The tiny hamlet of Castlehaven near Niton, on the Isle of Wight’s southernmost tip, is a magical spot that is tucked neatly away off the beaten track. Located close to Ventnor, the larger village of Niton that sits above Castlehaven is split into two by a break in the inner cliff: Upper Niton, and Niton Undercliffe. We have been to the Island many times over the last few years, but we had never stopped at Niton: We have always driven through it on the way to somewhere else. When we finally visited this year we found the lovely little spot that is Castlehaven – the perfect place for a bit of a mooch and pit stop…
We parked up top, on the right hand side of St. Catherine’s Road, just past the turning for Sandrock Road. (streetview) The houses peter out as the road becomes green and leafy so you’re not in the way along here. We then walked back the way we came heading along St. Catherine’s Road towards The Buddle Inn. Just before we reached the pub we turned right down a steep public footpath. (map) It could be fairly easy to miss as it gets quite overgrown, but the path is sound, with a handrail, and the greenery is managed and gets trimmed back. There is a finger post sign pointing the way so keep your eyes peeled…
At the bottom of the path we came to Castlehaven Lane, which is an unmade road. There are a handful of houses dotted along this lower section of the road, so you might see the occasional car, but because it is unmade vehicles have to travel very slowly and it’s pretty safe for dogs to be off of the lead. We followed the road down the hill, and around a sharp left hand bend. After roughly 500m we reached a little cluster of dwellings and continuing past them we could see the road ran right down to the sea. (streetview) We wandered down to find a tiny harbour overlooking Reeth Bay, as well as a little green and a bench. Perfect for stopping to take five and enjoy the view.
We began to retrace our steps back up Castlehaven Lane to find a little beach cafe that we had spotted on the way down. The beach cafe belongs to the Castlehaven Retreat (Castlehaven Retreat), and is quite literally a few metres up from the harbour on the left hand side. (streetview) The cafe is quite low-key, but all the more lovely for it. It actually consists of two very smart garden sheds, one of which is the shop front complete with proper coffee machine for lattes and fridge with cold Peroni (they are fully licensed), and the second shed is the kitchen. We had a creamy cafe latte and a homemade fresh prawn sandwich. The seating is all outside, in the garden on the edge of the cliff (fenced!), and so dogs are welcome and a bowl of water is available. They even have some super-posh loos…not what we expected. We spent a blissful hour there, staring out to sea, soaking up the sunshine and the peace and quiet.
Castlehaven Retreat is actually a tiny caravan park: they have just a handful static vans, all looking old school from the exterior, but all fully modernised on the inside. Sadly dogs are not permitted to stay in the caravans.
As far as the return journey to the car is concerned you have options: we re-traced our steps, and if you do this you could stop at The Buddle Inn (The Buddle Inn) at the top of the steep climb. This is a great pub and it is extremely dog friendly. They are welcome inside and out, and they even have a new doggy menu. The food is good – I can vouch for the pies. In fact The Buddle Inn is part of a chain of pubs across the Island including The Bugle at Yarmouth and they are all dog friendly. Hurrah!
If you prefer to walk another way you can leave Castlehaven Retreat via the gap in the fence on the opposite side of the site by van number 5. Here you’ll be on the coast path that crosses the clifftops to St. Catherine’s Lighthouse. You can walk around the lighthouse, up through the fields and then you pick up St. Catherine’s Road. You’ll approach your car from the other direction, so this is a nice loop rather than a ‘there and back’ walk, but I believe there is a ladder stile over a stone wall, which Hoover can’t negotiate, so this walk wasn’t possible for us. If you can carry your dog easily then this shouldn’t be a problem. He is 46 kg so I’ve got more chance of him carrying me over the stile than the other way around!!