Total Length: 32.23 miles. (‘Loop’ only: 14 miles)
Duration: A slow ride with a family takes approximately 6 hours, including stops.
Classification: Easy riding, with gradients at Wroxall and Appuldurcombe, mainly off road. For little or tired legs, there is a chance to shorten the route by catching the train between Sandown and Shanklin.
Listed as one of “150 Great Days Out’’ by Sustrans, the family friendly Red Squirrel Trail is perfect for cyclists who prefer car-free cycling on mainly flat, gentle routes. Most of this trail is based on smooth cycleways which were created from disused railway lines and make for a lovely leisurely cycle through the heart of the Island’s countryside.
The Isle of Wight is a stronghold for Red Squirrels, these tufty-eared endearing animals – spared the invasion of the larger, more aggressive grey squirrels by the Solent – are on the cycle route called the Red Squirrel Trail, so be on high alert!
This ‘coast-to-coast’ journey starts from our doorstep in Shanklin and heads to Wroxall along the recently resurfaced old railway line. At the end of the graveled section of track at Wroxall, you can carry on to the Worsley Pub (now closed). Head right along a short stretch of road. (If you do not want to travel along the road you can take a short cut down Coombe Park). Follow signs to the Appuldurcombe estate where the English Heritage managed Baroque house, said to be the most haunted in England, is worth a visit.
At Appuldurcome pick up the Worsley Trail GL44 (or Route 23). Follow the trail uphill across the fields to Freemantle Gate. Or, if you do not want to go across the field, carry on up to road to Appuldurcome House and go right at the marked track which is immediately after the small car park. At Freemantle Gate (Here you can also pick up the ‘Round the Island trail) follow the gravel path downhill past the farm animals and Llamas. It is, here, well worth a stop off at the pretty village of Godshill with its delightful medieval church, model village, charming thatched-roofed cottages and winding main-street lined with plenty of places to stop for a drink.
Back on the trail head to Merstone, a ghostly deserted station with grass growing over the platform, the rare cowslips making it otherworldly. Take time to look for split hazelnuts – evidence of red squirrels. Look for dreys – squirrel nests – in tree forks or hollows, often constructed from twigs and lined with moss and hair.
You will soon come to a Junction. It is here you need to decide if you want to take the fork to Newport and on to Cowes or take the shorter route and head for home. If you do take the trail to Newport look out for the trolls under the bridges!
Stop off in the town and take time to look around where there are many places to see. Do check out the historic town centres on two elegant squares with Georgian and Victorian architecture surrounding them, with the town’s quay a short distance away. The Museum of Island History, and the Newport Roman Villa all within walking distance of the centre.
A short distance outside of Newport you can find some of the most popular attractions on the Isle of Wight:
1.4 miles away is Carisbrooke Castle to the West of the town centre is the 12th century fort most famous for imprisoning Charles I after his defeat in the English Civil War.
Travel 1.5 miles to the East and you will find the Isle of Wight’s most recently added animal attraction Owl and Monkey Haven, and also the Robin Hill Adventure Park and Garden.
Carrying on up to Cowes, look out across the Medina Estuary to the far shore where the rusting hulk of the paddle steamer ‘Ryde’ still survives.
Then you’re quickly on a fecund avenue of green trees off-road. Following the Medina estuary along a wildlife-rich former railway track. Keep your eye out for the elusive red squirrels in the tunnel of trees on the way. They are there!
Cowes is famous for its many independent shops but mostly for its sailing so it is well worth a visit, You can charter your own boat from here. You can even jump on the town’s charmingly antiquated chain ferry with your bike to cross the river Medina to East Cowes.
1.2 miles from here is Osborne House, once the home of Queen Victoria. “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot” said Queen Victoria of Osborne House.
Heading back home pick up the junction and past buttercup meadows, ancient woodlands and marshland to Alverstone Mead Nature Reserve with its bird and squirrel hide. The red squirrels there are used to visitors, so take them some snacks to get really close and take a selfie! Keep your eyes out for the red admirals on the nettles, listen to birds, and marvel at geese in the field, flapping away with chests puffed out. The Isle of Wight is also one of the few places in England where you can still see a Glanville Fritillary butterfly so keep your eyes out for them too.
At Alverstone you will cross a road by the old Alverstone rail Station marked ‘Sandown 1m’. If you detour left here for half a mile you will come to Borthwood Copse which used to be part of a much larger hunting forest. Queen Isabella de Fortibus, the medieval Queen of the Isle of Wight, is said to have watched the deer from here. Whilst you may not see deer this is a fantastic atmospheric walk which takes you through woods that are home to the red squirrel. It is a particularly beautiful place to be when the trees take on their autumn colours in October and early November. Dormice are also prevalent here, although rarely seen.
Back on the path stop off at Peddlers a specialist cafe for cyclists. And if you like your food the Garlic Farm is only half a mile ride from here. It has a little community of Red Squirrels living in the trees above the farm. They like to scamper down to the area outside the cafe, down a wall and along a rope to pick up food left for them.
Carry on until you reach Sandown Station – if you’re tired you can catch the train home from here, but we strongly suggest heading to the Island’s coastline down Station Avenue where you will hit the Esplanade. The seawall path from Sandown to Shanklin is a breath-taking ride and an excellent spot for an ice cream stop!
At the end of the coast road head to Shanklin Chine – another hot spot for red squirrels.
Finally take the steep hill up past the Chine Inn and go down Everton Lane. Turm left on to Chine Avenue. Stop off in Shanklin old village with it’s pretty thatched houses and pubs for a well earnt rest!
When you are ready follow the High Street and turn left down Landguard Road. Two minutes and you are back to routefifty7
Start here. Go anywhere.