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Exploring the estate at Mottistone

The long view from Mottistone Common to the white cliffs of Tennyson Down in the far distance
From Mottisone Common there are fine views to Brook Down and the chalk cliffs of Tennyson Down | © National Trust / Chuck Eccleston ARPS

A trip to Mottistone Estate is a great way to get outdoors and be active. There are long trails to walk that will take you from cliffs by the sea to high on the downs, countryside to explore on horseback and even orienteering.

Walk the estate

The estate at Mottistone covers cliffs, common and downland, as well as the village and farmland. It's an ideal place to go for a walk, from chalk downs through heathland and rolling hedge-lined farmland to the sea. Mottistone Gardens is an ideal place to set off from, heading down to the sea or up to the common for some excellent views.


On the wing

Part of the wider estate is Mottistone Common, which can be found teeming with wildlife. A favourite is the Dartford warbler, making a welcome return to the restored heathland, along with Nightjars and the more common buzzards and ravens. Linnets and yellowhammers also nest in the gorse. Look out for the beautiful small copper butterfly and the well-camouflaged grayling.

Mini beasts

If you get down on your hands and knees, tell-tale holes in the ground may indicate the lairs of burrowing insects. Some unusual ones, which are thankfully now widespread again on the common, include various mining bees and the ‘beewolf’ (a digger wasp). Other insects to look out for are the bright green tiger beetle, the common field grasshopper and the red and black thread-waisted sand wasp.


Heather and gorse are found in abundance on the common, both typical of acidic soils. The gorse is actively managed by cutting small discrete areas to create a patchwork of different aged bushes for nesting birds. There are plenty of smaller wildflowers too. In high summer you should see pink common centaury, yellow dandelion-like hawksbit and white-flowered heath bedstraw with its whorls of slim, sharp leaves. Red sheep sorrel can be found at almost any time of year.

The Longstone

As you venture across the estate, you might come across a large upright rock and smaller stone. In the 1950s it was discovered that the large rock, the Longstone, marks the entrance to a Neolithic long barrow. The stones are what remains of a 6,000-year-old Neolithic communal long barrow for burying the dead: 31m long, 9m wide and 2m high. Long barrows in this part of England that aren't on chalk or limestone are rare.

A group of people in the countryside looking at a tall, large single standing stone surrounded by green plants and trees
The Longstone on the estate at Mottistone Garden and Estate | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Legend has it that St Catherine and the Devil had a contest to see who should control the Isle of Wight. The Longstone’s tall iron sandstone pillar was supposedly thrown by St Catherine from the Down to the east which bears her name. At over 4m high and 2m wide, this was a mighty feat indeed. The Devil’s smaller stone (a mere 2.9m high and 1.2m wide) fell short and he lost the wager. The final resting place of the stones, St Catherine’s dominating the recumbent smaller stone, is said to symbolise the triumph of good over evil.

Outdoor pursuits

Bike riding

There are many bridle paths around the Mottistone estate to cycle along. The chalk ridge over the downs has glorious views, and, if you have the energy extend your ride to our neighbouring places.

Saddle up

There is plenty of parking for horse boxes at the Jubilee car park, from where the track leads straight up onto the chalk ridge of Mottistone Down and from there onto the Tennyson Trail.

Try orienteering

Orienteering is a great way to explore the countryside, with a purpose. The Wight Orienteers have set up some permanent marker posts on Mottistone Down and hold occasional events here.

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