Nestled near the westerly tip of the Isle of Wight, Freshwater Bay is an idyllic spot that has long captured the imagination of visitors and residents alike. Although nearby Yarmouth was granted a royal charter in 1135 and later developed by King Henry VIII, Freshwater itself really flourished in the Victorian era. Famed for its artistic connections and stunning scenery the Bay has been a great inspiration to many.
The most famous of these is Alfred Lord Tennyson, who wrote much of his poetry right here at Farringford. First renting and then later buying the property, he spent almost forty years visiting this most impressive of spots. Some of his family are buried at All Saints Church in Freshwater village, itself an ancient building mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It contains memorials of both his son and Tennyson himself. But so loved Freshwater Bay that after his death his family paid for a new church, closer to the bay, St Agnes', the only church on the Isle to feature a thatched roof.
Julia Margaret Cameron, a pioneering Victorian photographer, was another Freshwater Bay resident stimulated by the spectacular surroundings. Her home, Dimbola Lodge, is now a fascinating photographic museum with many portraits of the famous people of the time including Tennyson and Charles Darwin.
It's easy to see why both she and painter George Morland found the area so enchanting. Lovely beaches contrast with rugged white cliffs, with magnificent coastal views and walks leading to the famous Needles. Freshwater and Tennyson Down provide miles of rolling downland perfect for exploring.
There are plenty of other sights to enjoy. The remains of Fort Redoubt stand at the cliff edge at the western end of the Bay. Built in the mid-19th century, this Palmerston Fort was later sold and is now partly in use as holiday residences. Other landmarks in the Bay include a series of rock 'stacks' standing proudly in the sea, caused by water eroding the cliffs. The most renowned of these is Arch Rock, once a triumphant sight but one that collapsed into the sea after a storm in the early 1990s. It's neighbour, Stag Rock still stands and is named for a stag that supposedly escaped the hunt by leaping onto it. Nowadays it's only visitors are the seabirds, especially black-backed gulls that nest there.
Freshwater Bay Activities
The winter seas are cold and windswept, but warm and calm in the summer, ideal for bathing. In recent years Freshwater Bay have become a favourite with sea swimmers where the skeltered waters are ideal for leisure swimming, while the stacks and caves can be explored by the more adventurous.
It's these landmarks and the coastal cliffs that also attract kayaking and stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and there is an adventure school based at the Bay where lessons and hire are available.
During the winter storms the seas roll in to Freshwater Bay and it has become a favourite spot for storm watching. The local surfers have known about it for years and it's a very popular surf spot with long rides in from the point when the conditions are right.