If you don’t get enough of public transport in your daily life, you might fancy a trip on the Island Line on your Isle of Wight holiday. Currently, the Island Line is the only commuter trainline on the Island (there’s also the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, and the Island miniature railway), running from the Pier Head in Ryde, 8.5 miles through the east of the Island to the coastal town of Shanklin. There are currently eight stops on the line, and a trip takes approximately 20 minutes if you don’t stop off along the way.

We bought a family ticket for £17 (two adults, two children and the dog was free) and walked out along the pier to get the train at the start of it’s journey at the top of the Pier Head, the world’s oldest seaside leisure pier. (In itself a beautiful walk in all, except perhaps windy, weathers.) There’s a Costa Coffee on the Pier Head, but at your first stop on Ryde Esplanade there are other, fabulous independent coffee shops (like the Chocolate Apothocary) that are well worth a visit.  The Pier is the 4th longest pier in the UK (681m) and is free for pedestrians to walk along, but there is a driving on and parking on charge for cars. You can watch the Hovercraft and ferries arriving and leaving, and look back on the beautiful views of Ryde town. There are no railway staff at Ryde Pierhead, so buy your ticket from the machine or on the train, or from Ryde Station before you walk out onto the Pier Head.

Ryde Esplanade Station

 

The first stop is Ryde Esplanade Station. There are fabulous coffee shops, ice cream parlours and restaurants in Ryde, and our favourite beaches are further down towards the end of Ryde Esplanade.

Around the train station, beyond the bus station are coastal favourites like Peter Pan’s amusement park, East and West Gardens where you’ll often find buskers or bands or other live community events (though not as much during Covid-19), and all the usual trappings of a coastal town – arcades, beach shops and so on.Island Line Day Out

Ryde St. John’s Road

There’s not a huge amount to see at Ryde St.John’s Road, which is just over a mile from Ryde Station and you would be forgiven for skipping it, however, just across the road you’ll find The Railway Pub (dog friendly). It doesn’t look like much, but I’m told they do really good ales, which make them worth a quick stop on a hot day – they are, in fact, regular winners of the Isle of Wight Branch of CAMRA Pub of the Year award. However, a five minute walk away, you’ll also find the Isle of Wight Bus Museum (Open Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays, dog friendly) which is free to visit, though they do appreciate any guidebook purchases in their shop.

Smallbrook Junction

Island Line Day Out

There’s absolutely nothing at Smallbrook Junction, unless you want a wander around the countryside or wish to link up with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway – which is a fabulous day out on it’s own. For day trips there are combined ferry, Island Line and Steam Railway tickets. It’s a sweet station to have a look around, but you have to weigh up the time you’ll have to wait for the next train to arrive.

Brading Station

Brading Station again, on the face of it, doesn’t have much around it, but in the station itself is Brading Railway Heritage Museum (closed during Covid-19) and the footbridge itself is a listed structure, but you can ask for permission to cross it – one person at a time! The signal box is the oldest remaining brick built signal box on the Island and if you know anything about edible plants, you’ll find the garden around the carpark interesting… something of a free lunch (but don’t eat anything you’re not 100% sure of!)

A short walk into Brading and you’ll find such historic landmarks as The Bull Ring, The Lilliput Doll and Toy Museum and Brading Cricket Club which is the subject of the earliest known painting of a cricket match in progress – the original painting of which hangs in the Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground and a copy of which can be seen in the pavilion when the grounds are open.  Also, don’t miss the historical Old Town Hall which was used as a school for the children of the town and for mother’s meetings, as well as the market house and the prison.

Sandown Station

Island Line Day Out

Sandown is one of the better known coastal towns on the Island, but many people never venture further than the seaside. Sandown Station is host to the miniscule The Gaslight Cafe  where you can enjoy a light lunch or tea, but do check opening times and dates on their website. They are popular and often booked up.  Turn right out of the station car park and follow the road to a glorious hidden park – Los Altos Public Park – with it’s rich array of trees, interesting plantings of Holm oaks and derelict remains of what must have been the gardens of an impressive stately home at one point or another. It’s a pleasant park to walk through, or sit under a tree with your picnic lunch.

Sandown Station is also on the circular 12-mile Sunshine Trail cycle path – so called for it’s record annual sunshine in this part of the country.

Lake Station

Lake is a small town between Shanklin and Sandown, and again, an easy to miss spot, however if you love scenic walks and a bit of nature, leave the station via Brownlow road towards Lake Cliff gardens. Follow the road round to Cliff Path and enjoy the stunning views across to Yaverland and over the English Channel. Work your way back to the train station via Ranelagh Road and Cliff Way, and head to the last stop on the Island Line.

Shanklin Station

Shanklin Station is set a short walk from the town centre, where you’ll find such gems as The Leafy Bean – a coffee shop with plenty of different flavoured coffee beans and lovely cakes. There’s also Arty Shakes which caters particularly for children – their milkshakes are great, even if you don’t have time to paint pottery.  Browse Babushka books or Retro for all your vinyl, Doc Martin, Fred Perry and Ben Sherman needs, or skip the modern(ish) part of town and walk a little further towards Shanklin Old Village – a must see on the Island tour. Here you’ll find thatched tea rooms and pubs, fabulous afternoon teas, and Shanklin Chine with it’s PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) line into the sea- crucial to the success of the D-day Landings. Rylestone Gardens often have events, and make for a lovely walk anyway. It’s quite a walk from the train station to here, but the Shanklin Shuttle bus will drive you around the area for £4 for the day – that’s worth it for the hill up from the beach alone! At certain times of the year there’s the Shanklin Cliff Lift which will transport you from the cliff top to the beach and back, saving you having to walk down – or worse, up – hundreds of steps.

Shanklin is really a day out all of it’s own, but if you’re doing it as part of your Island Line day trip, it’s well worth a walk around if just for it’s old-world charm.

By the end of your Island Line round trip, you’ll have eaten local food, drank good beer and coffee, discovered new secret places and as an added bonus, the locals on the trains smell better, we hope, than the original London commuters these 80-year-old trains were used to.