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For the last 20 years, for 2 weeks in spring, the Isle of Wight has played host to a festival. Not the famous Isle of Wight music festival as you might imagine but one that celebrates the footpaths and bridleways, stunning landscapes and the varied past of the Isle of Wight. It is of course, the Isle of Wight Walking Festival.
Alverstone Mill From the Sandown to Cowes Cycle Path
There are over 90 walks covering a two week period from 28th April until 13th May which culminates in the long distance world-famous walk across the island 'Walk The Wight'. But don't worry, not all the walks are that strenuous. There are walks for all levels of fitness which range in pace from gentle to brisk and from easy to strenuous and everything in between. Some are even suitable for mobility scooters like the 2-mile long Pig Leg Lane Nature Reserve walk.
Steps to Upper Bonchurch for the more energetic walker
Mark Rowe from the BBC's Countryfile Magazine will be opening the walking festival this year on 28th April with a circular coastal walk from Bembridge. In the evening, he will be giving a talk about why he enjoys walking on the Isle of Wight at the Quay Arts Centre in Newport.
All the walks are guided by experienced local volunteers who are passionate and very knowledgeable about their subject. Dogs on leads are welcome on most walks and nearly every walk is free.
Having been on many of the walks myself over the years, there isn't one I haven't enjoyed. If you decide to join us this year, here's what you can expect.
Experienced walk leader Howard Duffus will take you on a 5-mile circular walk where you will learn about Lady Worsley of Appuldurcombe and one of her many lovers who lived at Knighton Gorges.
Wildlife features on many of the walks from the Dawn Chorus walk with the amazingly enthusiastic Ian Boyd to Wonderful Wetland walks with Jamie Marsh.
Ian Boyd taking us on a Willow Walk
Maggie Nelmes will follow old smuggling trails on an Undercliff Walk to discover a woodland nature reserve and an old holy well.
For the most energetic, you can take part in the Isle of Wight challenge on the 5th and 6th May and either run, jog or walk all day and night around the whole island.
Although every walk is unique, they all have one thing in common; they are more than just a walk in the countryside. They vary from historical tales to drawing and sketching and from Tai Chi to dinosaur hunting.
Ancient Woodland Paths
Where is the Isle of Wight?
The Isle of Wight is located just off the south coast of England opposite Portsmouth and Southampton. It regularly competes for, and wins, the sunniest place in the UK. Its main town is Newport in the centre of the island but most visitors head to the sandy beaches of Sandown and Shanklin which has a 5mile stretch of continuous sand in a sheltered bay on the south side of the island.
Apart from walking, water sports are very popular here too. It hosts the annual sailing event Cowes Week and is also popular with surfers, kayakers and more recently stand up paddle boarders.
The Isle of Wight is easily accessible from 4 locations on the south coast of England: Lymington, Southampton, Portsmouth and the quickest route is by hovercraft from Southsea with a journey time of 10 minutes. You can bring your bicycle, car or campervan over on the Lymington, Portsmouth and Southampton routes. But it's foot passengers only on the hovercraft from Southsea.