The Needles

The Needles is a row of three stacks of chalk that rise about 30m out of the sea off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom, close to Alum Bay, and part of Totland, the westernmost civil parish of the Isle of Wight. The Needles Lighthouse stands at the outer, western end of the formation. Built in 1859, it has been automated since 1994.[5] The waters and adjoining seabed form part of the Needles Marine Conservation Zone and the Needles along with the shore and heath above are part of the Headon Warren and West High Down Site of Special Scientific Interest.[6][7]

The formation takes its name from a fourth needle-shaped pillar called Lot's Wife, which collapsed in a storm in 1764.[8] The remaining rocks are not at all needle-like, but the name has stuck.

The Needles were featured on the BBC Two TV programme Seven Natural Wonders (2005) as one of the wonders of Southern England.

The Needles, IW, UK
The Needles – View from the viewpoint near the former experimental rocket testing station
TheNeedles - Remy - Osman - Wikipedia
The Needles from the cliffs inshore at The Needles Battery showing the Needles Lighthouse
Iow needles closeup
Close-up of the needles
The Needles from Isaac Taylor's "one inch map" of Hampshire, published in 1759,[1][2][3][4] showing Lot's Wife, the needle-shaped pillar that collapsed in a storm in 1764.


The Needles lie just to the southwest of Alum Bay, and are a tourist draw. Scenic boat trips operate from Alum Bay that offer close-up views of the Needles. The rocks and lighthouse have become icons of the Isle of Wight, often photographed by visitors, and are featured on many of the souvenirs sold throughout the island.

The main tourist attractions of the headland itself are the two gun batteries, the experimental rocket testing station, and the four Coastguard cottages owned by the National Trust.

A branch of the National Coastwatch Institution is also based at the Needles, sited near the New Battery and Rocket Testing Site on High Down.

The Needles – Landmark Attraction (previously known as The Needles Pleasure Park) situated at the top of the cliff at Alum Bay is a small amusement park. A Chairlift operates between the park and the beach.[8]

Military use

The Needles were a site of a long-standing artillery battery, from the 1860s to 1954, which was eventually decommissioned.

A nearby site on High Down was employed in the testing of rockets for the British ICBM programme.[9] The headland at High Down was used for Black Knight[10] and Black Arrow[11] rocket engine tests from 1956–71. During the peak of activity in the early 1960s some 240 people worked at the complex, while the rockets were built in nearby East Cowes. These rockets were later used to launch the Prospero X-3 satellite. The site is now owned by the National Trust, and is open to the public. Concrete installations remain, but the buildings that were less durable have either been demolished or were torn down by the elements.

In 1982, Prince Charles officially opened the restored Needles Old Battery facility. Underground rocket testing rooms are currently being restored for exhibition. The first phase of restoration was completed in 2004.[12]


Beautiful Britain - The Isle of Wight - by G.E. Mitton - 8 THE NEEDLES
The Needles - From the Beautiful Britain series, The Isle of Wight, by G. E. Mitton.

The batteries are accessible by car, foot, bicycle, and bus.[13][14] Though there is a paved road up to The Old and The New batteries, access is on foot, from a car park.[15] The battery site becomes dangerous in high winds and is closed to the public in winds above force 8.

In the spring and summer, the Southern Vectis bus company sends open-top buses along a route called The Needles Breezer. This route approaches the Battery along the cliff edge, using a road reserved for bus traffic. The Needles Breezer also has stops in Alum Bay, Totland, Colwell Bay, Fort Victoria, Yarmouth, and Freshwater Bay.[16] Breezer buses are the only vehicles allowed on the road from Alum Bay, apart from those owned by National Trust staff or, by prior appointment, vehicles transporting disabled visitors. This is because the single track road's position close to the cliff edge is considered dangerous for multiple car use.

The Isle of Wight Coast Path has its westernmost point at the Coastguard Cottages.


The Needles' pointed shape is a result of their unusual geology. The strata have been so heavily folded during the Alpine Orogeny that the chalk is near vertical. This chalk outcrop runs through the centre of the Island from Culver Cliff in the east to the Needles in the west, and then continues under the sea to the Isle of Purbeck, forming Ballard Cliff (near Swanage), Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.[17] At Old Harry Rocks (east of Studland and north of Swanage) these strata lines moving from horizontal to near vertical can be seen from the sea.

