Inhaling with all my might, I was trying to feed my body with as much oxygen as possible. Meanwhile, my leg muscles were screaming at me to stop.
‘Blimey,’ I yelled in exasperation. The hill was never ending. Cyclists whizzed down in the opposite direction. I looked up and smiled at them through gritted teeth. Perspiration mixed with the suncream I had lathered on, dripped from my forehead. The sticky liquid stung my eyes.
Eventually, I could see the crest of the hill, it wasn’t that much further. For the last bit I stood up on my bike and pushed my legs down harder and faster. Totally breathless and coated in a layer of sweat, I mounted the top. ‘Result,’ I bellowed.
What came next was the reason I was here – a feeling of euphoria. I sped down a steep sloping road not moving my legs once. To my left was the dark blue sea, waves washing into the sandy, golden beach. Straight ahead white chalk cliffs jutted out into the calm sea. I cheered as the welcome breeze cooled me down.
I was looking at The Needles (a well known landmark) and biking into Freshwater (a quaint coastal village) on the Isle of Wight. We chose the right weekend with temperatures reaching 30 degrees Celsius.
Stopping in a concrete shelter in Freshwater Bay we watched the world go by. Families played on the beach. A tiny baby was being cradled by his mother, who was smiling while looking out towards the ocean. Meanwhile, groups of school children, followed a tour guide all dressed up in wet suits. They were participating in a team rafting activity.
Mustering the strength to get up we mounted our bikes once more and went on our way. This was the hardest part – getting the motivation to tackle the next hill. However, the views and sense of achievement was always worth it. Feelings of tiredness were only from sitting or eating, once on the bike any fatigue vanished.
Our adventure began on a two hour direct train from London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour. From the harbour we got a ferry to Ryde Pier (30 minutes). If you use your young person railcard you get the return ferry ticket for £24 instead of £31. Type in Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Esplanade on the train ticket machines to get your discount.
In Ryde Town center we hired bikes at TAV cycles, which worked out perfectly. Costing just £25 for 48 hours. Hiring a bike saved me having to battle with buses and taxis on the roads in London. Plus the Neruda Crossway Urban bike supplied was a treat to ride.
We set off from Ryde TAV cycles at 3pm after having a lovely conversation with the man in the shop. He showed us a map and advised us on some routes we could take. Wanting a challenge we decided to attempt the round the island journey.
It began hugging the coastline, I enjoyed listening to the waves washing up the beach.
Towards the horizon I spied sailing boats gently being pushed along by the wind. To our right was a row of well maintained beach huts. Peddling along the sea front was a brilliant start to our magical journey.
Peeling away from the coastline we biked through country roads. Somehow we meandered off the official cycle path but still made it to the small towns we were meant to.
The route was somewhat hilly, which is what we wanted. After numerous ascents and descents we were ready for a sugar break. We stopped in Shanklin, home to an 80s pier and slot machines. It also had a wonderful ice-cream parlour named Pebbles. I tucked into a giant scope of rocky road ice cream which was placed on a scoop of cookies and cream ice-cream sat in a crispy waffle cone. The sweet, sugary flavours were divine. Bits of marshmallow, milk chocolate and biscuit chunks melted in my mouth.
After gaining a sugar high we were keen to make some milage. We headed off and spied a cash point on route. Thinking it a good idea to get money out we stopped to do so. Looking at our map another cyclist passed by.
‘Where are you off to?’ I asked her. It turned out she lived on the island and was an avid cycler. She advised us where to go next. The lady also pointed out a nice pub we could go to for dinner and possibly to even stay the night there.
‘In fact, follow me I’ll take you to the beginning of a cycle trail. From there you can go to upper Ventnor and there is a beautiful coastal stretch of road (A3055) you can cycle along.’ she kindly suggested.
Feeling overwhelmed by this strangers kindness we followed her down the road, making several turns before being introduced to a peaceful forested trail. We thanked her profusely and went on our way.
Low and behold after several hills we made it to stunning road home to the Wight Mouse Inn (the pub she recommended).
Feeling tired and ready for a shower we decided it would be a better idea to stay the night somewhere rather than sleeping outside with just sleeping bags. The thought of being bitten alive by bugs didn’t appeal. However, the pub accommodation was a little pricier than we had hoped for. Even after the manager agreed to give us a discount for being bloggers, we were not satisfied. Speaking to a member of staff, she recommended: ‘you could stay at Butterfly Gliding just across the road. The owner Dave is great and there is a cool, hippy vibe at his place.’
Intrigued we decided to give it a go. We biked over to met him, his partner and beautiful daughter. They were sat outside tucking into dinner. On entering we immediately felt at home. ‘Leave your bikes wherever and check out our garden and guest room, see what you think,’ Dave said in a relaxed manner.
