Bembridge is almost a place apart on the island’s most easterly headland. Formerly a rough fishing and smuggling hamlet, almost cut off by the estuary of the River Yar, it was transformed by land reclamation in the mid-19th century, when a few wealthy Victorians turned it into a fashionable resort with hotels and holiday villas in their own grounds. Brading Marshes stretch behind the village, the first RSPB nature reserve on the island, and remain a haven for dragonflies, butterflies and red squirrels as well as birds, including lapwings and warblers. With its attractive and tranquil wide harbour dotted with colourful boats and popular with visiting yachts, Bembridge remains an affluent resort village. A notable feature is the lifeboat station, isolated on the end of the long jetty by the car park. Despite its simple and somewhat antique appearance, it was built only in 2011, at a cost of around £7 million. It’s a vital part of the safety cover for the millions of sailors who pass through the Solent every year. On certain days you can enjoy a guided tour of this windswept boat-perch. The rocky coast on its southerly shore is subject to erosion, and suffered major collapses in recent years which have closed this part of the popular Isle of Wight Coastal Path. Some sections near Whitecliff Bay were rerouted in 2013, so look out for revised diversion signs as you go.
Culver Monument and Bembridge Windmill
The walk takes you up to the high point of Culver Down. The monument on top of the hill is dedicated to Lord Yarborough, who founded the Royal Yacht Club, the first of its kind, in 1815. This was later renamed the Royal Yacht Squadron, and today it has its headquarters in Cowes. Algernon Swinburne, the Victorian poet who lived at Bonchurch, knew and loved Culver Down, often seeking inspiration here.
A modest mud-brown landmark, Bembridge Windmill is the last surviving windmill on the island, restored and cared for by the National Trust (open mid-March to October). When artist J M W Turner painted the mill in 1795, land to the west had yet to be drained, and the sea formed part of the same view. Today the windmill stands as a fascinating piece of industrial archaeology. It dates back to the early 1700s and, although it ceased grinding in 1913, when the last of the millers went off to fight in the war, you will find much of the original wooden machinery, including the sails, still intact. You can view various artefacts on three floors and savour the views from the top. There are nature trails outside during school holidays.
Walk to the sea wall overlooking the lifeboat pier, turn right and soon follow the coastal path inland. Cross the drive to the Bembridge Coast Hotel, and then continue along the fenced path leading to a track. Turn left on the gravel track (Foreland Farm Lane) to a road, then turn right onto Howgate Road and take the second road (Beachfield Road) left. At the end, follow the coastal path right, pass behind the coastguard station and turn left in front of The Crab and Lobster Inn.
Walk across a small car park, passing steps down to the beach, go through a gate and continue ahead on the coastal path.
At a junction of paths turn left, staying on the coastal path, cross a footbridge and start to descend through the trees to a plank bridge. Rise up out of the woodland onto a level path passing behind the field studies centre.
Keep to the coastal path in front of Sandhills Holiday Park. Keep left across a green, passing a hut to enter an enclosed section of the path. Follow this past the holiday park and keep ahead as it rises then leads up steps to a stile. Follow the path steeply uphill to The Culver Haven pub.
Turn right at the monument and descend the field. Turn left onto the broad track. Cross a stile by a gate and go straight ahead, across a field to a second stile and gate. Follow the track ahead, which becomes a lane, passing Glovers Farm. At the road, keep right by a pond, and walk along the road with care. Turn left along a narrow lane just past Five Oaks. At the B3395, opposite Bembridge Airport, cross over and turn right down the gravel track. Descend and take the bridleway through the gate on your left, signed to Bembridge Windmill (BB36). Continue through Steyne Wood, then follow the track round right and uphill to the windmill.
Continue ahead and, at the road, bear left into Bembridge. In 0.5 miles (800m), take the footpath left, signed to Bembridge Point, just after a large white house, No 66 The Moorings. Descend and bear right beside Brading Marshes Nature Reserve, to join a track to the B3395 at Bembridge Harbour. By the Pilot Boat Inn cross over into Pump Lane and follow it straight ahead (BB33), passing through a barrier to a lane. Go left, descend steps at the end to the beach, and walk along this to return to the car park.
Coastal and field paths, some road, 3 stiles
Coastal cliffs, pebble beach (sand at low tide) and chalk downland
Keep dogs under control; can run free on Culver Down
OS Explorer OL29 Isle of Wight
Pay-and-display car park in Bembridge
Beside car park at the start and near the Pilot Boat Inn
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover Isle of Wight
There’s a timeless quality to the Isle of Wight. For many it embodies the spirit and atmosphere of English seaside holidays. Small and intimate – at just 23 miles by 13 miles – it’s a great place to get away from it all. And with its mild climate, long hours of sunshine and colourful architecture, it has something of a continental flavour.
Explore the island’s varied coastline at any time of the year using the well-established Coast Path. Even in the depths of winter, the weather conditions are often favourable for walking. The island has more than 500 miles of public rights of way in all. There are numerous other things to do too. You could plan a week’s itinerary and not set foot on the beach. The island’s history is fascinating and it was long considered as a convenient stepping stone for the French in their plan to invade the UK mainland. Various fortifications – including Fort Victoria, Carisbrooke Castle and Yarmouth Castle – reflect its key strategic role in the defence of our coastline.