British author Jane Cable and her husband Jim met Texans Marsha Smith and Mike Doan on a walking holiday almost twenty years ago. When Marsha mentioned she and Mike were considering Sherpa Expeditions’ Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday, Jane and Jim jumped at the chance to join them.
Why did you choose to walk on the Isle of Wight?
Jim and I have lived on the south coast of England all our married life – in fact we have distant views of Bembridge Down on the Island from our bedroom window – but we’ve never taken a holiday there. Plus it was a great opportunity to spend time with Mike and Marsha on one of their rare trips back to the UK.
How did you prepare?
I think the answer is quite poorly! Although Jim and I tried to take some lengthy hikes in the weeks and months running up to the holiday, the weather was awful and we didn’t get as much mileage into our legs as we’d hoped. Mike and Marsha amused their friends in Texas by taking six mile walks to the Whole Foods organic store but their problem was that where they live is very flat. And the Isle of Wight isn’t.
"My favourite walking day was from Yarmouth to Freshwater because it was so varied."
Which was your favourite destination on the island?
My favourite walking day was from Yarmouth to Freshwater because it was so varied. We started off with a really pretty woodland walk with some fun sculptures at Fort Victoria Country Park then followed the promenade along part of Colwell Bay and Totland Bay with stunning views across the Solent to Hurst Castle. Then there was a short but steep climb up to Headon Warren – an amazing ancient chalk downland – which we crossed to reach Alum Bay for a much needed coffee and loo stop.
After our break, we carried on to The Needles. Jim and Marsha aren’t too keen on heights so they sat by the Coastguard Cottages while Mike and I ventured to the viewpoint at the New Battery. We also varied our walk to Freshwater by taking the path at the back of Tennyson Down which again took us through some lovely woodland, ending up at Freshwater right next to the thatched church.
The day finished really well too because we stayed at Seahorses, an oasis of calm with beautiful rooms, wonderful gardens, an art studio and the warmest welcome we could have wished for.
What aspect of this walking trip did you find most challenging?
Before we left we thought it might be the cliffs, but it was actually really easy to find alternative routes further inland with great countryside and stunning views. On the ground, the worst thing was the mud. We travelled in April after a very wet winter and on the route between Cowes and Yarmouth it was everywhere, with some parts of the path practically impassable. It didn’t help that it was the longest walking day at 15 miles and we were footsore, filthy and exhausted by the time we reached our destination.
What was the biggest surprise?
The genuine welcome we received from hoteliers, bartenders and restaurateurs – for most of them, nothing was too much trouble. There was a party at the hotel in Cowes (we stayed at the lovely Holmwood Hotel on the seafront at Egypt Point), so they gave us earplugs. Marsha left her stick at Chale Bay Farm but the owner’s wife delivered it to Ryde when she did her school run. And eating at Bellamy’s Bistro in Sandown felt more like dining with friends.
Best food and drink?
Without a doubt The Three Buoys on Appley Beach in Ryde. We ate there on the first night – it’s a short walk from the town centre but well worth it for the views, excellent service and local seafood presented in a way you’d only expect at a Michelin starred restaurant. And, at the time of writing, all for gastro pub prices.
Do you have any recommendations for other travellers taking this trip?
Take an extra day or two to chill or to see the sights. Although there was plenty of time to look around Osborne House on the first day it would have been good to visit some places not directly on the route, such as Carisbrooke Castle and the roman villa at Brading. Freshwater would be a good place as it’s close to Newport which is the Island’s transport hub and about half way in terms of the walk.
You can find out more about Jane Cable’s novels, which are inspired by the British countryside, on her website www.janecable.com and for more details on Sherpa Expeditions’ Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday, you can have a look at the Isle of Wight walking trip details or get in touch with our team of travel experts in the London office.