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Island Geography

LocationTravel Information | History | Geography | Geology | Towns and Villages
Island Art | Beach Guide | National Trust


View from Brighstone Down, Isle of WightThink of the Isle of Wight as loosely resembling a ridge tent and you won't go far wrong.  From a spine of hills along its centre, where the views are spectacular, the countryside drops down in loose folds until it reaches the shoreline. Unless you are in that narrow, flat band, chances are that you will be travelling either uphill or downhill.

Brighstone Down

On the south side of the Island, going west on the Military Road, a great wall of white cliffs provides a superb scenic drive. Past Freshwater, the famous Needles lighthouse fronts pillars of rock that jut out into the English Channel. Neighbouring Alum Bay is famous for its coloured cliffs, evolved over the centuries; layer upon layer of differing hues, providing a popular tourist attraction.

The Needles and Alum BayThe Needles

A walking holiday, for which the Island is very popular, will introduce rough, rolling farmland, marshes, salt flats and a series of downs (which are invariably 'up'). Vines can be found marching up the southern slopes at Adgeston, and some very good wine is made at more than one location. Shanklin, a picturesque village of thatched cottages makes an excellent place to start from; plenty of variety and the hills are less steep. Alternatively, Longbarrows and round burial mounds dating from around 3500 BC can be found around Mottistone, reminders of Neolithic farmers who cleared the area and planted crops. A mere mile from Newport, the main town on the Island, is Parkhurst Forest, mentioned in the Doomsday Book. There are way-marked walks open to the public through banks of old oaks, Norway spruce and sweet chestnut.

No tour is complete without a stop at Sandown Geological Museum, which has one of the finest collections of bones and fossils dating from millions of years before the Romans arrived and named the Island 'Vectis'. The Wealdon beds, occuring along the southwest coast are a rich source of dinosaur remains and have suggested yet another name for the Isle of Wight - Dinosaur Island.


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