Isle of Wight AONB

Isle of Wight AONB, Cliff & Coastal Scenery, Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight AONB ©

Isle of Wight – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located on the island of the Isle of Wight. Located in the English Channel off the south coast of England, it was first designated a AONB over 50 years ago back in 1963, the area covers 189 square kilometres making it one of the more compact AONBs in the UK. The area covered under the AONB designation consists of five distinct land areas across the island, covering approximately half of the island. The area is well known for its chalk cliffs, downland, farmland, meadows and famous beaches and coastline.

The local population of approx 10,000 live primarily in historic small towns and villages located across the countryside. The AONB covers areas across the island, on the north coast there are low clay cliffs and mud-flats of the Hamstead Heritage Coast, whilst in the south there is the Tennyson Heritage Coast that includes chalk cliffs and sandy bays. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and includes of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

The area includes landscapes of ecological and scientific importance including landslips and cliffs in the south and major estuarial habitats in the north. The landscape offers some inspiring panoramic views over the island including some great views over the coastline and across the English Channel.

The main industries in the AONB include farming, agriculture and tourism, there are a number of scenic villages and small towns located in the AONB including Chale, Chilterton, Gatcombe and Calbourne.

The area is popular for horse riding, wildlife watching, day trippers and walkers and cyclists with a range of routes to explore. Visitors can enjoy scenic landscapes around the island benefiting from the great outdoors and enjoy peace, calm and tranquillity of the area.

Quick Facts

Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1963

Population: 10,000 (approx)

Size in square kilometres: 189

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs): 4
Scheduled Ancient Monuments: 109
Main Settlements close by: Newport, Ryde, Shanklin, Sandown and Cowes.
Located in: Isle of Wight.


The Isle of Wight AONB is located across five distinct areas on the Isle of Wight, unlike most other AONB that are located in one main protected area. Whilst the total area covered makes the AONB one of the smallest in the UK, it covers around half of the island illustrating the ecological, geographical and scientific importance of the Isle of Wight. The area provides a great place for visitors looking for a scenic retreat in the countryside and along the coastline away from the noise and traffic from the towns and cities. The AONB area itself is sparsely populated and does not include the two largest population centres on the island, Newport and Ryde. There area does include a number of traditional small villages and charming hamlets illustrating the rich history and cultural heritage of the local area.

Isle of Wight has long been a favourite holiday destination with seaside resorts popular with families, holiday parks and plenty of day trip visitors from ferries from Portsmouth and Southampton. Over the years the island has established itself as a popular destination for yachting enthusiasts especially around Yarmouth and Cowes. The compact nature of the island means for visitors the towns of Newport and Ryde offer convenient locations from which to explore the AONB located close by. Other larger settlements include Shanklin, Sandown and Cowes all of which are located close by to the various areas that make up the AONB on the island. The commercial development in the protected area has been limited providing a place for visitors to see mainly unspoilt and mainly rural making the area ideal for a countryside getaway.

The location off the southern English coast means the AONB is assessable from across southern England including the south east and south west of England, the Midlands, east of England and southern Wales. From London the Isle of Wight is 3 hours 30 minutes by car and ferry, from Cardiff it is 4 hours, from Birmingham it is approx 4 hours 30 minutes away. From Norwich in the east of England it is 5 hours away. From these regions the AONB is assessable as a day trip, short break or longer break destination. From Liverpool, Manchester and much of northern England the area is 5 hours to 7 hours 30 minutes by car and ferry.

Tourist Information Points are located at various locations on the Isle of Wight. They are based in the two largest towns of Newport, the county town and Ryde, the largest town, other tourist information points are located in Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor and Yarmouth. The tourist information points provide visitors with information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas. Each of the centres has knowledgeable staff that can provide useful local knowledge on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres makes for a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area.

Local Accommodation includes a choice of both historic and contemporary hotels, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, camping facilities and cottages. Local accommodation is available in Newport, Ryde, Cowes, Shanklin, Sandown, Yarmouth ad Ventnor all of which are located conveniently close by to the AONB, providing good access to local facilities and transport from which to explore the AONB and the local areas.

