You can start from the Needles, or approach from Freshwater Bay with its views ahead to the Dorset coast and Old Harry Rocks. Either way, you’ll see exactly where you’re going, as the huge granite cross towers ahead, erected in 1897 on the highest point of the Down. You can also start from our car park at the end of High Down Lane, just up from the High Down Inn, Totland. The path climbs some steep steps, emerging onto the down directly below the monument.
A spring in your step
The turf is close cropped by rabbits and springy underfoot, so you’ll be up before you know it. Keep an eye out for some of the tiny wild flowers which grow in the chalk grassland. Take a drink or even a picnic with you. There are some handy benches surrounding the monument and you can breathe in the fresh sea air at this wonderful high spot. Now soak in the view. The topograph will help you get your bearings... a wide expanse of sparkling sea, the Needles headland and yachts on the horizon. What a perfect place to unwind.
As you start your descent from the monument, imagine yourself back in the time of Queen Victoria. The Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, would have taken this very walk across the downs every day. You wouldn’t have failed to recognize the Isle of Wight’s most famous poet in his distinctive black cloak and broad brimmed hat. He loved the island and brought his wife Emily here in 1853 to show her the house he had found called Farringford. She fell in love with the view of the sea from the drawing room and they moved in later that year.
The literary muse
Tennyson composed much of his most famous poetry as he strode along and, with the proceeds of Maud (which inspired the well-known Victorian song ‘Come into the garden, Maud’) he was able to buy Farringford. But fame wasn’t without its disadvantages – to give the slip to his many fans, he built a bridge over the lane as an escape route onto the downs. Why not compose your own poetry as you walk in the same beautiful landscape that Tennyson so loved? For a route, be inspired by our 3 or 4¼-mile trail called "A meander with Maud" (see below). For the poetry, that’s up to you.