We did exactly that. Walking down the garden path, through hedge-grow and passing vegetable patches we were suddenly greeted with a spectacular view. The cliff edge abruptly dropped down revealing the ocean and a yellow beach. We could see and hear the waves washing in. There was a sofa perfectly positioned to take in our mesmerising surroundings. Slumping down on the settee, I wanted to stay there forever.
Behind us was a small hut one could sleep in. There was also a small kitchen area next to it.
It was time to freshen up with a well deserved shower. Removing the sticky suncream and dried salty sweat from my face felt miraculous.
I was now ready to watch sunset, we walked, ran and skipped down the road to a footpath behind the house. Here the bright orange sun was seen setting being the chalk cliffs. As the sun descended in the sky the colours changed, from bright blue, to pinky – orange. Birds swooped in front of us while we stretched our muscles with relaxing yoga sequences. Reaching my hands to the ground next to my toes, I could feel my calf muscles elongate, relieving them of any tension that had accumulated during the day. Holding a strong plank and then downward dog warmed me up for more stretches.
Once my body felt less achy I sat for some quiet mediation, focusing on my breath and the sounds around us. It was tranquil. The only noise was the ocean waves and a light breeze rustling through the trees.
There was one more activity on the cards before bed. A trampolining session. I surprised myself that I still remembered how to attempt swivel hips (thanks to my childhood friend teaching me when we were young). Jump, build momentum and then straight legs sit and rotate. I felt like a kid again.
That night I slept like a baby.
Waking up and drawing back the curtains, the shimmering sea was revealed once more. It was early and the sun was beaming down. Keen to take a dip we walked to the back of Dave’s garden and followed a makeshift secret path down to the beach. The journey was sandy, rocky and rather steep, yet it was manageable, thanks to a path creator, who had carefully placed wrens (stone markers) along the way. We looked out for these and pieces of blue ribbon tied to sticks. There were a couple of faded footsteps giving us the confidence that this was the way down. Towards the bottom an individual had created step like features from mud and sand making the decent a little easier. After a mixture of bum shuffling and carefully stepping down we reached the shoreline.
Running into the sea we were greeted with freezing water. We yelled and submerged ourselves fully. It was so refreshing. Dave’s blue garden hut was a spec at the top of the cliff. A couple of boats sailed past in the far distance. We had the entire beach to ourselves, there wasn’t a soul in sight.
Clambering back up the cliff was quicker and easier than navigating our way down. We were back in no time ready for a delicious breakfast. Muesli with fresh fruit, followed by warm homemade crispy wholemeal bread topped with peanut butter. The perfect fuel for a long day of cycling.
Before leaving there was time to play with the families’ young daughter on the trampoline. We also enjoyed a spot of hula hooping.
Chatting with the inspirational couple we were informed that we had come on the day of the round the island yacht race. Looking out the huge windows we could see hundreds of colourful yachts drifting along the coast line.
Not wanting to leave but keen to make progress on our cycle we set off at midday.
On day two we made great headway. Covering 31 miles.
We thought we would stop in Newport for the evening but the pub we attempted to stay at was suddenly fully booked (I’m not sure if they just didn’t want two smelly bikers or if they were genuinely full). The festival meant that most places were fully booked.
Looking at air b and b we saw one room left in the town Cowes. Talking to a couple next to us in the fully booked pub, they advised us to cycle along the red squirrel way to Cowes (which would only take 30 minutes). We followed their suggestion and made it to a wonderful home where we stayed the night.
After freshening up it was time to explore the town. The yacht show had ended in Cowes and there were celebrations taking place. A stage with live music was creating a gathering of people.
We walked away from the loud crowd and sat on the harbour overlooking the spectacular yachts. The sky was a dusky orange. Birds swooped into the water catching their feed. Sitting cross legged next to the water I felt at peace. Boats cruised by with families and friends on. Meanwhile, live music could be heard in the background. We grabbed some fishcakes from the chippie and watched the sky slowly fade to dark blue.
Exhausted from all the biking we walked back to the house and slept soundly.
Our last day was the shortest ride but still rather hilly. We took the chain ferry from Cowes to Eastern Cowes and rode through Fishbourne before returning to Ryde to return the bike for 2pm. We excited shared our adventure with the gentleman who worked at TAV cycles. Not wanting to leave we chatted about bikes and other destinations for biking.
We still had the afternoon to enjoy before boarding the ferry and train back to London. It was time to enjoy a well deserved lunch on the sea front with friends who are lucky enough to live in Portsmouth. We relaxed on the beach and had one last sea swim. This time we shared the beach with families, friends and couples. It just goes to show if you venture away from places accessible by public transport you find quiet beaches away from people.
Our weekend on the Isle of White was a great success. Has anyone else been and have any favourite places?
Here is our itinerary:
8.3 miles of cycling.
Total of around 62 miles or 100 km. Total ascent of 570.96m
While it sounds and looks like a lot it wasn’t too exhausting. Neither of us have suffered from sore legs this week. We took it slowly and enjoyed the spectacular ride.
I would recommend this route to anyone who has three days to spare.