Recently identified by the Lonely Planet as one of the top ten destinations for cycling in the world, the Isle of Wight provides many cycle routes that are easy and traffic-free, allowing for excellent family cycling.
At only 4 miles long this flat, easy cycle route is suitable for even the youngest of cyclists. The cycle route starts at the small attractive town of Yarmouth. There is plenty of car parking available here.
From Yarmouth, the way out of the town is well signed and once on the cycle route finding the way is easy as the trail hugs the edge of the River Yar for the whole of its length. The surfaced traffic-free cycle route comes to an end on the outskirts of the town of Freshwater. The simplest return is to simply turn around and follow the cycle trail in the opposite direction; however, with the aid of a map, it is possible to plan a return route following secondary roads.
The most obvious route is to turn left at the first road crossing that the cycle route encounters and to follow the Causeway for about half a mile to Newport road. Although only a B road, Newport Road can be fast and busy and therefore may not be suitable for young children. After three-quarters of a mile turn left again following the quieter Willingham Road. Continue along Willingham Road for about 2 miles until the cycle track is rejoined by a left turn after a stone bridge. The cycle track may then be followed for around 1 mile until the outward route from Yarmouth is seen.
Family Cycling Alongside the River Yar
The old railway line along which this cycle route is built operated as a railway from 1889 to 1953 linking Yarmouth with the rest of the island. Now remade into a wide track which is ash-surfaced it provides an easy, level cycling surface. After departing Yarmouth there are no facilities along the cycle route.
There are however good views of the saltmarsh and the River Yar at various points along the trail, often with strategically placed benches. It is well worth carrying a pair of binoculars and allowing time for some stops as the River Yar is an important site for wading birds and waterfowl.
Frequently seen are oystercatcher, redshank, little egret, curlew, brent goose, black tailed godwit, wigeon, and lapwing. Red squirrels may also sometimes be seen along the wooded part of the trail.
The small town of Yarmouth at the start of the trail is well worth exploring. A settlement since around 990, the town boasts a castle built in 1547, and reputedly the longest timber pier in the country which juts out into the Solent and is a popular spot for fishermen and children with crab lines alike.
The small main street has a mix of independent stores from the essentials such as a chemist and small food store to boat chandlers and a secondhand bookshop.
Cycle Routes on the Isle of Wight: Finding Out More
There are many other family cycle routes on the Isle of Wight, highlights of which include Cowes to Sandown, and the Tennyson Trail.
An annual cycling festival takes place over a week each September. Even if you are not on the island during the festival, the sun and sea cycling festival website provide lots of ideas for routes, bike-friendly accommodation and locations of bike shops and rental.