The Needles Rocks

The Needles on the Isle of Wight is surely one of the most photographed groups of rocks in the world. This row of three distinctive chalk stacks features in all the classic views of the island, a truly unforgettable image – and a photographer’s delight. But what of the Needles’ history – where does the name come from and when did nature create it?

How did the rocks get their name?

Originally, there were four rocks – you can see the gap very clearly, like a missing tooth. The name the Needles comes from the fourth rock, which was needle-shaped and known as ‘Lot’s Wife’.
 
The book of Genesis in the Bible records that Lot’s Wife was turned into a pillar of salt as a punishment for looking back after being told not to when she was fleeing from the destruction of Sodom.
 
At 120ft (36.6m), this rock was the tallest of the four. Its spectacular collapse in a great storm in 1764 is said to have been felt in Portsmouth. Despite its demise and the relatively squat shapes of the surviving rocks, the name the Needles stuck.
 

From end to end

The Needles form the western tip of a band of chalk that crosses the centre of the Isle of Wight, stretching to Culver Cliff in the east, which we also care for.
 
In fact, this chalk ridge continues west under the sea to Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck, and is believed to have been connected at one time to Old Harry Rocks, about 20 miles away.
 
But in about 5,000BC the ridge was breached by the Solent River, creating our island with its jagged white rocks at the western tip. These unusually vertical rocks are a result of heavy folding of chalk. The remaining stacks are of very hard chalk that is resistant to erosion.
 

Look but don’t touch

We bought the Needles Headland in 1975. From our Old and New Batteries and the headland you can enjoy unrivalled views of the majestic Needles and the Dorset coast.

You can even go down an underground tunnel in the Old Battery for a really close-up view, or enjoy a meal with a view in the tea-rooms. Don’t try and get to the Needles though, because the rocks and tides are very dangerous.