The Historic Needles Batteries | The Old Battery and the New Battery Isle of Wight

The Historic Needles Batteries – The Old Battery and New Battery Isle of Wight

Perched high above the Needles rocks on the Isle of Wight are the historic Needles Batteries – the Old Battery and New Battery. Owned by the National Trust England, both Batteries bring to life the island’s rich and intriguing Victorian history.

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Just off the southern coast of England, across the maritime port and city of Portsmouth is England’s largest island, the Isle of Wight. A Victorian favourite, the island’s world famous feature is The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse. On the clifftop above The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse are two historic Needles Batteries, simply known as the Old Battery and New Battery.

Built on the south-westernmost point of the Isle of Wight, the historic Needles Batteries are two military bases built to defend the island from enemy attacks coming from the West of the Solent. Both batteries give commanding views out over the English Channel and across to the English mainland. The batteries were built three decades apart and both played key roles during the World Wars. A visit to the historic Needles Batteries, both the Old and New makes for an interesting day out for individuals, couples and family.

Whilst we work hard to be accurate, and provide the best information possible, we also encourage you to please always check before heading out.

THE NEEDLES BATTERIES on Isle of Wight

The Old Battery Isle of Wight | Historic Needles Batteries

The historic Needles Batteries

The Old Battery dates from Victorian times, when Lord Palmerstone was Prime Minister in the 1860s. He ordered a series of defences to be built to protect the naval dockyards at Portsmouth against the attacks by the French under Napoleon III.

Construction of the Old Battery began in 1861 and was completed in 1863. It’s strategic position provided views of both the Solent and the English Channel, hence defending the Needles Passage entrance to the Solent. The Battery was surrounded by a dry ditch to prevent the French invaders climbing up but the invasion never happened. Nicknamed “Palmerston’s Follies”, the Old Battery was used throughout both the World Wars.

The Old Battery Tunnel

The historic Needles Batteries | the Old Battery

In 1885 , a tunnel was dug towards the cliff face from the parade ground and a lift down to the beach was installed in 1887. Searchlight experiments were carried out between 1889 and 1892. If you were to visit today, you will see the observation post housing a searchlight built in 1899. It gives an insight into how a Victorian Battery worked and the life of a soldier during the Second World War.

Things to do at the historic Needles Batteries | The Old Battery

ultimate guide to Isle of Wight England's gem Parade Ground | the historic Needles Batteries Isle of Wight
Guns at the Parade Ground Isle of Wight | © nationaltrust.org.uk

1 | The Parade Ground

There are two guns installed in the same position as they once were, pointing out to sea.

2 | Storage

You could also explore the cartridge store, and the shell store;

3 | Observation post

See the observation post housing a searchlight built in 1899;

4 | Explore the Tunnels

the historic Needles Batteries Isle of Wight |
Explore the tunnels at the historic Needles Batteries for close breathtaking views of the Needles rocks and lighthouse.

Explore the tunnel leading to the observation post (iii) above – it overlooks the Needles rocks and lighthouse and gives you absolutely breathtaking views of the Solent.

5 | Tearoom

There is a tearoom on the first floor of the signal station to take a breather and to enjoy the beautiful views it affords.

Good to know information:

Address: West High Down, Alum Bay PO39 0JH

Opening times: Monday to Sunday | 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.


Recommended read: The Victorian Love Affair


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A little further up the headland is the Needles New Battery. It is a small site but home to some fascinating stories of secret rocket testing during the Cold War (1950s – 1970s).

The New Battery Isle of Wight | Historic Needles Batteries

The New Battery was built about thirty years following the Old Battery. The initial plan for building the New Battery was to replace the Old. It was feared that the vibrations of the guns would cause the cliffs to crumble. More space was also needed to provide spaces for newer, larger guns. The New Battery was built higher up the cliff at 120 metres above sea level. Work on this military base was completed in 1895.

In 1900, two breech-loading guns were emplaced and a third in 1904. These guns were scrapped in 1954. Also, in the 1900s, an artillery store, guardhouse, canteen and a cookhouse were added but were demolished in 1950s. A battery command post was built higher up the hill between 1900 and 1902. This command post gave clear views of the Solent’s western approaches. It continued as the Battery Commander’s post until after the Second World War.