Just off the end of the Needles formation is the Shingles, a shifting shoal of pebbles just beneath the waves. The Shingles is approximately three miles in length. Many ships have been wrecked on the Shingles.[18]


Some controversy has been raised about the actual shape of the Lot's Wife stone column, that allegedly collapsed in 1764. A drawing of The Needles by Dutch landscape artist Lambert Doomer (1624–1700), made in 1646, depicts a rock formation with much stouter shape than that shown in Isaac Taylor's 1759 "one inch" map of Hampshire.[19][20] The Doomer etching is contained in Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem (published ca. 1662), which is in the Austrian National Library in Vienna.[21] It is not clear from this drawings what transpired and whether Doomer was exercising artistic license. Doomer's painting shows three stacks when there should have been four, prior to the collapse of Lot's Wife.[19][20]

See also


  1. ^ "One Inch Maps". University of Portsmouth.
  2. ^ "Geography Department website". University of Portsmouth. Archived from the original on 26 October 2007.
  3. ^ "Taylor's Hampshire 1759, Martin and Jean Norgate". University of Portsmouth.
  4. ^ "Geography Department website". 2004. Archived from the original on 26 October 2007.
  5. ^ "Needles Lighthouse". Trinity House. n.d. Archived from the original on 2 May 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  6. ^ "The Needles MCZ". Natural England. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Headon Warren and West High Down SSSI" (PDF). Natural England. 1984. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  8. ^ a b "The History of The Needles at Alum Bay". The Needles Park.
  9. ^ High Down Rocket Test Site Archived 18 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine,The Needles Battery website Archived 9 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Black Knight Testing at The Needles Archived 27 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ When Britain Joined the Space Race, Civil Service Motoring Association Motoring & Leisure magazine, May 2006, p130
  12. ^ What to See and Do Archived 27 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine, The Needles Old Battery Archived 14 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, National Trust website.
  13. ^ "Getting There". National Trust. Archived from the original on 15 August 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2007.
  14. ^ "The Needles Old Battery". National Trust. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2007.
  15. ^ The car park is located at grid reference SZ307853.
  16. ^ "The Needles Breezer". Southern Vectis. Archived from the original on 26 May 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2007.
  17. ^ Ian West, MSc PhD FGS (2005). "Geology of the Isle of Wight – Field Trip Guide". Geology of the Wessex Coast, Southern England. Retrieved 30 May 2006.
  18. ^ The Spithead-Solent Shore, Isle of Wight Shipwrecks, BBC h2g2.
  19. ^ a b "The Needles: Tall Rock or Tall Story?". Archive of Monthly News Items, As previously featured in the History Centre, Isle of Wight History Centre. November 2002.
  20. ^ a b Earliest Known Scenes of the Isle of Wight, Archived version of page from Isle of Wight History Centre
  21. ^ The Atlas Blaeu-van der Hem Archived 2 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Peter van der Krogt and Erlend de Groot, HES & De Graaf publishers BV 't Goy-Houten, the Netherlands, 1996–2006

External links

General information

Pictures and video

Coordinates: 50°39′46″N 1°35′22″W / 50.6626968°N 1.5893269°W

Alum Bay

Alum Bay is a bay near the westernmost point of the Isle of Wight, England, within close sight of the Needles rock formation. Of geological interest and a tourist attraction, the bay is noted for its multi-coloured sand cliffs. The waters and adjoining seabed form part of the Needles Marine Conservation Zone and the shore and heath above are part of the Headon Warren and West High Down Site of Special Scientific Interest.

British Columbia Highway 6

Highway 6 is a two-lane highway passing between the Kootenay and Okanagan regions in the province of British Columbia, Canada. It is divided into two parts—the Nelson-Nelway Highway between the Canada–US border and Nelson, and the Vernon-Slocan Highway between South Slocan and Vernon. Highway 6 is a north-south highway between Nelway and the Needles Ferry and an east-west highway between the Needles Ferry and Vernon; it has a total length of 407 km (253 mi). It first opened in 1941, and its very winding path through the western Kootenays has not changed since.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is an American national park located in southeastern Utah near the town of Moab. The park preserves a colorful landscape eroded into numerous canyons, mesas, and buttes by the Colorado River, the Green River, and their respective tributaries. Legislation creating the park was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 12, 1964.The park is divided into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the combined rivers—the Green and Colorado—which carved two large canyons into the Colorado Plateau. While these areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character. Author Edward Abbey, a frequent visitor, described the Canyonlands as "the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere."

