In my experience, some of the most beautiful places in the world are best discovered on foot. So, when I was offered the chance to discover a treasure trove part of the Isle of Wight with HF Holidays, I couldn’t tie up my new Hi-Tec walking boots quick enough as I tossed my trusted backpack over my shoulder in preparation for my hiking holiday.
My journey began by non-foot modes of transport, namely a train to Portsmouth Harbour, then on to the Wightlink ferry to Ryde before travelling by taxi to Freshwater Bay House where we would stay during our hiking holiday.
Freshwater Bay House
This newly refurbished historic country house dating from the 1790s, sits on a cliff- top location overlooking the bay after which it is named. It wasn’t until the next morning (my guest and I arrived after dark) that I saw this local landmark commanded awe-inspiring views from many of the rooms and its extensive grounds.
During our stay, we learned about the history of the island, which was visited by Queen Victoria who had a long connection with the island, alongside notable writers including Tennyson, JB Priestley and Lewis Carroll.
After learning about the property and the local area, we enjoyed a much needed three-course dinner and a glass of wine to help us unwind in preparation for the day ahead. Feeling invigorated and refreshed after a good night’s sleep and a hearty well-cooked breakfast, I was ready to hit the pavement, road, coastal paths, hills, and whatever else lay ahead!
Exploring the local area on foot
Activity based holiday company HF Holidays has been organising walking trips as far back as 1913, with a wealth of walks to choose from both in the UK and worldwide. For ease, HF Holidays can organise your destination, accommodation, and your walks.
HF Holidays offer guided, self-guided, challenge walking, walking and sight-seeking, guided trails and island hopping packages. To make the most of the great outdoors, I opted for one of the more difficult walks, while my companion tried both the medium and easy routes. Given that we had zero navigation skills, we opted for the guided trip, which allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in the moment, one of the draws of going hiking, in my opinion.
Our guide, Linda, led the way as some 20 walkers followed, all taking in the island’s glorious 85-mile stretch of coastline, which boasts unspoilt sandy beaches and dramatic white cliffs. With weather on our side, the sun shining and blue skies, it felt refreshing to have left the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
Our walk was a 12.4 mile circuit of the western tip of the island, which followed the Yar Valley to Yarmouth before following the coastal path to Alum Bay. From different angles we were able to spot the jaggy spires of the famous Needles Rocks – the Isle of Wight’s most famous landmark. Linda explained that the needle-shaped rock about 120ft high and known as ‘Lot’s Wife’ collapsed into the sea in 1764 with a crash which must have scared the living daylights out of people many miles away!
Take a break from the trail to dine al fresco
There’s something magical about eating lunch al-fresco and none more so when you have been walking for miles. Our packed lunches made by staff at Freshwater Bay were more than ample. Lunch options include a baguette or a salad and snacks such as chocolate, crisps, cereal bars, cake, biscuits and more. It’s said that one should eat mindfully and although my chicken salad was delicious, my mind was well and truly absorbed in my surroundings as I took in the landscape, mountain panoramas and coastal vistas.
Bellies full and more energy to last us for days let alone the remainder five miles, our journey continued over the chalk cliffs of Tennyson Down where several stops were made to admire the views. Too often than not we can get so absorbed in conversation or where we are placing a foot, it’s easy to miss them. But Linda ensured that we had time to stop to take it all in before heading back to Freshwater Bay.
Dining at Freshwater Bay House
Taking the weight off my feet was bliss as well as ending the day with a hot dinner after six hours of trekking with 1,500 feet ascent. Food at Freshwater Bay is what can only be described as beautifully home-cooked fare. Wherever possible, local produce is used such as beef, ham and fresh fish. Vegetarian and gluten-free diners can rejoice as there is ample choice every day. There’s always room for pudding but if you’re feeling virtuous, you can always ask for half a portion. That way you really can have your pudding and eat it!
Entertainment at Freshwater Bay House
Entertainment is laid on many evenings during your stay and we were treated to a live band, ‘All Washed Out.’ Having walked all day, you’d think the last thing I wanted to do was move my feet, but I found myself tapping to the music. I guess it’s something about being in the open air, a hearty meal and good solid entertainment that just keeps you going.
HF Holidays offers a 3-7 night guided walking holiday at Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight. Prices start at £299 per person and include full board en-suite accommodation, a full programme of guided walks with all transport to and from the walks, the services of experienced walking leaders and light-hearted evening activities.
During my visit I was hosted by HF Holidays and Freshwater Bay House Hotel. All views and opinions are my own. Images courtesy of HF Holidays.
We've rounded our favourite places to inspire your visit to the United Kingdom.