Ventnor Downs: pre-history to Cold War walk

Walking trail

Witness the history of the landscape on this short but challenging walk on the south side of the Isle of Wight.

A sunny view from Ventnor Downs looking down through Coombe Bottom to the sea


Map route for Ventnor Downs pre history to Cold War walk


Ventnor Downs History Walk Elevation Profile


Ventnor Down car park, grid ref: SZ565784, what3words: ///grapes.drummers.pavement.


The car park has a plaque commemorating the Channel Airways Dakota that crashed here in fog in 1962. Turn right out of the car park and follow the road to the entrance gates for the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which was the location of RAF Ventnor. Notice a number of Second World War brick structures to your left.

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The entrance to an RAF radar station showing the transmitter masts


Continue along the road by the NATS fence for 10yds (10m), and then turn off close to a water trough on the left. Turn right to follow the grassy path parallel to the road. When the path divides, take the left fork. After 65yds (60m) take the faint path through the bracken on the right which heads past a solitary tree and crosses a track before passing through gorse-covered Bronze Age burial mounds. Continue on this path, which bears right to reach an area of open land. You are now at the highest point on the Isle of Wight with public access.

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Bronze Age burial barrows like these at Luccombe were placed to mark a community boundary


Go straight across the open land (which was once a parking area) to reach a signpost after 90yds (85m). Turn 90° right to reach a kissing gate after a further 80yds (75m) by the corner of the NATS fence. Go through the gate.


Follow the path immediately to the left of the NATS fence until you reach a tall mast and another kissing gate. Go through the kissing gate.


From here proceed 40yds (40m) downhill and go through another kissing gate where there is a viewpoint bench. Carry on downhill for about 190yds (175m) and follow the track to the right which zig-zags down into the bottom of the coombe. As you reach the bottom you will see the brick stacks and remains of the rifle range and pistol butts.

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Looking out to the sea from the perimeter of the World War 2 site at Ventnor


Proceed down into and along the coombe, keeping to the right. About 110yds (100m) before the trees at the far end the path divides, and here take the path to the right and shortly left as it keeps very close to a wire fence on the left.

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The Isle of Wight Rifles' rifle range was in Coombe Bottom, part of Ventnor Downs


To the right you will see the remains of the ammunition store looking like a cave. Continue along this path next to the wire fence and proceed through the kissing gate and down steps to the road. Then pass through a gate and turn left and left again into the Industrial Estate.

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The brickwork of an old ammunition store still remains on Ventnor Downs


About 30yds (30m) on the left there is a blue plaque outside the Coastguard Rescue Station marking the site of Ventnor railway station. With your back to the plaque you are looking at the Terminus Hotel on the corner to the right. In front is the Ventnor Gas and Water Company building of 1883. Just behind the Terminus Hotel building there is a steep flight of stone steps on path V1. Take this up to a kissing gate at the base of the hill, and then continue up the steep slope of St. Boniface Down, eventually through another kissing gate, until you reach the mast. Turn left and follow the path to the immediate left of the wire fence to return to the car park by the Dakota plaque.

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A steam traini arrives at Ventnor Station in the 1950s, emerging from the tunnel under Ventnor Downs


Ventnor Down car park, grid ref: SZ565784, what3words: ///grapes.drummers.pavement.

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Ventnor Downs: pre-history to Cold War walk


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This is a:
  • Circular walk
  • Gates=0
  • Kissing gates=6
  • Stiles=0
  • Steps=150
  • Bridges=0
The path down to the old Ventnor railway station is one of the steepest on the island, so this is a short but strenuous walk. It is mostly on grassy paths, which can be slippery in wet weather and muddy in winter so care is needed. The exposed downs can be very windy.
Dogs are always welcome, but please keep them on a lead around wildlife and livestock, and take any dog waste home with you.
Ventnor Downs: pre-history to Cold War walk

Contact us

Ventnor Downs: pre-history to Cold War walk

How to get here

Ventnor Down National Trust car park, off Down Lane, Ventnor, Isle of Wight. Nearest postcode is PO38 1YL, what3words: ///grapes.drummers.pavement.
By road
Take Down Lane off B3327 from Wroxall to Ventnor road in Upper Ventnor. The car park is just before the fenced off radar station fence.
By foot

The Isle of Wight coastal path passes along the sea front at Ventnor, 0.5 miles (0.8km) away, from where there are a number of steep paths up to the trail. If you are arriving by foot, you could start and end from Point 8, Ventnor Industrial Estate grid ref: SZ561779.

By ferry

Fishbourne to Portsmouth (Wightlink 0871 376 1000) 13 miles (21km); East Cowes to Southampton (Red Funnel, 0844 844 9988) 15 miles (24km).

By bus

Southern Vectis (01983 827000) Half-hourly No. 3 service between Newport and Ryde. Alight at the Old Station stop in Ventnor.

By bicycle

Sustrans Regional 'Round the Island' Route 67 passes Down Lane in Upper Ventnor.

Ventnor Downs: pre-history to Cold War walk

Facilities and access

  • Nearest toilets in Ventnor town, 0.5 miles (0.8km) away
  • Nearest refreshments also in Ventnor town