Friday, 10 July 2015

Isle of Wight - Part One

When Sepha and I were discussing our next adventure, we had originally planned another Bucharest style mini break.  However, skyscanner was showing no cheap flights for anywhere decent for the weekend we’d put aside, so we thought a little closer to home.

Instead, we decided to conquer the Isle of Wight. By Bicycle. In a day.  Inspired by David and Cesca, who are currently walking 1100 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats (raising money for Crone’s and Colitis along the way - if you’re feeling lovely you can donate to their cause here and read their blog here

Our route

I put the idea to Sepha, who said all of the yesses, and we started to plan the following weekend.  After speaking to a few bike hire shops, who emphasised the difficulty of the ride, and the hilliness of the Isle of Wight, she kindly said “you know, we could just split the ride into two, cycle half the island, stay the night and cycle back to where we left the car…”.  (Sepha is a machine and capable of cycling round the Isle of Wight three times in a day if she had wanted to  – she was definitely looking out for me when suggesting this.) There’s a bag drop service for just that – due to the size and shape, the Isle of Wight is an excellent destination for cyling and walking holidays, and the Move My Bag service will pick up your bags and drop them at your next destination for a small fee.

However, I was not to be persuaded – I’m stubborn at the best of times, didn’t want to spend an extra £16 on having our bags moved, or spend time looking for 2 different hotels, and wanted a challenge – I stuck to my guns and promised not to moan too much – we were going to cycle all 100km of the ‘round the island’ route in a day. Simples!  Besides – what’s the worst that could happen?!

We booked the cheapest accommodation we could find, a late Friday evening ferry and found a bike hire place.  We were all set!

We left as early as we could get away from work on the Friday, trying to beat the traffic – which we managed very well, leaving us with 2 hours until our ferry.  We had booked the Wightlink from Portsmouth to Fishbourne which was a good, efficient service.  The outward ferry was very swanky and even had a ‘teenscene’ area filled with beanbags – but you had to be between 11-15 to use it, shame! 

We arrived at 11pm and drove in the darkness to our hotel in Shanklin - The Mayfair.  It’s not the nicest place and massively overpriced considering the d├ęcor – plus breakfast is £5 a day and really very shoddy.  My scrambled eggs on toast resembled a solid egg bowl with a few air pockets in.   However the room was clean and served its purpose and it was the cheapest we could find, so there’s that.

In the morning we walked down to RouteFifty7, a bike hire place located within a holiday caravan park.  The owner was an affable man, who thought we were crazy.  Sepha chose a lovely white and pink Bianchi road bike whilst I picked the (with hindsight, not that suitable) hybrid and off we went on our merry way.

After 30 or so minutes I was lulled into a false sense of achievement – we’d been cycling along the coast so it was very flat, the weather was cool and calm, and we’d already passed two towns.  This was going to be fine!!!   We met our first hill and tackled it with gusto, then checked the route map and elevation – we’d done the first hill on the map that looked steep and it wasn’t too bad – woohoo!!!

Then we went round a bend, and looming in front of us was the actual hill that was shown on the map…our previous one was merely depicted as a little bump…damn.

Thighs pumping and lungs burning I made it, but I did wonder if perhaps I had bitten off more than I can chew…

After a particularly steep hill that had me gasping all the way up it, we stopped for a coke and cake break in a quaint village overlooking a village green, and the corner shop sold home made cakes and locally grown produce at very reasonable prices – I was falling in love with the Isle of Wight!

We continued to cycle through chocolate ox villages, country roads and wooded pockets of shade – we had chosen the anticlockwise route and kept nodding and smiling to the lycra clad racers coming in the opposite direction.  They looked pretty fresh faced and were putting us to shame – we later discovered that they were half way through a 100 mile race that starts in the new Forest, does a lap of the Isle of Wight and back on the ferry to the New Forest again – madness!! 

We made it to Cowes fairly easily, where the chain ferry across the estuary was a welcome break.  Now we were on the northern straight of the island, and the wind picked up substantially.   The blessing was the roads were fairly flat, but cycling against the wind is almost as hard as cycling up hill, especially when you’re knackered, but the nice seaside views across to Portsmouth made the trek a little more bearable.

We decided to stop at Yarmouth for lunch – a little over half way on our route.  Having only packed water and peanuts to sustain me, I was feeling slightly light headed by this point so it was a welcome break!  We found a pub garden and rested our weary legs, and I downed a pint of the finest blackcurrant and soda water, not realising how thirsty I was.  Everything hurt. My lower back, my shoulders, my knees, but  mostly my undercarriage.  I don’t think I have ever felt so saddle sore. I went to the toilet to check it was all still there – I thought maybe I had squished it all so much that it was all gone. My poor fanny! It even burned to pee it was so sore. I had bought those sexy padded pants for the ride so god knows what it would have been like without them on, I can’t even bear to think about it.

It was at this point Sepha said the magic words “We can just cab it back now”.  I was sorely tempted.  My brain and body argued with themselves – pride versus happy body, but pride won, so I jumped back on the bike and we headed off down to Freshwater.  This was a pleasant, welcoming flat cycle past the River Yar  which finished off our northern island cycle nicely.  We took a slight detour for the southern island section – the cycle route takes you inland but we wanted to stay on the coast as the views were stunning (and we hoped there would be less hills).  

It was on this road that my left knee started to give me jipp, with a shooting pain from just under my patella down my shin. Ow!! I also developed a chronic case of indigestion which made it hard to breathe without being in pain and my stomach cramping. I was breaking!!! Sepha was powering on through up ahead and I was reduced to a pootle 100m or so behind her, getting off every now and then on the longer hills to stretch my sore knee.  We had a very welcome break on a grass verge (which had never felt so comfortable and inviting to lie on) before setting off again.  We were on the home stretch now!!! One last final hill (which even Sepha didn’t bother to attempt – Blackgang Chime you are a killer of a hill!) led to a huge down-hill stretch where we didn’t need to pedal for about a mile and a half, riding on the propulsion, absolute bliss!!

The final part of the ride was a cycle path from Wroxxall to Shanklin, nice and flat which we took at leisure, before collapsing on the floor, dumping the bikes beside us and breathing a sigh of relief that we’d done it!! 

We hobbled back to the hotel for a quick freshen up before dinner on the esplanade and a well deserved and welcomed sleep.

Dusky pink sunset on the Esplanade


  1. Well done for making it all the way round in one day! I'm impressed - Isle of Wight is hella hilly! Did you visit the Black Gang Chine theme park? It's the *weirdest* place I've ever been! Definitely check it out the next time you're in the area. -x-

    1. We didn't!! We walkd up the hill to it though and that's as close as we got. I got excited when I saw the brown tourist sign to it, thinking it would be a geographical feature, but when I googled it, it looked like a weird tourist place so we missed it out...what makes it so weird? I couldn't work out what it was xxx

  2. Oh my god...I would take our walk over that any sounds horrendous!!! Well done! You must be super fit now :)

    1. Noooo way, your walk is much much more difficult than this was!!! xxx


I love comments!