Isle of Wight Guided Tours

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Tennyson Tour

Tennyson and His Celebrity Circle (+ The Needles)  Tennyson Tour

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria’s poet laureate lived at Farringford, Freshwater Bay for around 40 years.

A Celebrity Circle formed around him (perhaps now better known as ‘The Freshwater Circle’).

This included his dear friend and neighbour portrait photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, painter G.F. Watts, novelist William Makepeace Thackeray and writer-daughter Anny, photographer and author Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ fame) and more besides.

The tour is totally adaptable according to your time, area of interest and fitness level!

However, it CAN include:

Freshwater Bay

  • A guided stroll around the village, identifying the various locations where members of the Circle lived or stayed (alongside other notable celebrities of the day).

  • A visit to Farringford – its interior now beautifully restored and open to the public on certain days of the week (audio-guided tour, chargeable and must be pre-booked). Alternatively, you can opt for a ‘garden only’ tour.

  • A visit to neighbouring Dimbola - (entrance chargeable – except for tearoom visits) - former home of Calcutta-born Julia Margaret Cameron, pioneer portrait photographer. Permanent exhibition of her work and wide-ranging temporary photographic exhibitions. Also, a permanent photographic exhibition of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, which took place close by.

  • St. Agnes’ Church - the only thatched church on the Island – indeed, one of only eight in the whole country! It was built with money donated by the poet’s elder son.

  • Refreshment, either in Dimbola or The Piano Café – so named because it was once the workplace of Queen Victoria’s piano tuner.

  • If you are fit – climb to the top of Tennyson Down, where the great poet walked twice a day, claiming that ‘the air was worth sixpence a pint!’

  • If you are not so fit – a gentler walk at a slightly lower level is also lovely.

Tennyson Down

Stunning ‘bright blue sea’ views on either side of you and springy ‘greener than green’ turf beneath your feet.

The poet was surely right too when he said that ‘the air (up here) is worth sixpence a pint’!

The Solent to your right and The English Channel to your left.

These breathtaking views inspired several poems, including The Charge of the Light Brigade, which was written up here.

We can come down at any point, some might only wish to walk from Dimbola to Farringford. Others might prefer to walk the one and a half miles from here to The Needles (the famous landmark chalk stacks at the Island’s most westerly tip) – admiring the wildlife along the way.

Look out for cormorants, guillemots, peregrines, ravens and jackdaws nesting on the cliffs. Puffins once nested here, but sadly no more. You may also see a selection of butterflies, including Darkgreen Fritillaries, Chalkhill and Adonis Blues.

Geologists and non-geologists alike can’t fail to be impressed!

It is apt that Robert Hooke, inventor of the science of geology (among many other things!) was born a mere stone’s throw away. Interestingly, some of the stonework from his old cottage was used in the building of St Agnes’ Church.

Tennyson himself was passionate about the Island’s geology.

You can see Fort Albert as you look over Colwell Bay across The Solent to the mainland. (Mentioning the Prince, he called on Tennyson at Farringford shortly after he moved in, only to find the poet out!)

Tennyson Monument

Not only was Tennyson’s beloved ‘High Down’ renamed in his honour after his death, but his family also erected the 38’ Cornish granite memorial cross at its highest point.

The Needles

IF you continue walking on from here, there will be much to see once you arrive at The Needles. For example, Lord Palmerston’s fortification The Old Battery (National Trust), built in fear of a French attack and The New Battery, which bears testament to the rocket testing that took place here from the 1950s – 70s.

This is to say nothing of course of the close-up views of the impressive Needles rocks and lighthouse as well as the incredible coloured sands of Alum Bay.

You can walk or ride (in the chairlift) down to the beach if you wish and if your time permits – then maybe even take a 20-minute boat ride out to The Needles rocks.

To return to Freshwater Bay, either walk or take a bus or taxi. OR you may choose to end your tour here.

If you choose NOT to walk on to The Needles, there is plenty to hold your attention for a while in Freshwater Bay!


Tennyson Tour Tennyson Tour Tennyson Tour


You might like to watch this video that I made recently, based on my research in Calcutta into Julia Margaret Cameron’s early years there. However, I have carried her story through to include her time living next door to poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson in Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight. Here she effectively started and ended her career as a pioneer portrait photographer. I really hope you enjoy it, and that it will inspire you to visit us both in Freshwater itself and on the Island generally. We will be so happy to introduce you to more about this delightful place and the many famous and fascinating people who once called it their home: