On Foot
Trail: Carisbrooke's Castle (0)
Contributor: AA_Media Activity Type: Walking Difficulty: Average Distance: 6.498 mi (10.458 km)
Description: Average time: 2hrs 30mins Ascent: 233 m
Terrain: Field and downland paths and tracks, some roads, 5 stiles
Landscape: Farmland and open chalk downland
Dog Friendly: Keep dogs under control
Parking: Car park close to Carisbrooke Priory

On a spur of chalk downland, 150ft (46m) above the village, the site of a Roman fort, Carisbrook Castle, a grand medieval ruin, commands a perfect military location, overlooking the Bowcombe Valley and the approaches to the heart of the island. You can walk the battlements, experience the majestic location and admire the countryside below, much of the view encompassing the walk ahead.

Norman Strength. The castle is probably of Saxon origin, but it was the Normans who strengthened the site, building the stone walls, the gatehouse and the keep, on a mound within the walls. The outer bastions were built to guard against the 16th-century threat of Spanish invasion. It was said that 'He who held Carisbrooke, held the Isle of Wight.' For centuries the castle went hand-in-hand with the lordship of the island, before the Crown retained the lordship in the 16th century and appointed a Governor of the Island, a title that continues today. The Great Hall, which was the official residence of the Island Governor until 1944, now houses the Isle of Wight Museum. At Carisbrooke Castle Story in the gatehouse, you'll learn more about the two occasions when it experienced military action, and find many exhibits about the castle's most famous royal visitor, King Charles I. He sought refuge here during the Civil War in November 1647, but was imprisoned by the Governor until September 1648 before being taken to London for trial and execution. He made two unsuccessful attempts to escape - you can see the window where the King cut the bars before he was thwarted. His children, the future Charles II, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and 14 year-old Elizabeth (who died of pneumonia) were also detained here in 1650. Leaving the castle, you'll walk through the Bowcombe Valley, besidethe Lukely Brook, to the isolated village of Gatcombe, nestling in a valley. Quarries here provided stone for the building of Carisbrooke Castle. Each stone, it is said, was passed along a human chain to the site 2 miles (3.2km) away. Take a little time to explore the 13th-century church before joining the Shepherds Trail back to Carisbrooke.

Directions: 1 From the car park, and facing Carisbrooke Priory, turn left and walk along the road. Take the first left-hand footpath and veer left after a few steps, climbing gently through the trees. On reaching the magnificent ruins of Carisbrooke Castle, bear left and follow the path alongside the castle walls. Turn left on reaching the car park and follow the public footpath sign for Millers Lane. 2 Turn right on reaching the road, pass Millers Lane and walk to a stile and path on the left, signposted 'Bowcombe'. Cross the field to the next stile and keep going across the pastures, crossing several more stiles. Level with Plaish Farm, make for a stile and junction ahead. 3 Turn right here and follow the enclosed path, bending left after 150yds (137m). On reaching Bowcombe Farm, turn left and follow the sign for Gatcombe. Pass an unmarked footpath on the left, and continue on the track as it curves right, avoiding the track running straight ahead. Veer away left at the corner of Frogland Copse and follow the field-edge to a bridleway sign. 4 Bear right through the trees to a gate and continue ahead up the slope, skirting the field boundary. Keep ahead in the next field, passing through the gate and into Dukem Copse. Follow the track inside the woodland edge as far as the signposted turning towards Gatcombe on your left. 5 Go through a gate and continue along the field-edge. On reaching a path to Garstons, descend to the right and then swing left to a gate. Follow the bridleway for Gatcombe and turn right to Newbarn Farm. Bear right at the entrance and, at the lane, keep right along the bridleway. At the edge of Tolt Copse ignore the path right and bear left, soon to leave the Shepherd's Trail, keeping ahead along a bridleway continuing towards Sheat Manor. 6 Before the manor, at a junction of paths, turn left, following the path past cottages, then bear left again and keep to the winding path as it ascends to woodland. Proceed through the wood and descend to a lane beside St Olave's Church. 7 Turn left to walk along Gatcombe Road, pass Rectory Lane, then turn right at a crossing of ways, rejoining the Shepherd's Trail for Carisbrooke. Pass between properties and climb quite steeply through trees. Pass over a track, then go through a gate and follow the path round the left-hand field-edge. 8 Go through another gate and keep beside the field boundary. Now the path becomes enclosed by a fence and hedge; ignore the bridleway to Vayres and Cox's Corner on your right, and continue past a sign for Carisbrooke and Whitcombe Road. Keep to the obvious path and eventually reach a junction. Walk ahead to the car park.

While you're there: Visit Carisbrooke Castle. Walk the battlements and savour the majestic view over the surrounding countryside, locate the two medieval wells, one with winding gear driven by a donkey, see the Carisbrooke Castle Story in the gatehouse and discover more about the history of the island in the Isle of Wight Museum in the Great Hall.

Where to eat and drink: Try the tea room at Carisbrooke Castle (open April-October) or at Little Gatcombe Farm in Gatcombe. There are two pubs in Carisbrooke.

© Copyright AA Media Limited 2011. All rights reserved. We have taken all reasonable steps to ensure these walks are safe and correctly described. However things do change and all outdoor activities involve a degree of risk. The publishers accept no responsibility for any errors or omissions or for any injuries or accidents that occur whilst following this walk.
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