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The Needles, Isle of Wight

The Needles
The Needles is a row of three chalk stacks of that rise out of the sea on the western extremity of the Isle of Wight. They are close to Alum Bay and mark the point where the Solent borders the English Channel. A fourth pillar called Lot's Wife used to stand in the formation but collapsed in a storm in 1764. Lot's Wife was the needle shaped stack that originally gave The Needles their name, the surviving stacks are wider and not really needle shaped at all.

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

The Solent
Alum Bay
Culver Down

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On this day:
John de Balliol proclaimed King of Scotland - 1292, Death of Mary Tudor - 1558, Trial of Walter Raleigh - 1606, Pickwick Papers Published - 1837, Livingstone reaches Victoria Falls - 1855, Suez Canal Inaugurated - 1869, Channel Collision Kills 20 - 1953, The Luxor Massacre - 1997
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