Within the Isle of Wight AONB visitors can explore a number of charming, small historic villages and hamlets that retain their own charm and character. History and tradition have been well preserved in many of the villages and hamlets offering visitors the opportunity to see the local culture. The small towns and villages in the area include a number of local attractions and places of interest for visitors to discover.

Local Towns & Villages include Freshwater, a village located 11 miles west of Newport. Located in West Wight, Freshwater is a popular destination among visitors, visitors are drawn to the chalk cliffs and the rocks located at the edge of the coastline, making it popular with photographers. Freshwater Bay is located inside the AONB, there is a pebble beach there and is a popular destination for boating, a number of walks and swimming. The area includes a shopping area with supermarket and a number of stores.

Local attractions include two historic churches; the church of St Agnes and the medieval All Saint's church. Visitors can walk to Tennyson Down offering some of the finest views over the Isle of Wight. Freshwater includes a number of accommodation options including hotels, bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, campsites and holiday cottages. The area includes a number of cafes, eateries and restaurants offering a choice of dining options.

Yarmouthis a town and port located 10 miles to the west of Newport in the north west of the Isle of Wight. The town is one of the gateways to the island with a number of ferries operating from the harbour. Located on the River Yar, the historic port is a popular and convenient location for visitors. Visitors can see some of the oldest architecture on the island in the town. There are a choice of accommodation facilities in the town whilst the ferry location in the town makes it an ideal place for visitors to use as a base when exploring the area.

Yarmouth includes a choice of restaurants, cafes and pubs offering a range of food, drinks and refreshments including locally sourced ice creams. Local attractions include the Grade II listed pier that is noted for its great views across the Solent and is a favourite spot for fishing. Yarmouth Castle is a historic castle dating back to the 16th century, now under the care of English Heritage, the castle is a popular place visitors can enjoy a picnic in a scenic setting whilst enjoying wonderful views of the Solent. Inside the castle there is an exhibition and the rooms have been recreated as they would have been like back in the 16t century.

Other attractions include Fort Victoria located close by, a former Victorian gun battery dating back to the 1850's. The site is now home to a number of attractions including a model railway, marine aquarium and planetarium. There are a number of events that take place in and around Yarmouth each year, the Yarmouth Gaffers Festival has been running for over 50 years whilst the Rhyhmtree World Music Festival takes place in nearby Shalfleet. The festival has established itself as a leading new festival attracting a number of artists from around the world.

Calbourne is a charming village located 6 miles west of Newport. The village retains its charm and character and is still largely unspoilt. In the centre of the village there is a sloping green that is located next to a historic church that dates back to AD826. The village gets its name from the stream Carl-Bourne; the village includes Winkle Street where visitors a scenic row of houses, Westover House a historic manor house is located close by.

To the west of the village is Upper Calbourne Mill, that is open for the public to visit, inside visitors can see a machinery exhibition along with the working water mill that is six metres in height. Visitors can stroll around the scenic gardens and enjoy some home baking delights in the cafe. The mill is a showcase for eco engineering; using renewable materials along with wind turbines. Other local attractions include the Chessell Pottery where visitors can see pottery being made, there is also a coffee shop and shop for gifts, souvenirs and mementos.

Heritage Coasts were established back in 1974, covering half of the Isle of Wight's coastline they included the Hamstead Heritage Coast and the Tennyson Heritage Coast. In 1992 the heritage coasts were incorporated in to the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Hamstead Heritage Coast is located in the north west of the island, noted for its undeveloped coastline, the scenic area is noted for its natural beauty, sloping clay cliffs, estuaries, creeks along with woodland and farmland. The area is a haven for wildlife including migratory birds and Red Squirrels. The historic town of Newtown and the National Nature Reserve ad woodland at Bouldnor Forest are located in the area. The Hamstead Heritage Coast can be accessed via the coastal path from Thorness close to Cowes to Bouldnor close to Yarmouth. In addition there are a number of footpaths from Shalfleet, Newtown and other area that go towards the coastline.

