Things to see and do at Ventnor Downs
The steep chalk hills above the Victorian seaside town of Ventnor are made up of several downs, including Luccombe Down, St Boniface Down and Bonchurch Down. They offer sea views from the highest point on the island, picturesque walks, opportunities to spot the local wildlife – including Ventnor’s very own herd of goats – and memorials to local history at the sites of St Boniface Well and the tragic Dakota plane crash.
Walking at Ventnor Downs
Rising steeply above the town, the slopes of the Downs provide an invigorating hike. But you can drive to the top too, and enjoy a more leisurely walk among the large open areas of grassland and heather. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with dramatic and varied views.
Take in the views
With the sea glittering below, and the holm oaks growing along the chalk slopes, there's an almost Mediterranean feel to the landscape you’ll see from the top of the Downs.
From Luccombe Down – at 787ft (240m) above sea level, the highest point on the Isle of Wight – there are fine views in all directions. To the east is Sandown Bay and Culver Cliffs, with Portsmouth in the distance.
Goats on Ventnor Downs
An ancient breed of feral goat was introduced to Ventnor in 1993 to help control the scrub and invasive holm oak, freeing up more of the natural chalk grassland habitat. There are now around 50 goats roaming the steep slopes.
If you happen to spot a goat kid on its own, it's best not to approach as the mother won’t be far away. Please also keep your dog under close control, or on a lead, to avoid it chasing.
Look out for other wildlife
It’s not just goats to look out for on Ventnor Downs. Butterflies – including the striking Adonis blue – can be seen on Bonchurch Down, while buzzards and ravens soar over the steep slopes. There are also ground-nesting birds like the skylark and meadow pipit – please keep dogs under close control and stick to the paths in the designated signed areas.
Visit St Boniface Well
The renowned St Boniface Well – once thought to have the power to grant wishes – is aptly located on St Boniface Down and named after the eighth-century Christian missionary originally known as Winfrith.
These days, the well itself is no more than a saucer-shaped pit and visiting it is not recommended as it’s on a very steep, overgrown part of the downs. However, a stone bearing a commemorative plaque has been placed just above the site.
The Dakota crash memorial
On 6 May 1962, a Channel Airways Dakota passenger flight from Jersey to Portsmouth crashed into the cloud-covered St Boniface Down, killing 12 of the 18 people on board.
In 2003, a memorial plinth was unveiled at the car park near the scene of the disaster, in a ceremony attended by over 100 people – including local man Edward Price, who helped four passengers to escape from the wreckage. The memorial was re-dedicated in 2012 on the 50th anniversary of the crash.
Learn all about our work on Ventnor Downs including the wild goats, from their history and behaviour to their role as conservationists – and the annual goat round-up challenge.
St Boniface is believed to have preached in Bonchurch at Pulpit Rock, the area is named in his memory, along with the legendary St Boniface Well.
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