Walking trail

ABC of the downs walk on the Isle of Wight

Walking trail

Enjoy splendid views on this leg-stretching walk over the ridge of Afton, Brook and Compton Downs. Then follow in the steps of the dinosaurs back along the coast.

The footpath sign ahead beckons to the chalk cliffs of Freshwater Bay


Compton Bay And Downs ABC Of The Downs Map


ABC Of The Downs Elevation Profile


Car park at Freshwater Cliffs, Freshwater Bay, grid ref: SZ350856


Take the well-defined track heading uphill, which passes close to the back of the car park and leads between golf course tees and greens. This is part of the Tennyson Trail, which follows the ridges over the downs. Follow the trail for 2.5 miles (4km), going through one gate. 110yds (100m) after a lone bench on the left, take a detour to the left to reach the highest point and visit the Five Barrows and trig point. Rejoin the track and head downwards. Pass through a gate to reach a road.

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A fine view from the five bronze age barrows on top of Brook Down


Turn right and follow the road for 160yds (150m). Turn left up a tarmac drive towards Brook Hill House. Take footpath S39 where the private drive swings right, then straight on at a path junction. 15yds (15m) before a kissing gate leading onto the Mottistone Estate, turn right where you see the sign "Private woodland, please keep to path". Go down through the wood, over a stile and into a field. Continue on, and cross two more stiles to reach the road at Hulverstone after a kissing gate.

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Brook Hill House, once home of J B Priestley, sits high on a hill overlooking Brook village


Turn left for 45yds (40m) then right along the lane. After 65yds (60m) step over a wall on your right, signed BS47 Brook, heading for the sea. Follow the path over five stiles, passing to the right of a pond. Join a track and follow it as it bends right into Brook village. Turn left at the road, and then left again almost opposite a phone box and over a stile onto footpath BS54. Keep to the left of the field, cross a stile then up some steps to reach the busy Military Road. Cross carefully and then take footpath BS78 to the right of a drive. Go over another stile and bear right over a bridge to cross the track leading to Brookgreen. Follow a coast path marker post to reach a car park.

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A painting of General Jack Seely sat calmly on his horse, Warrior


From Brook car park there are two good options. If you prefer a cliff walk or if the tide is high or the beach steps are out of action following a landslip, take the coast path on the far side of the car park. The path crosses a footbridge and soon reaches the car park at Shippards Chine. Alternatively, if the tide is low enough for walking on the sand and the steps at Shippards Chine are open (they were closed in early 2016), go left down the path and concrete ramp onto the beach. Follow the coast for about a mile to the right, around the headland. This stretch is the best area to look for dinosaur footcasts. Climb the wooden steps to Shippards Chine to rejoin the coast path.

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An oystercatcher feeding, and a large three-toed dinosaur footcast on the beach


Follow the coast path to Compton Chine. Don’t go through the kissing gate that leads back to the road. Instead, follow the path to the left of a fence, then go over a stile and footbridge to cross the ever lengthening chine (ravine), and rejoin the coast via another stile.

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The beach at Compton Bay framed by the chalk cliffs of West Wight


Meet the road after some steps and a stile. The path continues to the left of the road, bending coastward after the crest of the rise. Just after a memorial stone to ELM, bear right and return to the car park on the other side of the road.

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A memorial dedicated to ELM overlooks Freshwater Bay, with the white cliffs of Tennyson Down behind


Car park at Freshwater Cliffs, Freshwater Bay, grid ref: SZ350856

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ABC of the downs walk on the Isle of Wight


Download a GPX file of the trail here for your smartphone or GPS.
This is a circular walk with:
  • Gates=2
  • Kissing gates=1
  • Stiles=15
  • Steps=24
  • Bridges=3
It can be very windy up on the downs, and the chalk path from the top of Brook Down can be slippery. Keep an eye open for stray flying golf balls as you pass through Freshwater Bay Golf Club.
Don't go near the cliff edge and if walking along the beach, do not damage the cliffs ini the search for fossils.
Dogs are always welcome, but please keep them on a lead around wildlife and livestock, and take any dog waste home with you. Dog bins are provided at Brook and Shippards Chine car parks. 
ABC of the downs walk on the Isle of Wight

Contact us

ABC of the downs walk on the Isle of Wight

How to get here

Freshwater Cliffs, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight. The nearest postcode is PO40 9TY.
By road

The Freshwater Cliffs car park below Afton Down is just above the A3055 Military Road as the road climbs eastwards out of Freshwater Bay. The nearest post code is PO30 4TY.

By foot

The trail follows the coastal path from route step 4 to the end, and also the waymarked Tennyson Trail between route steps 1 and 2.

By ferry
  • Lymington - Yarmouth (Wightlink, 0871 376 1000): 6 miles (9.5km)
  • Fishbourne - Portsmouth (Wightlink, 0871 376 1000): 16 miles (26km)
  • East Cowes - Southampton (Red Funnel, 0844 844 9988): 17 miles (27km)
By bus

Southern Vectis (01983 827000) No.12 mostly two-hourly service from Newport to Totland passes the car park. Alight at Southdown Road.

By bicycle

'Round the Island ' Sustrans regional route 67 follows the A3055 Military Road past the start car park.

ABC of the downs walk on the Isle of Wight

Facilities and access

  • Three car parks for access to the coast, two are pay and display but free to National Trust members
  • Toilets at Shippards Chine and in nearby Freshwater Bay
  • Refreshments from a seasonal van at Shippards Chine, or in nearby Freshwater Bay