While both the Batteries were in full use during the Second World War, the Batteries were decommissioned soon afterwards. With the dawn of the Cold War, a new use was found for the New Battery in 1954 – as a secret rocket testing site. The ‘Black Knight’ , ‘Black Arrow’ and the satelite ‘Prospero’ were all tested at the New Battery before they were launched in Australia.

Good to know information:

Address: West High Down, Alum Bay PO39 0JH

Opens: 10:30 A.M.

Entry is Free


Practical information | The historic Needles Batteries IOW

Entrance:

The historic Needles Batteries are owned and managed by National Trust England. Entry is free to Members.

Ticket TypeTicket Tariff
Adult Standard£5.00 per ticket
Child Standard£2.50 per ticket
Family – one adult£7.50 per ticket
Family Standard£12.50 per ticket

Note: Prices are a guide only and may change on a daily basis. Prices correct at time of writing: July 2021

Payment methods:

Delta

Maestro

Mastercard

Visa

Groups accepted


Car Park:

The nearest car park to the historic Needles Batteries is about a mile away. It is a paid car park and cost £6.00 (2021).

If walking…

Best views of the Needles rocks and miles and miles of spectacular clifftop views.

Takes about 20 to 25 minutes each way if you elect to walk. Some paths are steep and not recommended if you are unfit or mobility impaired.

Not recommended on a rainy day!

Take the bus:

You could opt for the visitors bus which runs regularly and costs £3.00 single or £5.00 return.

Weather:

The historic Needles Batteries may close in high winds or severe weather conditions. Please phone on the day of visit to check (01983) 754772.

Contact:

West High Down, ALUM BAY, Isle Of Wight, PO39 0JH

Tel: Tel:+44 01983 754772

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/


Things to do in and around the historic Needles Batteries

best views of The Needles and lighthouse Isle of Wight | the historic Needles Batteries
Amazing views of the Needles rocks and Trinity Lighthouse from the Old Battery Isle of Wight

1 | Walk the wall

Walk the stone fortifications for stunning views over The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse as well as Alum Bay. An absolute must for anyone who appreciate incredible views.

2 | Marconi Monument

It was from The Needles that Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor and electrical engineer, established the first wireless communication between France and England across the English Channel in 1899.

Located within The Needles Park is a monument dedicated to Marconi – the Marconi Monument. The monument marks the precise location where Marconi undertook his groundbreaking work that led to radio and telecommunications as we know it today.

Address: Heritage Attractions Ltd, The Needles Park, ALUM BAY, Isle of Wight, PO39 0JD

Opening times: Open 7 days a week except January and Christmas week. From 10:00 A.M. Closing time varies.

3 | The Needles rocks and Lighthouse

Explore one of England’s natural wonders! The Needles rocks is a row of three chalk stacks that stretches out to sea. There is a classic lighthouse at the end of it. Get an unforgettable experience by taking a boat ride for close-up views of this wondrous chalk ridge that turns heads.

Recommended read: The Unmissable Enthralling Needles Rocks and Lighthouse Isle of Wight

4 | The Needles Park

The Needles Park and Attraction centre is packed full of fun for all the family, no matter your age. No visit to the Isle of Wight is complete without a visit to the Needles Attraction. There are Jurassic Adventure Golf, open-top bus rides, boat trips, family carousel rides, Victorian games, fascinating glass blowing, sweet making and Alum Bay Sands. Create a souvenir to take back a piece of the Isle of Wight with you.

Address: The Needles Landmark Attraction
Alum Bay New Road, Alum Bay, PO39 0JD

Opening times: 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. *weather dependant


Places to eat in and around the historic Needles Batteries Isle of Wight

The following places to eat are located close to the historic Needles Batteries:

1 | Marconi’s Tea Rooms

A cafe, serving international cuisine. Seating outdoors available.

Address: The Needles Park Alum Bay, Totland Bay PO39 0JD England

Tel: +44 871 720 0022

Check Tripadvisor reviews

2 | Warren Farm Shop & Tea Garden

From 11:00 A.M to 4:30 P.M.

Cafe serving British cuisine. Takeout services available. Plenty of Outdoor Seating. Wheelchair Accessible.

