Skip to content
The footpath sign ahead beckons to the chalk cliffs of Freshwater Bay
The coastal path behind Compton Bay | © National Trust / Sue Oldham
Isle of Wight

Compton Bay and Downs walk

Enjoy far-reaching views on this walk over the ridge of Afton, Brook and Compton Downs. Follow in the footsteps of the dinosaurs and look for their fossilised remains as you stroll back along the coast.

Be careful near cliff edges

Part of the walk takes you near cliffs with sheer drops. Take care when walking on these exposed sections, especially in windy weather.

Total steps: 6

Total steps: 6

Start point

Car park at Freshwater Cliffs, 400m east of Freshwater Bay on the A3055, grid ref: SZ350856

Step 1

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.

Step 2

Turn right and follow the road for 160yds (150m). Turn left up a tarmac drive towards Brook Hill House on footpath S39. Where the private drive swings right, go through a kissing gate. 15yds (15m) before the next kissing gate, turn right where you see the sign 'Private woodland, please keep to path'. Go down through the wood, through a kissing gate into a field. Continue on and cross two more stiles to reach the road at Hulverstone after a kissing gate.

Brook Hill House, once home of J B Priestley, sits high on a hill overlooking Brook village
Brook church and Priestley's old home of Brook Hill House | © National Trust / Sue Oldham

Step 3

Turn left and walk for 45yds (40m) and 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 continue along to the junction with the busy Military Road. Cross over with care, then turn right and follow the clear path over the open area which runs parallel to the Military Road and leads to the National Trust car park.

Step 4

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, 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.

An oystercatcher feeding, and a large three-toed dinosaur footcast on the beach
An oystercatcher by the shore and an Iguanodon footcast on Compton beach | © National Trust / Sue Oldham

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

A memorial dedicated to ELM overlooks Freshwater Bay, with the white cliffs of Tennyson Down behind
The ELM memorial on the coast path near Freshwater Bay | © National Trust / Sue Oldham

End point

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

Trail map

Compton Bay and Downs walk map
Crown copyright and database rights 2013 Ordnance Survey | © Crown copyright and database rights 2015 Ordnance Survey

You made it

Share your experience

More near here

Visitors at Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight

Bembridge and Culver Downs trail 

An invigorating walk over the downs and RSPB Brading Marshes reserve, with splendid views of the coast and countryside and passing the island's only windmill.

DistanceMiles: 5.6 (km: 8.96)
Heather and gorse on a hillside with views down over fields at Ventnor Downs, Isle of Wight

Views of Ventnor walking trail 

Enjoy far-reaching views of the downs and the English Channel, as well as a rich blend of wildlife, on this short but challenging walk on the south side of the Isle of Wight.

DistanceMiles: 2.5 (km: 4)
Walkers on Tennyson Down Isle of Wight

Tennyson Down trail 

Enjoy a figure-of-eight walk, in two lengths, with a splendid view of the Needles, a 19th-century fort, Cold War rocket test site and a monument to the poet Tennyson.

DistanceMiles: 3 (km: 4.8) to miles: 7 (km: 11.2)
St Catherine's lighthouse and Knowles sparkle in bright spring sunshine in front of a grey-blue sea

Tip of the Wight walk 

A 3.5-mile walk around the southern-most tip of the Isle of Wight that takes in sweeping views of the island.

DistanceMiles: 3.5 (km: 5.6)

Get in touch

Compton, Isle of Wight, PO30 4HB

Our partners

Cotswold Outdoor

We’ve partnered with Cotswold Outdoor to help everyone make the most of their time outdoors in the places we care for.

Visit website 

You might also be interested in


Compton Bay and Downs walk GPX file 

Right-click and 'Save Link As' or ‘Save Target As’ or ‘Download Linked File As’ (depending on your browser) to download this Compton Bay and Downs walk GPX file to your device, then open with your GPS program.

A person walking along the South West Coast Path at East Soar, South Devon


Explore some of the finest landscapes in our care on coastal paths, accessible trails, woodland walks and everything in between. Find the best places to walk near you.

A group of people in a hiking group are being guided on a hike by rangers at Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire

Cotswold Outdoor: our exclusive walking partner 

Find out more about the National Trust’s ongoing partnership with Cotswold Outdoor as our exclusive walking partner.

A visitor carrying a backpack and walking along a footpath at Divis and the Black Mountain with stone walls either side, the countryside visible in the background.

Follow the Countryside Code 

Help to look after National Trust places by observing a few simple guidelines during your visit and following the Countryside Code.

An aerial view of an adult and baby walking a dog along a path at Baggy Point, Devon

Staying safe at National Trust places 

The special places in National Trust care sometimes come with a few risks for visitors, be it coastline or countryside. Find out how to keep safe throughout your visits.

Looking west from the sandy beach at Compton Bay on the Isle of Wight, with white cliffs, Tennyson Down and Afton Down, divided by Freshwater Bay, in the distance

Things to see and do at Compton Bay and Downs 

Discover one of the Isle of Wight’s favourite spots with plenty of space to explore, search for fossils, spot local wildlife, surf, cycle and ride your horse.

Visitors on the beach at Compton Bay and Downs, Isle of Wight

Fossil hunting and geology at Compton Bay and Downs 

Go fossil hunting and discover history on a gigantic scale, with dinosaur footprints, fossilised oyster shells, ammonites, flint made from ancient sponges and modern-day shipwrecks

Walkers looking out over the sea towards Tennyson Down, Isle of Wight

Walking on the Isle of Wight 

From discovering dinosaur fossils on a walk at Compton Bay and Downs to the secluded creeks and waterways of Newtown National Nature Reserve, find out where to go for the best walks on the Isle of Wight.