Alum Bay & ‘The Needles’

“Let’s go and see the Needles!” they said!

“It’ll be fun!” they said.

My three daughters, two of their friends and my husband, all unanimously agreed that this was the one place they most wanted to visit during our recent trip to the Isle of Wight.

Hazy memories of our previous trip to Alum Bay, some twenty years earlier, began to surface… I recalled a nail-biting ride on an ancient chairlift, equipped with minimal safety features, over a steep cliff-side…legs dangling, shoes being lost forever…

The Hairy-Scary Chair Lift!

“Well…okay!” I gulped, not wanting to appear the party-pooper.

So, the next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, we jumped in the car and headed for Alum Bay.

Round about half-way there, it dawned on us that as a party of seven, and an odd number at that, one of us would have to ride the chairlift alone.

Emily, our youngest, had already decided she was going to ride with her daddy. And who could blame her?

Grace and Lydia, each had brought a friend with them.

And so that just left…

me.

Great!

I steeled myself, placing all my hope on the fact that my life was squarely in God’s hands and that if in His sovereign wisdom I was supposed to die plunging over a chasm…well that was His business, and not mine.

On, to the chair-lift I jumped, before I had time to bottle out.

Up, up, up cranked the chair. Boom, boom, boom went my heart. As we sailed over trees, I fixed my eyes on Grace and her boyfriend who were riding in the chair in front of me, and told myself over and over again: “it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay!

And, of course, although it was awfully high, it wasn’t quite as scary as I had remembered, provided you didn’t spend the duration of the journey trying to figure out just how the chair-lifts were attached.

In fact, I even managed to snap a little photo!

ALUM BAY

The descent into Alum Bay soon took my mind off things. The views were truly magnificent!

Jumping off that chair lift, and onto the shingly beach, I felt exhilarated, not only to stand on terra firma once again, but also to witness the vast sweep of the Bay, curving round towards the iconic ‘Needles’ – a crop of three chalk rocks that jut up dramatically out of the English Channel.

The Needles!

It was an unimaginably beautiful day – the bright blue sky dotted with wispy cotton-wool clouds, rays of sunlight glinting on the sea. And most importantly, I was surrounded by so many dear faces – all sharing this rare and wonderful moment with me.

The bluest of skies over the Bay…

NEEDLES BOAT TOUR

We took a fascinating boat tour out to the Needles, which afforded us a much closer look at them.

the missing needle!

The Needles got their name, due to an original fourth rock, known as ‘Lot’s Wife’ which had a very pointed needle-like shape. Even though this rock collapsed into the heart of the sea, during a storm in 1764, the name stuck.

the lighthouse

The Lighthouse, three-feet thick at its base, and rising some 80 feet above high water, was built to withstand wild waves of up to 20 feet high, sweeping in from the West. Up until 1944, when the lighthouse became fully automated, it was manned 24-7 by a Lighthouse Keeper and three assistants. This crop of rocks have always been perilous to sailors, and still to this day, the foghorn sounds every 15 seconds in periods of low visibility.

THE COLOURED ROCKS

Alum Bay is also famous for its colourful rock face, caused by geological folding, which over time, pushed the horizontal layers of rock strata to a vertical position,

ALUM BAY SANDS

Because of these colourful rocks, Alum Bay is unique in having 21 possible shades of sand. Ever since Victorian Times, it has been a tradition to collect and layer these colourful sands in pretty glass jars to take home as a souvenir. Apparently, Queen Victoria herself had a glass jar filled with Alum Bay sand in her home at Osborne House!

Many a child, including our Emily, has fond memories of the Alum Bay Sand Shop, in which you can experience choosing a glass (or plastic bottle) and carefully tipping in varying layers of pink, yellow, beige, brown and white sand!

Carefully does it!
Emily’s cute jar of Alum Bay sands – which she aptly named ‘Clifford’

Alum Bay is more than worth a visit if you’re ever on the Isle of Wight! And, I’ll let you into a little secret…you don’t even have to take the chair lift! There are steps, albeit a fair few of them, if you’d rather!) But, however you decide to get down to the Bay, I promise you, you won’t regret it!

