A great easy-going day-ride on a rural island near Portsmouth. Pedal down the western shore of Hayling Island to the beaches and nature reserves in the south, then back through pleasant countryside.
Terrain: flat, easy cycling on traffic-free coastal path, minor roads and a farm track. Best with hybrid or mountain bikes.
Distance: 13 miles\20 kms, or 7 miles\11.5 kms if you do only the northern half, taking a shortcut just north of Newtown.
The coast path
Starting from the northern end of the island, this traffic-free cycleway and footpath down the west coast was once a railway known as The Billy Line.
It used to carry a steam train called Puffing Billy between Havant on the mainland and the South Hayling beaches.
Parts of the railway bridge are just visible from the promontory at the north-west end of the island, as well as on old railway signal – which looks bizarely out of place unless you know the story!
A little further on is the West Hayling Nature Reserve, a restored area of oyster beds. Pause awhile for some bird-spotting and reading the information boards about the old oyster industry.
South coast beaches and nature reserves
The town at the south end of the island is no great beauty, but the beaches and nature reserves are worth a look if you’re inclined to extend the ride. The long beach used to be sandy but has been partially covered with shingle to reduce beach erosion and possible flooding. It has been popular among windsurfers since 1958, the year in which a Hayling Island resident, Peter Chilvers, is credited with inventing the modern windsurfing board.
Lanes and farm tracks
The return route northwards follows low-traffic roads through Stoke village and along Northwood Lane. Go through Northwood Farm and follow the farm track. This joins the road at North Hayling village.
In the village, don’t miss the beautiful 12th-century Norman church. Characteristic of churches in this area, St Peters was built in 1140 and is the oldest church on the island. See if you can find the gravestone of the Russian Princess Catherine Yourievsky, daughter of Tsar Alexander II, who died here in 1959.
Where to stay
We spent a few days in a self-catering cottage and drove to Hayling island. But if you’d like to stay on the island, here’s a link to self catering options there.
Or for a well-placed hotel at the start of the ride, with a nice indoor pool and rooms with a harbour view, go for The 4-star Langstone Quays Resort.