Free off-street parking.

Accepts all major Debit and Credit Cards – American Express, Mastercard, Visa,

Address: Alum Bay, New Road Alum Bay, Totland Bay, PO39 0JB England

Tel: +44 1983 753200

Check TripAdvisor reviews

3 | The Waterfront Bar & Restaurant

From 12:00 noon to 10:00 P.M.

Beachside pub/restaurant serving seafood, Mediterranean and British cuisines. Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan, and Gluten Free options are welcomed. Full bar.

Best to make prior reservations.

Outdoor Seating available. Seating.

Table Service, Live Music, Waterfront

Highchairs Available, Wheelchair Accessible,

Parking Available,

Free Wifi.

Accepts all major Credit Cards and Contactless

Address: The Beach Totland Bay, Totland Bay PO39 0BQ England

Tel: +44 1983 756969

Tripadvisor reviews

Plan ahead for the historic Needles Batteries trip

How to get to the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is ideally located for visitors wanting a short-break or weekend getaway. You can reach the Island from London in about 2 hours. The Island is also within easy reach of major airports in UK.

Ferries: There are about 200 ferry crossings a day from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington. They link to five major towns on the Island – Ryde, Cowes, East Cowes, Fishbourne and Yarmouth.

Trains: There are excellent rail services that connects well with ferry departures. There are timely departures from London stations to any of the ports. Plan your journey and take advantage of train and ferry combined tickets with Trainline.

Coach: Coach travel is another convenient way to get to Portsmouth or Southampton from whence you could board the ferry to the Isle of Wight. There are connecting bus services when you arrive on the island. Look up cheap coach tickets with Trainline.

Flights: Fly into London Heathrow or London Gatwick – both airports have good rail or road connections to the ports. From here, take the ferry across. There are also regional flights into Bournemouth and Southampton to reduce journey times to the Island.


Places to Stay on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight has a multitude of accommodations to suit every need. Be it is a stylish short-break, a longer family stay or a hiking holiday, you are sure to find one to suit.

Stay at Anchor Cottage in East Cowes , Best Western at Cowes or The Royal Ventnor in Ventnor

If you are looking for self-catering accommodation, The Highlands Apartment are highly recommended.


Finally….

The Isle of Wight is a fabulous holiday destination with a myriad of things to do. Visiting the historic Needles Batteries is one that should top every visitor’s list. It takes you through history and gives a glimpse into a soldier’s life during the wars. As well as a secret rocket testing site!

Hope you have enjoyed reading and that this post is valuable towards planning your trip to the historic Needles Batteries in Isle of Wight. If so, use the links in this article and related articles to book train travel, flights and places to stay. TTS earns a commission from qualifying purchases/bookings at no cost to you. As always, your support is much appreciated.

Have a super awesome time in the fabulous Isle of Wight.

Georgina xx

The Isle of Wight at a Glance

Coordinates: Latitude: 50° 40′ 30.59″ N Longitude: -1° 16′ 30.60″ W

Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight flag
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight Coat of Arms

Basic facts:

Island: Largest island in England

Island’s city: Newport

Population: 141,538 | Second most populous island in England behind Portsea Island.

Landmass: The Isle is roughly 380.728 kilometer/147 square miles

County: Governed by one unitary authority.

Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) | British Summer Time (BST)

High season: July – August

Religion: Christianity

Language: English

Money

Currency: Pounds Sterling (£)

Credit and Debit cards accepted.

Topography

Elevation: Maximum elevation: 242 m | Average elevation: 15 m | Minimum elevation: -1 m

Designation:

1 | Isle of Wight Biosphere Reserve, United Kingdom

2 | Isle of Wight – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Why Visit:

Famous for: Ghosts, Dinosaur bones, Victorian villages, Cycling routes, Walking & Hiking + Healing & Wellbeing retreats

Number of Visitors surpass residents >

Travel Advice

Isle of Wight Travel Advice

Travelling to the UK Advice

UK Foreign Travel Advice


More on the Isle of Wight

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The Historic Needles Batteries | The Old Battery and the New Battery Isle of Wight first published at timelesstravelsteps.com

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4 key ways to explore the Isle of Wight

4 key ways to explore the Isle of Wight

Written by: Georgina | We may earn a commission from affiliate links | Update February 16, 2022

Stunning shorelines, white cliffs and rich woodlands come together in Isle of Wight, England’s largest island. Once a fashionable summer retreat for the royals, rich and the famous, these days the island is a popular destination for boat races, music festivals, impressive dinosaur fossil quarries and scenic coastal walks.