What a wonderful, unforgettable day was had by all!

13 thoughts on “Alum Bay & ‘The Needles’”

  1. Loved this little travelogue!! I’ve only seen the Needles from a distance. I had no idea what I’ve been missing!! Adding this to the would-like-to-do list if we get back your way and down to the beautiful IOW!

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  2. Thank you Carla! I too have so enjoyed following your New England travels – one of my favourite ever places Nathan and I have ever visited was Chatham, Cape Cod and the little boat ride we took across to Nantucket. I would love to see more of New England. Travelling is so much fun isn’t it?

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  3. Dear Angela,
    You were very brave, and my heart and courage sunk with your’s, in the re-telling of the high, swinging chair lifts!
    I love vicariously traveling with you on your visits along the shores and about the countryside.
    Tell Emily I love the cute and apropos name, Clifford, that she chose for her little elephant. She’ll treasure it always, since he’s filled with the sands and memories of an enchanted day. 💗 Trenda

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    1. Dear Trenda, aww thank you for your beautifully scribed note. So fun to think that you’re travelling about with me. Yes, it was a scary moment, but it was totally worth it! Clifford will be treasured for many years to come! I think he may even inspire a story! I’ve just noticed a new post from you, so I shall look forward to reading that. Hope you’re well Trenda, and over your fall? I must email you soon to see how you all are x

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  4. Wow, what an amazing day, and your description made me feel like I was there with you on that rickety chairlift and traveling on the boat to get up close to the needles. And that lighthouse, I grew up in Maine and have visited many lighthouses, but none as remote as this one. Storm waves bashing against must have been scary. And I like to stand on some rocky headlands in Maine during storms!

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    1. Oh Kathy, thank you! It was a tad scary! Do you know, recently I keep hearing so many good things about Maine that I’ve decided t’s definitely a place I would love to visit! This year I read a trilogy set on a fictional island of the coast of Maine, written by one of my favourite authors, Suzanne Woods Fisher. It was called the Three Sisters Island trilogy. It was superb! It mentioned Bar Harbour and featured a Lighthouse and I just devoured all three books! I have visired Boston, MA, and travelled from there to Cape Cod, which was incredible- many moons ago. I would love to see more of New England. Thank you for reading, and as always, it’s lovely to connect with you Kathy. Blessings from across the wild Atlantic xx

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  5. Sorry Kathy, I just noticed a few typos in that comment! Bugs me that you can’t edit your own comments once they’re sent. I meant ‘off’ the coast of Maine, and I ‘visited’ Boston. x

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    1. No problem. sometimes when I look back at my comments I see way too many typos. Thanks for the book recommendation. I just downloaded a sample of the first one on my Kindle and am looking forward to trying it. My husband and I used to visit Bar Harbor a lot when we were in college. It’s just an hour from where we went to college, so it was a fun get away.

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  6. Oh Angela… thank you for transporting me to this enchanting place with your lovely words. I felt the anxiety as you were facing the prospect of riding the chair lift all by your onsie. I can also relate to the moment you were able to lift your eyes and take in a birds-eye-view of God’s amazing creation. Our spiritual walk is a bit like this isn’t it? So often fear causes us to shrink back when the Father is trying to take us to new heights and show us the bigger picture of our faith journey. Oh that we would embrace the adventure He longs to share with us as we learn to live in the abundant life He purchased for us! ~ Tabitha

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    1. Hi Tabitha, lovely to hear from you! So glad you felt transported. That is so kind of you, and how lovely to have you along for the ride. Love your observations to our spiritual walk. Yes, fear is a killer! So many times I when I’ve been fearful the Lord has been trying to show me the magnitude of His love and get me to trust and lean on Him – and it’s only when you let go that you realise that of course, He’s got something good, something great He wants to say or reveal. What a patient and kind Father we have. We so often doubt and struggle and all the while he’s saying, Let go! I’ve got you!! I definitely want more of that abundant life! Love and blessings sweet friend xx

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