The Tennyson Trail displays much of the best sides of the Isle of Wight, Hampshire’s great south island. It is named of course from Alfred Lord Tennyson, who came to the island in 1853 and acquired Farringford House in Freshwater as a restful place, until crowds of admirers bothered him even here.
The trail is 14 miles long. It begins at Carisbrooke, Wight’s ancient capital but now a suburb of Newport, under the gaze of Carisbrooke Castle. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle asserts that the Kingdom of Wight was founded by a Saxon warrior from overseas called Wihtgar, who founded Wihtgaresburg; Carisbrooke. (It was remarkable foresight by Wihtgar’s mother to have named him ‘Spear of Wight’ before he had even seen the island.) This is then the heart of the island’s heritage.
From Carisbrooke the trail heads west-south-west climbing immediately up to Bowcombe Down, and from here through the hills in the heart of the island. It climbs into the Brighstone Forest, location of prehistoric burial mounds and modern planation, and runs for some miles through or at the edge of the woodland, then continues westwards along the ridge of Brook Down, Compton Down and Afton Down, with a glorious view over the south coast of the island, the ‘Back of Wight’, and down to the sea at Freshwater Bay.
From Freshwater, the Tennyson Trail leads along the great chalk rise above the cliffs of the south coast, now known as Tennyson Down (though not past Tennyson’s house, which is inland of here) past a monument to the poet, and to the western end of the island at the Needles. It finishes at the Alum Bay close by.
The route is not of small footpaths: most of it could be driven until 2006. It is therefore a well defined, broad track. It leads to many places though where diversions can be taken to the hills or beaches.
Books and maps
- Walking on the Isle of Wight
- Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 29 (Isle of Wight) (1:25 000)
- Ordnance Survey Landranger 196 (The Solent and Isle of Wight)