The Isle of Wight is a small island but it offers plenty of activities to do for all visitors of all ages. One can explore the island independently on foot, by bike, by car, or by public transport. Alternatively one can join a group and explore the island with the help of a guide who will drive you to the various key destinations while you relax, taking in the magnificent views in between the journeys. While there are many ways to experience this beautiful island, here are 4 key ways to explore the Isle of Wight for you to consider:

key ways to explore Isle of Wight

1 | Explore the Isle of Wight independently on foot

ways to explore isle of wight
Ways to explore the Isle of Wight: coastal walk

Exploring the island on foot is not easy. You can either start your day from the time of arrival at East Cowes or you may want to undertake one of the coastal walks which covers beautiful villages, stunning coastlines and key landmarks.

1.1 | A day’s itinerary

For a day visit and to explore on foot, as a brief guide, you could begin your discovery of the island from the ferry terminal at East Cowes and make your first stop at Osborne House, followed by a visit to St Mildred’s Church. Break for lunch at Folly Inn, a pub perched on the banks of River Medina, popular for its fish + chips!.

After lunch, continue on along the River to Newport Quay. then following signs to St James Square. In the centre of the square is Newport Minster, the church that was rebuilt by Queen Victoria to house the remains of Princess Elizabeth, Charles I daughter. Around the outside and the back of the church is a Victorian tea room where you could stop for refreshments. Depending on your return ferry to the mainland, you may want to start heading back to East Cowes.

1.2 | More than a day

If you have more than a day in the island or if you drive, you could pick any one of the six coastal routes recommended by Visit Isle of Wight to explore by foot.

Exploring independently? Get the best online tool to guide you on your adventure. Use the OS Maps app to download sections of map for use offline.

Essential to have: Suitable and waterproof footwear. Water. Depending on time of year, a jacket.

2 | Explore the Isle of Wight independently by bike

Ways to explore Isle of Wight |  coastline
Isle of Wight coastline

The Isle of Wight is renowned as one of the top cycling destinations in the world. Rewarded with one of the best scenery in UK, the island offers two hundred miles of cycle tracks, byways and bridleways to be explored.

The complete round the island route covers 65 miles and this can be adapted to suit individual abilities. Depending on the number of days you have on the island, you can select to split and shortened the route over the number of days.

2.1 | A one-day visit to the island

Once in Cowes, look out for signs of cycle route round the island. The first leg of your route is to Northwood Park, home to Northwood House. Northwood House held many high society events attended by Queen Victoria. Surrounded by a large and beautiful garden, Northwood House is retained in its original style and offers great views over Cowes and Solent.

From Northwood House, follow round the island cycle route towards Cowes seafront. This route has the Solent to your right. Heading towards Gurnard and you will reach Egypt Point, midway which was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite places to watch for sunset. Continue on to Gurnard and stop for lunch. There are several options for food and for light refreshments here.

Depart Gurnard, cycle back to East Cowes and follow the round the island cycle route towards Whippingham, where you could visit St Mildred’s Church. St Mildred’s was a royal favourite and attended by the royal family for Sunday worship. The church was re-designed by Prince Albert to accommodate the royal presence. Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice was married here.

From St Mildred’s, you could make your way to River Medina for some refreshments before heading back to the ferry point at East Cowes.

2.2 | Family-friendly routes

Isle of Wight is a perfect destination for family holidays and there are lots of places for children to develop their skills. For some inspiration, you could try any one or all of the following three routes suggested by Visit Isle of Wight:

Need more tips on planning your cycling route? Get one of the following guide books on cycling around the Isle of Wight.

3 | Explore the Isle of Wight by car or public transport

The Needles Landmark Isle of Wight
Ways to explore the Isle of Wight | The Needles Alum Bay

Isle of Wight has great roads! Clear signposting and easy to navigate. The road goes around the island offering beautiful scenic journeys.

