The Needles, Isle of Wight
In 1859 a lighthouse, designed by Scottish civil engineer James Walker, was built on the western point of the formation. The Needles have long been a hazard to shipping, one of the earliest recordings of a shipwreck at The Needles is of the Vliegende Draecke. Along with another ship from its fleet, the Campen, it was forced to sail between The Needles during bad weather. The Vliegende Draecke tore a large hole in her hull and was shipwrecked in Alum Bay .
Another hazard lurks just below the water line in the seas beyond the end of The Needles. A shifting shoal of pebbles just beneath the waves called The Shingles is approximately three miles in length and has been the cause of many shipwrecks.
The Needles close neighbour Alum Bay is itself a major tourist draw. Boat trips leave regularly from Alum Bay to give visitors close-up views of The Needles. The rocks and the lighthouse have become icons of the Isle of Wight. They are often seen on many of the souvenirs from the island.
An old military strong point known as The Needles Battery is a popular local attraction. Two old gun batteries and an underground experimental rocket testing station at the former base are now open to the public.
During the Spring and Summer months a bus tour is operated by the Southern Vectis bus company. Open-top buses run the 'The Needles Tour'. The journey visits the Battery along a cliff edge route, using a road reserved for bus traffic. The Needles Tour also has calls at Alum Bay, Totland , Colwell Bay, Fort Victoria , Yarmouth , and Freshwater Bay .
Hiking and walking are also popular ways of exploring The Needles Headland. The Isle of Wight Coast Path has its westernmost point at the National Trust's Coastguard Cottages. This row of single storey former coastguard cottages stand high on the The Needles Headland. The cottages are available for holiday lets and are in an area of 370 acres of open downland that is also owned by The National Trust
More British Natural features?
Other Isle of Wight Naturals