Red Funnels and Red Squirrels - An Isle of Wight Day Walk from Carisbrooke back to Cowes

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Aug 11

16 people attending

4 places left

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Distance: 18 km (11 miles); terrain: moderately hilly with route on tarmac, concrete, grass, dirt and gravel; cumulative climb: 439 m.

Ah, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer and the dog days of August. If one has to take some moderate exercise, one should be cooled by gentle zephyrs wafting off the sea or shaded by majestic oaks spreading in a forest. The sea should be the fairest and busiest around, sparkling in the sunshine and ploughed by diverse vessels, and the forest should be the largest and densest, stirring in the breeze and rustled by red squirrels. Plus, with the date being the height of the holiday season, the locale should be magical and mysterious; an enchanted island, perhaps.

This exquisite excursion to the Isle of Wight should be ideal: a convenient and captivating crossing from Southampton, a perusal of the perimeter of Carisbrooke Castle, a shady stroll through Parkhurst Forest, a foray through fields, and a seaside saunter to Cowes, the most 'in' place on the island.

Points of interest:

On the crossing:

Cruise ships at Southampton: According to the Port of Southampton Cruise Ship Schedule, five cruise ships will be berthed on the day, three visible up Southampton Water (Independence of the Seas, Oriana and Mein Schiff 3) and two visible at close quarters as the catamaran passes (Sapphire Princess and Azura). All apart from the Mein Schiff 3 will have departed by the time of our return.

Fawley Refinery: Owned by Esso, built in 1925 and rebuilt and extended in 1951 and now the largest oil refinery in the UK and one of the most complex in Europe. With a capacity of 270,000 barrels a day, Fawley provides 20 percent of UK refinery capacity. 

Calshot Spit and Castle: A shingle spit extending into the Solent with an artillery fort built by Henry VIII in 1539-40 to defend the sea passage to Southampton. Used more recently as a Navy and RAF base.

On the island:

Carisbrooke Castle (exterior): The strongest and only extensive castle on the island. The general impression is of low buildings on a hill. Saxon mound; Norman keep and curtain wall; gatehouse of 1335-6; solar, range and Great Hall of 14th century; angled bastions of 1587-1600. Charles I was held prisoner here during the Civil War shortly before his execution. Afterwards, the residence of the island's governor. (We won't be entering, just viewing the exterior from close quarters.)

Carisbrooke: One attractive High Street among housing estates. St Mary's Church is Norman, 1070, and 13th and 14th centuries.

Parkhurst Forest: The second largest forest on the island and managed by the Forestry Commission, partly a site of special scientific interest consisting of heathland, relic plantation and ancient forest. It is used as recreational land and is a haven for wildlife including red squirrel, garden warbler, nightjar, woodcock, green and great spotted woodpeckers and long-eared owl. A special red squirrel hide has been recently set up which we'll visit.

Gurnard: An appealing, nicely ramshackle place two miles west of Cowes with some fine villas, gaily painted beach huts and views across The Solent. Nearby Thorness and Gurnard Bays could be used for swimming.

Cowes: Known for its regatta (held in the first full week of August), a jaunty and wealthy seaport. Yacht races started in the second half of the 18th century and the term 'regatta' first appeared in 1814. The Royal Yacht Club was founded the next year, sited on Henry VIII's Cowes Castle. The high point was the Edwardian Era when Kaiser Wilhelm II visited the town. The esplanade has fine Art Deco and Edwardian apartment blocks and the High Street has a nicely enclosed character. 


The walk itself is linear, starting at Newport Bus Station after a short bus journey from West Cowes and finishing back at Cowes to catch the catamaran back to Southampton. (The Number 1 bus runs from Cowes to Newport every 7 minutes and costs £3.50 for a single fare.) 

Leaving the bus station we will head south out of Newport to reach the suburb of Carisbrooke whereupon we'll leave the built up area and walk over Mount Joy and around the edge of Carisbrooke Castle grounds, round to the entrance gate. We'll then complete our circuit of the castle grounds and walk to Carisbrooke village which we'll leave, and head towards Cook's Farm to cross the A3054 to enter Parkhurst Forest. Here in a glade we'll have lunch while the red squirrels put in an appearance. Perhaps.

After lunch we'll follow a slightly zigzagging route through the forest, leave it and walk along Whitehouse Road. Leaving this lane we'll go past Little Thorness and reach the sea at Thorness Bay. The coastal path which runs along low cliffs and foreshores will then take us all the way back to Cowes, but only after we've passed through woods and fields, Gurnard village and Egypt Point along Gurnard Bay. I intend to have some time in Cowes before the return crossing so you can explore the pretty place and perhaps get dinner before crossing back to Southampton.

Carisbrooke Castle Side View
Carisbrooke Castle Air View
Parkhurst Forest 1
Parkhurst Forest 2
Red Squirrel
Gurnard Bay
Carisbrooke Castle Side View
Carisbrooke Castle Air View
Parkhurst Forest 1
Parkhurst Forest 2
Red Squirrel
Gurnard Bay