The use of public transportation in the island is a convenient way to explore. The buses are regular and cover key locations of the island for a quick tour. The journey also takes you through some of the most stunning scenery of the coastlines.

Exploring the Isle of Wight by car couldn’t be easier. You have the luxury to pull-up when you like to capture the best views or just take your time over a clifftop picnic and watch the world roll by.

Whether you are exploring by car or by public transport, the most popular destination in Isle of Wight is the Needles Rocks at the Needles Landmark Attraction in Alum Bay. The Needles rocks is a spectacular image not to be missed. You can take the chairlift or a boat ride for a close look at the rocks and the lighthouse. Besides The Needles, Osborne House along with Ventnor Botanic Garden are equally popular for a visit.

If you are looking for more activities to do, head over to Shanklin Chine or Carisbrooke Castle for a day full of exciting adventures.

4 | Explore the Isle of Wight with an organised tour

ways to explore Isle of Wight | Osborne House
Ways to explore Isle of Wight | Osborne House

Exploring Isle of Wight with guided tours sometimes offer real island experiences – from entertaining, informative and educational tours to best loved, secret sights and sounds the island has to offer. Guided tours come with well-planned itineraries and booking the best accommodations on the island, affording you more time to enjoy your trip. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:

4.1 | Day trip from London

Travel by luxury coach from London and cross over to Isle of Wight by ferry. This tour is offered by our trusted partner, Get Your Guide.

The tour will take you Godshill for the magnificent thatched cottages that seems out of a picture book, to the village of Shanklin (not to be mistaken with Shanklin Chine) and two sandy beaches. You will also have plenty of time to explore on your own. Learn more and book this trip by clicking on the graphic.

4.2 | Multi-day trip to Isle of Wight

This multi-day trip to Isle of Wight is for three days and covers some locations on the south coast of England. This is a small group tour offered by our trusted partner, Get Your Guide.

This tour takes you to key historical landmarks on the island including The Needles, Osborne House, Yarborough Monument and Cliffs of St Catherine’s Down. Includes 2 nights accommodation

Good to know when considering exploring Isle of Wight either independently or on a guided tour

1 | Save time and money

You can save time and money at many of the Isle of Wight’s attractions with pre-booked admission tickets.

You need to book a preferred time slot for both Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle, so purchasing a ticket before day of visit is highly encouraged.

2 | Enjoy unlimited access

For an annual membership, enjoy unlimited access to over 400 properties in England by becoming a member of English Heritage. Both Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle are managed by English Heritage which means you can visit as many times in a year and you can take along your kids as well.

Learn more about the benefits of becoming a member of English Heritage > sign-up today

3 | Special deal for Overseas Visitors

Overseas visitors who want a simple way to explore the historical landmarks in England can purchase an attraction pass by English Heritage. For one small price, an oversea visitor has access to over 100 properties including Osborne House, Carisbrooke Castle along with Stonehenge and Dover Castle in the mainland which are also visitors’ favourite.

The Overseas Visitor Attraction Pass by English Heritage is valid for 9 – 16 days from first validation and is offered by our trusted partner, Get Your Guide. Alternatively, purchase the Pass from English Heritage. Read the complete guide and why this is an excellent value for overseas travellers > English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass

4 | Best time to explore the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is a good destination to explore at anytime of the year because of its microclimate conditions. However, the island is at its best in the summer but it is also the busiest and most expensive. To enjoy the island minus the crowd, go in spring or fall. Most attractions are closed in winter.

On a final note…

The Isle of Wight is a splendid island to getaway to whether you choose to explore independently by foot, bike, car, and public transportation or as part of a group tour. The island offer plenty of activities to do along with one of the best scenic views in the UK. The weather is generally better than the rest of UK and getting around is not as awkward as in can be in some islands.

Affiliate links are sprinkled on all articles. This means that I earn a commission at no cost to you at all from a qualified booking or purchase sale if you choose to use them. As always, I appreciate your continued support.

Georgina xx

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4 key ways to explore the Isle of Wight first published at timelesstravelsteps.com. Last update February 16, 2022

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