village.
This route is filled with beautiful sea views and countryside scenes.
4. East Wight Explorer (medium)
Distance – 28.4 kilometres (17.7 miles) | Elevation Profile – Moderate (310 metres elevation gain)
The eastern side of the Isle of Wight is home to a whole host of great roads, trails and cycle tracks for family riding. This route is medium in difficulty, and at 18 miles long it will be more suited to those families that have a bit more experience on bikes. Starting in Ryde, you could easily hop across on the Wightlink FastCat from Portsmouth Harbour.
The route begins at the western end of Ryde Esplanade, before heading through to the historic Quarr Abbey on quiet cycle tracks. From here, you link up with the newly refurbished Wootton-Newport cycle path, and head into the centre of Newport town along the River Medina.
From Newport, the route takes you up onto the Downs, before descending on a fun off-road track into Havenstreet. There is one last climb up through Havenstreet before heading back into Ryde via a pleasant bridle-path.
With a fair bit of climbing (and descending), this is a route that is better for the fit and adventurous family.
5. Red Squirrel Trail (medium)
Distance – 48.2 kilometres (30 miles) | Elevation Profile – Moderate (230 metres elevation gain)
The Red Squirrel Trail is a signposted family-friendly cycle route combining some of the best Isle of Wight traffic-free cycle paths and taking in several of the Island’s most vibrant towns and villages.
Officially the trail starts and finishes in Cowes, but it can be easily accessed from multiple points along its route, including Newport, Shanklin, Sandown, and Lake.
The Cowes–Newport cycle path section of the route is a beautiful traffic-free tarmac track that runs alongside the River Medina. Enjoy the river views and the wildlife in the surrounding fields. As you pass through Newport, consider calling in at Grace’s Bakery or Caffe Isola for refreshments.
The Newport–Sandown cycle path section is another National Cycle Network route; traffic-free and peaceful, it weaves through open fields and past nature look-out spots. As you pass Merstone Old Railway Station why not pause for an ice cream and explore the Troll Trail! Further along the path, Pedallers Café at Langbridge (Newchurch) is a great bicycle-themed café for an afternoon treat.
Arriving in Sandown, the route heads down to the beach and along the esplanade to Shanklin. This beautiful promenade is free of traffic, and a flat respite for the legs. Arriving in Shanklin, you could take a little detour to explore the delights of the Old Village, before pedalling onto the next disused railway line turned bike path, heading towards Wroxall.
At Wroxall, it is up the hill to Appuldurcombe House. In the summer there is Bird of Prey displays at the house, and you can look round the ancient grounds. It is then a bumpy, but fun track down to Godshill where more classic Isle of Wight attractions await, such as the Old Smithy and Tea Rooms.
After leaving Godshill you head on a sandy path towards Horringford, before re-joining the Sandown¬–Newport Cycle-Path. This time you are heading back towards Newport though, and then onwards towards Cowes.
Arriving back on Cowes seafront, be sure you treat yourself to an ice cream on Cowes Green. Look out on the yachts racing out on the water – it is the perfect finish to your mini Isle of Wight adventure.
This blog post initially appeared on wightlink.co.uk. © Wightlink Ferries | Featured image: © visitisleofwight.co.uk