Tennyson Down: a meander with Maud

Walking trail

An invigorating downland walk, with a splendid view of the iconic Needles, a 19th-century fort, a Cold War rocket test site and a monument to a Victorian poet laureate. And along the way you can refuel with a takeaway bite to eat from the Needles Old Battery tea-room. This article was created before the coronavirus crisis, and may not reflect the current situation. Please check our homepage for the most up to date information about visiting.

A challenging hike up to the Tennyson monument

This 7 mile (11km) figure-of-eight walk can be split into two shorter walks of 3 and 4 miles (4.5 and 7.5km).

Two walkers setting out along the Needles headland


Map route for Tennyson Down: a meander with Maud walk


Meander With Maud Elevation Profile


High Down Chalk Pit car park, grid ref: SZ324855, what3words: ///exactly.cookie.nightlife.


Facing the quarry, take the left-hand path out of the car park. After 45 yards (40m) turn right and climb the steps by a wooden bench, signposted T27. The steep upward path continues through a kissing gate to the top of the hill.

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The Cornish granite Tennyson Monument dominates the chalk cliffs on the west of the Isle of Wight


By the Tennyson Monument turn right and follow any of the cliff-top paths, aiming for the aerial mast visible on the skyline to the far west. Cross one stile in the middle and a gate towards the end. Skirt the right boundary of the aerial building then head diagonally left and downwards to a concrete road, by the corner of the Coastguard Station. Cross over and follow the signs to the Needles viewpoint.

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The Needles on the Isle of Wight, overlooked by the Old Battery on the cliff top


Return to the road, turn left and climb the steps on the left just beyond the Coastguard Station and before the New Battery. Follow the path down to the Needles Old Battery, then the tarmac road towards Alum Bay.

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The Needles Old Battery with Old Harry Rocks at Swanage behind


At the corner where the road bends sharply left towards Needles Park, go straight ahead, signposted T25, and climb a few steps then go through a kissing gate. Keep to the path along the lower boundary of the slope, with fence on the left, passing the farm, until it starts to rise. Follow the track diagonally upwards to a beacon. Go through the gate and take the rutted path T24 gently downhill on the left, returning to the car park after a gate.

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A replica of the beacon that used to be on top of Tennyson Down


For the longer walk, follow the outward track from the car park but go straight on following signposted footpath T24 instead of turning right to climb the hill. Pass through a bridle gate and follow the path at the bottom edge of the trees, ignoring two footpaths on the left and a rising path branching right.

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Clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata)


At a four-way junction by a marker post and close to a National Trust omega sign, turn 90 degrees left through a gate and down the bridleway. Notice “Tennyson’s Bridge” 30 yds (30m) to the left, but turn right at the T-junction and go along the path, with golf course and glimpses of Farringford on the left.


At the gate onto the road, turn right towards Freshwater Bay, and pass the thatched church of St Agnes.

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St Agnes thatched Church in Freshwater Bay


Just after Dimbola Lodge, turn right through a gate into a field and go straight up the hill, not deviating to the right, and go through the gate on the skyline. Bear gently right and carry on uphill until the Tennyson Monument is reached. Turn right and head to the gap in the trees and retrace your steps down the steep path back to the car park.

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Mouse-ear hawkweed with a green beetle on the chalk downs and a resting cormorant


High Down Chalk Pit car park, grid ref: SZ324855, what3words: ///exactly.cookie.nightlife.

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Tennyson Down: a meander with Maud


This is a:
  • Circular walk
  • Gates=6
  • Kissing gates=3
  • Stiles=2
  • Steps=194
  • Bridges=0

A figure-of-eight circuit built from 4 mile (7.5km) and 3 mile (4.5km) loops. 

This is an exposed headland and the winds can be ferocious. The chalk paths can be very slippery, and the path from the car park to the Tennyson Monument is steep. Do not go near the cliff edge!

Dogs are always welcome, but please keep them on a lead around wildlife and livestock, and take any dog waste home with you.

Tennyson Down: a meander with Maud

Contact us

Tennyson Down: a meander with Maud

How to get here

High Down Chalk Pit car park, Isle of Wight. The nearest postcode is PO39 0HY, what3words: ///exactly.cookie.nightlife.
By road

B3322 from Yarmouth/Totland or Alum Bay road from Freshwater Bay.

By foot

This route follows the waymarked Isle of Wight coastal path from Freshwater Bay to Alum Bay.

By ferry

Wightlink (0871 376 1000) from Yarmouth, 5 miles (8km); Red Funnel (0844 844 9988) from East Cowes, 16 miles (26km).

By bus

Southern Vectis (01983 827000) No. 7 service, Newport to Alum Bay, half-hourly.

By bicycle

The 'Round the Island' Sustrans Regional Route 67 passes through Freshwater Bay.

Tennyson Down: a meander with Maud

Facilities and access

  • Dogs are welcome, but please keep on a lead around wildlife
  • Facilities at the Needles Park, near step 4
  • Toilets and takeaway tea-room at the Needles Old Battery (please book; pay to enter but free to National Trust members)