With quaint country lanes twisting and turning through the tranquil countryside, the Isle of Wight is the perfect destination for a cycling holiday. From challenging hillsides to peaceful village streets, the 500 mile stretch of custom byways provides numerous cycle routes for all skill levels.
Since the Isle of Wight managed to bag the top spot on Lonely Island’s “Top 10 World Cycling Routes,” it has been aptly nicknamed “Bicycle Island.” Each year new cycle highways emerge, due to the influx of tourists craving Island getaways. Due to its contrasting landscapes and extreme variety, the Isle of Wight has even solidified itself as one of the best training grounds for would-be Olympians!
Hiring a Bicycle
Don’t have a bike? No need to worry. Bicycle Island is home to a vast network of bike hire centres and bike-carrying buses, ensuring that you’ll always have access to a quality two wheeler, even if you find yourself stuck in the depths of the forest with a puncture. Popular rental and “breakdown” services include Tavcycles (Ryde), Wight Wanders (Islandwide) and Wight Cycle Hire (Yarmouth). Expect to pay £12 to £15 per day.
The Red Squirrel Trail
The famous Red Squirrel Trail is the most family friendly cycle trail on the island. It has over 24 miles of car-free paths – starting at Shanklin and ending at Cowes – that show off the natural landscape in all its glory. Here you will journey through patchwork fields, coastal pathways, disused railway lines and enchanted forests. It takes two days to complete, if riding at a leisurely pace, so unless you’re practising for the Tour De France, best book accommodation for your overnight stop.
While on your travels you may also be lucky enough to spot one of Britain’s most endangered animals; the red squirrel. While elusive and shy, the island population has grown accustomed to visitors, so feel free to take a few snacks with you along the way. Common hotspots include The Garlic Farm, Alverstone Mead Nature Reserve and Shanklin Chine.
The Isle of Wight Cycling Festival
The Isle of Wight Cycling Festival is held on the first Bank Holiday in May and includes over 70 different cycling courses, as well as a programme of entertainment for spectators. Whether you want to pedal lightly along the coastal paths, or test your physical prowess with the 70 mile Cycle the Wight challenge, there’s bound to be an event tailored to your specific skill level and age group.
Challenging Circuits for the Newbie
The Ryde Circuit is a 12.8 mile cycle route that starts and ends on George Street. While it contains a few steep hills, it should be feasible by anyone with a decent bike and average level of fitness. For a mixed route that mainly takes place on quiet country lanes, but veers off the beaten path every one in a while, try Ventnor to Yarmouth. This route starts on Newport Road, passes Ventnor Botanic Gardens and takes you to Yarmouth. At 22.8 miles, it’s quite challenging, but has plenty of downhill sections, making it a favourite for the island’s speed freaks.
For a comprehensive list of cycle maps, visit: visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/activities/cycling.