Tennyson Heritage Coast is located in the south west of the island, there are sandstone and clay cliffs where visitors can see a number of views across to the English Channel. Known for the multi-coloured cliffs and chalk stacks, the coastline is rich in history and ecology with chines, lighthouses and even has dinosaur footprints at Brook Bay. The coastline is known for being rich in fossils and includes a number of ecologically important habitats. The area is a great place for visitors to go to find unspoilt beaches away from the crowds and many miles of undeveloped coastline.

Walking is a popular activity in the AONB and surrounding areas across the island, there are 100s of miles of footpaths encompassing a range of landscapes and scenery. The Isle of Wight Coastal Path covers some 67 miles of paths taking in coastline and beaches. There are a number of coastal paths and inland trails for walking enthusiasts to try varying in length from 5 miles to over 15 miles. Guide walks are also available where visitors can benefit from having a guide with in depth knowledge and local insight offering a great way to learn more about the island, its history and local attractions. Walking in the area provides a cost effective, environmentally friendly, fun way to see the sights, local wildlife and full splendour of the landscape.

Cycling provides a cost effective and fun way to explore the Isle of Wight AONB and the surrounding areas in an environmentally friendly way whilst getting fit and seeing a range of attractions and places of interest up close. The island is a cyclists paradise with quiet country lanes and plenty of scenic beauty, there are cycle routes to suit cyclists of all abilities. There are in excess of 200 miles of cycle routes on the island area has plenty to offer cyclists of all abilities, including byways, entry level tracks and more challenging off road bridleways for those after more of a challenge. There are a number of routes and trails for visitors to try including the Red Squirrel Trail, Chalk Ridge Extreme and a number of day rides including the Sunshine Trail.

Visitors to the Isle of Wight AONB will find a quiet scenic haven with plenty of natural scenic beauty and the famed Isle of Wight coastline. There is a varied landscape and special qualities in the AONB including the heritage coasts and a number of historic small local towns and villages that maintain their rural character, charm and natural beauty making it an ideal destination for a tranquil, rural retreat.

How to Get There

Isle of Wight AONB is accessible by both car, air and ferry.

By Car:

The Isle of Wight is located approx 90 miles from central London. From London, take the A202, then the A3036, then the A3. Continue on the A3 on to the A3(M) then take the turning for the A27 towards Portsmouth. Then take the M275 to Portsmouth and then the A3 to Portsmouth Harbour. From Portsmouth Harbour there are passenger ferries to Ryde Pier Head in the Isle of Wight. The total journey time is approx 3 hours 20 minutes t 3 hours 45 minutes on traffic, ferry connections and time of day. Alternatively from Portsmouth there are car ferry services to Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight with a journey time of 40 minutes fro Portsmouth. Other ferry services include Lymington in the New Forest to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight with a journey time of 30 minutes from Lymington. Ferry services are available from Southampton to East Cowes including a car ferry service, the journey time is approx one hour. Ferry Services from Portsmouth and Portsmouth Harbour are provided by: Wightlink. Ferry services from Southampton are provided by: National Express

By Train:

The train station at Portsmouth Harbour has regular services from London Waterloo stations. The approx journey time is 2 hours depending on time of day and connections. The train station at Southampton Central has regular services from London Waterloo station and London Victoria station, the approx journey time varies from 1 hour 25 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes depending on time of day.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular buses available from London Victoria Coach station to both Southampton and Portsmouth. The approx journey time is approx 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes depending on time of day, connections and traffic. Coach services to Portsmouth and Southampton are provided by services are provided by National Express.

Contact Details

Isle of Wight AONB
Seaclose Offices
Fairlee Road
Isle of Wight
PO30 2QS

Telephone: +44 (0)1983 823855

Website: Isle of Wight AONB


View Isle of Wight AONB in a larger map

For Local Search and Directions see: Isle of Wight (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Isle of Wight AONB ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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