The Needles are one of the iconic locations in the Isle of Wight and they’re also on the coastal path. Well, inevitably, since they’re on the coast. The weather was a bit overcast when we saw them, but they were still an impressive natural feature.
I did wonder before why they’re called the Needles, but it’s because one of the rocks used to look like a needle. However, unfortunately, in 1764 the one that looked like the needle fell down. I’m not quite sure just how the name of the rocks stuck given that they look like lumps of rock, but perhaps the locals didn’t want to refer to their exciting geological feature as The Lumps.
Although the Needles might look like a beautiful area, they’re also a bit of a shipwreck nightmare because of the nearby rocks just under the surface of the water. Above is part of the front cover of an Illustrated London News from the 1890s which shows the shipwrecking of SS Irex on its maiden voyage.
The ship was meant to sail from Scotland to Rio de Janeiro, carrying 3,600kg of iron sewerage pipes. It’s clear how badly wrong the journey went that the ship was even in this area, as it had to take shelter near Belfast and got pushed down the English Channel. The captain managed to mistake the Needles Lighthouse for a pilot boat and crashed his ship on the rocks. 29 of the crew were saved, but seven sadly lost their lives in what must have been the most trying and appalling of conditions.
There’s a lighthouse at the end of the rocks which was built in 1859, although it has been automated since 1994. There are also some coastguard cottages on the cliff nearby, with all of this site now being operated by the National Trust.