Things to see and do at the Needles Headland and Tennyson Down
Exploring the open downland and sheer chalk cliffs of the Needles Headland and Tennyson Down is one of the top things to do on the Isle of Wight. Follow in the footsteps of Lord Tennyson with refreshing walks over the downs, take in panoramic sea views and discover how The Needles Old Battery and New Battery played an important part in British history.
Walk along Tennyson Down
Follow in the footsteps of Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson, who once said that the air is so fresh here it’s ‘worth sixpence a pint’. Dogs adore Tennyson Down's open spaces and rabbit-trimmed turf. One of the best things to do on the Isle of Wight is a bracing clifftop hike to the Tennyson Monument, which marks the highest point of the chalk cliffs of West Wight – 482ft (147m) above sea level.
Tennyson would have taken this very walk across the downs every day. 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.
Take in the views of the Needles
The Needles viewpoint
Test your head for heights at the Needles viewpoint, high up on the chalk cliffs. These unmissable sea views are some of the greatest you can find throughout the whole country.
Enjoy views of the cliffs, sea and open grassland on Tennyson Down, rated by a national poll as the fourth best place in Britain to have a picnic.
The Needles Old Battery
When visiting The Needles Old Battery, you’ll get a great view of the Needles rocks from the end of the Parade Ground. There’s a wheelchair accessible viewing platform here too. For an even closer view, go deep through the downs and head along the underground tunnel beneath the perimeter fence.
A stroll up Headon Warren offers superb views of the Needles. You'll also find a Bronze Age burial ground and views of the mainland.
For a different view, visit the viewpoint near the former rocket test site. This is part of the headland so there’s no charge, but there are several steps down to it.
Look out for wildlife
Headon Warren is the perfect place for a stroll if you want to see wild flowers. Its heather-covered acid heathland, glowing purple in autumn, offers a quite distinct habitat from nearby Tennyson Down. On the chalk slopes of Tennyson Down, look out for blue butterflies such as the Adonis, chalkhill and common blues.
Explore the area’s history
From Bronze Age burial sites through Victorian defences to top-secret Cold War rocket testing, this secluded area on the western tip of the Isle of Wight has a fascinating history to tell. You’re visiting an area which was once used for radio experiments by Italian inventor Marconi, who also carried out his work on the Knowles Farm estate.
Follow the path from the Old Battery to the New Battery to discover how this site played a part in Britain's 'race for space'.
Birdwatching at the Needles Headland and Tennyson Down
The elusive Dartford warbler makes its home on Headon Warren, but this area is probably best known for the seabirds that pass close to the shore, and the occasional peregrine falcon and raven. As the Needles area attracts some of the fiercest winds on the English Channel coastline, rare birds are often blown in.
Fire up your GPS and head out on a treasure hunt. There are several geocaches located with our permission on Tennyson Down and Headon Warren. There’s even one hidden within the exhibits in the Old Battery.
Cycling and horse riding
Whilst most of the Down is not open to cyclists and horse riders, there is a permitted bridleway that links to an exisiting bridleway that cyclists are welcome to use. We ask that horse riders also keep to the permitted and official bridleways to help protect the delicate flowers and plants that grow here.
The vintage tea-room at The Needles Old Battery is a special place for a tasty lunch or a cup of tea. Step inside and enjoy the view of the Needles and the iconic lighthouse.
Find out more about the iconic Needles rocks and lighthouse. The Needles lighthouse stands on a remote spot on the Isle of Wight and has saved many lives. Discover how the rocks were formed and how they got their name.
Plan a visit to one of the special countryside places in our care and discover the benefits of being in the great outdoors. Pack your walking boots and get ready to explore woodlands, valleys and rivers.
Discover more than 5,000 acres of countryside on the Isle of Wight, from rolling downs and magical woods to a National Nature Reserve, with plentiful wildlife-spotting opportunities.