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Monday, 22 February 2010

Cycling heaven on the Isle of Wight

RECENTLY recognised by the Lonely Planet as one of the top cycling destinations in the world in its 'Best in Travel 2010' guide, the Isle of Wight is a long time favourite with outdoor enthusiasts.

On or off-road, cyclists are spoilt for choice, with the Island’s variety of landscapes ranging from quiet country lanes to sweeping valleys, chalk cliffs, downs and ancient woodland. Another good reason for leisure cyclists and intrepid Lance Armstrong-wannabees to plan a day trip or short break to the Isle of Wight is that bikes go free with Wightlink (0871 376 1000 www.wightlink.co.uk). Alternatively, cyclists can hire a bike on the Island and have it delivered to the ferry terminal on arrival.

Some routes, like the 62-mile ‘Round the Island’ ride, are decidedly challenging, but for those who want to take the Island cycle routes at their own pace, Wightlink has produced an Easy Peasy Pedalling guide, featuring six easy rides, designed with leisure cyclists in mind. Ranging from five to eight miles in length, the rides make full use of the Island’s extensive bike trails and are routed through nature reserves, past river estuaries and around Parkhurst Forest, home to the rare red squirrel. Visit www.wightlink.co.uk/cycling for details of the guide as well as hire and repair cycle shops on the Island.

Stay in the Island’s rural heartland using a self-catering cottage as a base from which to explore. Located on the Isle of Wight’s famous Garlic Farm in Newchurch, Barn Cottage at Mersley Farm offers two bedrooms, living area and kitchen. The surrounding rural lanes are ideal cycling territory and cross-country experts can punish themselves by climbing the downs on the cottage’s doorstep.

ADULTS... Departing on 23rd March, a three-night Wightlink Green Getaways self-catering break in Barn Cottage, Mersley Farm costs from £94 per person (based on two sharing) including return foot passenger ferry crossings. Alternatively, a car-ferry-inclusive package costs from £112 per person.

TAKE THE KIDS... A one-week Wightlink Green Getaway during the school Easter break costs from £128 per person (based on a family of four sharing), departing 9th April with car ferry crossings.

Alternatively, stay in deepest countryside in a sheltered hollow at the foot of St Catherine’s Down at Gotten Manor. Ideal for nature lovers, there are footpaths in all directions and a woodland copse with bats, badgers and buzzards within the grounds. Traditionally decorated, its rooms have individual touches – fresh flowers, candles, and flowing muslin drapes around huge claw foot iron baths.

ADULTS... Departing on 29th March, a two-night Wightlink Green Getaways B&B break at Gotten Manor costs from £91 per person (based on two sharing) including return foot passenger ferry crossings (from £116pp car-ferry-inclusive).

TAKE THE KIDS... Departing on 9th April, a one-week Wightlink Green Getaways Easter holiday in the self-catering Cart House at Gotten Manor costs from £143 per person (based on four sharing) including return car ferry crossings from Portsmouth or Lymington.

Cyclists travelling as foot passengers on all three Wightlink ferry routes between Portsmouth-Fishbourne, Lymington-Yarmouth and Portsmouth Harbour-Ryde Pier Head can take their own bikes free. Visit www.wightlink.co.uk/specialoffers for details of Wightlink’s ‘2 for 1’ foot passenger offer.

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