East Cowes to Newtown cycle trail
Follow a pleasant cycle route to Newtown from the Red Funnel ferry terminal in East Cowes. It's mostly on minor roads and suitable for all abilities, although there are some short steep hills. We suggest a 1.7 mile (2.7km) detour on the return leg to visit the picturesque village of Gurnard and arrive in Cowes along the sea front.
Sail over to the Isle of Wight and cycle to our favourite places
Why not leave the car at home and cycle to our properties? Bicycles are carried on all of the car ferries which serve the Isle of Wight (arriving at Yarmouth, East Cowes and Fishbourne), and also on the fast catamaran service from Portsmouth harbour to Ryde. Full information is given in the 'How to get here' section, along with places to hire a bike if you arrive without one.
Red Funnel ferry terminal, East Cowes, grid ref: SZ 501956
Turn right after leaving the ferry terminal, following signs to Cowes via the Floating Bridge. Take the floating bridge across the River Medina, a chain ferry which currently costs £1 for a return ticket for cyclists and pedestrians.
The Floating Bridge
Cowes and East Cowes lie on opposite banks of the River Medina, connected by a chain ferry known as the ‘Floating Bridge’. Two chains permanently attached to the riverbanks span the estuary and haul the ferry across in only a few minutes, far less than the journey by road via Newport. A ferry service, consisting of a rowing boat for foot passengers, was first set up in 1720. This was replaced in 1859 by a steamboat, and in 1936 by a diesel-electric powered ferry.
Follow the road straight up the hill. At the brow where it bends gently left, turn right into Bellevue Rd, then after the dip take the first left into Seaview Rd. Follow this road through a housing estate, and turn right at the T-junction into Three Gates Rd, and left when it meets a main road. Go straight ahead into Pallance Rd at the first sharp left bend in the main road, taking care at this busy corner.
Cowes has a long maritime history. It is the home of boat building on the Island and also where the first hovercraft, designed by Sir Christopher Cockerell, flew in 1959. The Royal Yacht Squadron, one of the most prestigious yacht clubs in the world, moved its headquarters into Cowes Castle in 1858. The castle was built in 1539 as part of Henry VIII’s plans to defend the Solent from French attack. Its cannon are now used to start yacht races.
Enjoy a long downhill ride through Northwood, and then take the left exit at a mini-roundabout after a gentle rise. Shortly afterwards, follow the road as it bends right (signposted Thorness) and uphill.
Once again follow the road as it bends right at another junction, and climb Bunts Hill, the last hill before Newtown. Go through Porchfield and past Jersey Camp. Bear right at the triangle (signposted Newtown), then turn right shortly after passing Porchfield Business Park, on a road signed ‘Newtown ¾’. Follow this quiet road into Newtown with the Visitor Point on the right, just before the Old Town Hall. ___________________________ ___________________________ You can return by the same route, but we recommend a slightly longer variant that travels along the sea-front from Gurnard into Cowes, following the ‘Round the Island’ cycle route with its blue signs.
Newtown – its rise and fall
Newtown started life as an important medieval borough. However it quickly fell into decline following a French raid in 1377 and the silting in the harbour. This benefited rival ports such as Newport and Yarmouth. Newtown, however did retain its political significance, being allowed to elect two MPs. This right was withdrawn in 1832 when it was declared a “rotten borough” – because the two MPs represented a population of only 68. The Old Town Hall is a fascinating place to visit and find out more about Newtown’s history.
Do find time to explore the nature reserve, perhaps visiting one of the bird hides (please note paths to hide and meadows not suitable for bicycles). When you are ready, return by the same route as far as the mini-roundabout just before Northwood, which involves a left turn at a T-junction, bearing left at the triangle and following the road left at two junctions.
Newtown National Nature Reserve
The unspoilt beauty and tranquillity of the reserve make this a very special place. The salt marsh, ancient meadows and woodland are rich habitats which support a profusion of wildlife. The salt marsh is stabilised by plants specially adapted for life in salt water. The mud flats teem with invertebrate life which provides rich feeding for many water birds in the winter. The meadows abound with colourful flowers and butterflies. Traditional coppicing allows woodland flowers to bloom and provides perfect conditions for red squirrels.
Bear left at the mini-roundabout and go over the rise and down to Gurnard Bay. Pass the quayside and up the steep Solent View Road. Turn left at the T-junction at its top, and take care going down the very steep (1 in 5) and twisty descent to the Esplanade. Enjoy the waterfront ride into Cowes, and pass below Holy Trinity Church.
A sailing regatta was first held at Cowes in 1826 when the interest of the Prince Regent, later George IV, made yachting fashionable. Now known as Cowes Week, this regatta is a notable event in the sporting calendar, attracting up to 100,000 spectators. The Solent is transformed by hundreds of craft from the classic to the ultra-modern, with crews ranging from Olympic champions to amateur sailors. There’s a real festival atmosphere.
Turn sharp right and uphill, then bend right again to pass above the church. Take the first left into Ward Avenue and pass Northwood House. At the main road turn right then immediately left, down the dip then up to meet the main road. Turn left and free-wheel all the way back to the floating bridge. Enjoy the brief ride across the Medina and return to the ferry terminal on your left.
This Georgian manor house, originally called Belle Vue, was purchased in 1793 by George Ward, a successful London merchant. His son, known as ‘King Ward’ because of the amount of property he owned in the Cowes area, remodelled it and used it for entertaining. It remained in the Ward family for five generations until 1929. They hosted many lavish parties which were often attended by members of Queen Victoria’s family. A secret chamber has recently been discovered beneath an Egyptian funeral canopy in the house.
Load your bike onto the ferry, and have a safe journey back to Southampton. Come back and visit us again soon!
Red Funnel ferry terminal, East Cowes, grid ref: SZ 501956
You made it
Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.