Knitting machine

A knitting machine is a device used to create knitted fabrics in a semi or fully automated fashion.

There are numerous types of knitting machines, ranging from simple spool or board templates with no moving parts to highly complex mechanisms controlled by electronics. All, however, produce various types of knitted fabrics, usually either flat or tubular, and of varying degrees of complexity. Pattern stitches can be selected by hand manipulation of the needles, or with push-buttons and dials, mechanical punch cards, or electronic pattern reading devices and computers.

Mohave Mountains

The Mohave Mountains are a small 18-mi (29 km) long mountain range of northwest Arizona. The range is a northwest trending range in southwest Mohave County that parallels a southeast-flowing stretch of the Colorado River, the Arizona-California border. The range also forms the southwest border of a flatland region to its east and north, namely, Dutch Flat which lies east, at the south end of Sacramento Valley. Lake Havasu City, AZ on the Colorado, lays opposite the southwest flank of the range, where the London Bridge was reconstructed at Lake Havasu.

Interstate 40 traverses east from Needles, California adjacent the north of the range through the flatland region, and turns north through the Sacramento Valley to Kingman, Arizona.

The northwest terminus of the range merges into hills and a rocky region on the east shore of the Colorado River called The Needles. The Topock Gorge of the Colorado and The Needles lay at the east border of the Chemehuevi Mountains of California; both the Chemehuevi and Sacramento Mountains force the Colorado River to flow southeasterly.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is centered on a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the sculpture's design and oversaw the project's execution from 1927 to 1941 with the help of his son Lincoln Borglum. The sculpture features the 60-foot (18 m) heads of Presidents George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). The four presidents were chosen to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation, respectively. The memorial park covers 1,278.45 acres (2.00 sq mi; 5.17 km2) and is 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level.South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region. His initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles because of the poor quality of the granite and strong opposition from Native American groups. They settled on Mount Rushmore, which also has the advantage of facing southeast for maximum sun exposure. Robinson wanted it to feature American West heroes such as Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and Buffalo Bill Cody, but Borglum decided that the sculpture should have broader appeal and chose the four presidents.

US Senator from South Dakota Peter Norbeck sponsored the project and secured federal funding; construction began in 1927, and the presidents' faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Gutzon Borglum died in March 1941, and his son Lincoln took over as leader of the construction project. Each president was originally to be depicted from head to waist, but lack of funding forced construction to end on October 31, 1941.Sometimes referred to as the "Shrine of Democracy", Mount Rushmore attracts more than two million visitors annually.

Needle Rocks

The Needle Rocks, also known as the Needles, are a group of five main rock islets located close to the south-western coast of Tasmania, Australia. With a combined area of approximately 10.5 hectares (0.041 sq mi), the islets are part of the Maatsuyker Islands Group, and comprise part of the Southwest National Park and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site.The Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse is located on Maatsuyker Island and illuminates the Needle Rocks.

Needles, California

Needles (Mojave: ʼAha Kuloh) is a city in eastern San Bernardino County, California, United States. It lies on the western banks of the Colorado River in the Mohave Valley subregion of the Mojave Desert, near the borders of Arizona and Nevada and roughly 110 miles (180 km) from the Las Vegas Strip. It is the easternmost city of the San Bernardino-Riverside metropolitan area. Needles is geographically isolated from other cities in the county. Barstow, the nearest city within the county, is separated from Needles by over 140 miles of desert and 2 mountain ranges. The city is accessible via Interstate 40 and U.S. Route 95. The population was 4,844 at the 2010 census, up from 4,830 at the 2000 census.

Needles was named after "The Needles", a group of pinnacles in the Mohave Mountains on the Arizona side of the river to the south of the city. The large Mohave Native American community shares the nearby Fort Mojave Indian Reservation and the town. Needles is a gateway to the Mojave National Preserve.

Needles (Black Hills)

The Needles of the Black Hills of South Dakota are a region of eroded granite pillars, towers, and spires within Custer State Park. Popular with rock climbers and tourists alike, the Needles are accessed from the Needles Highway, which is a part of Sylvan Lake Road (SD 87/89). The Cathedral Spires and Limber Pine Natural Area, a 637-acre portion of the Needles containing six ridges of pillars as well as a disjunct stand of limber pine, was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1976.The Needles were the original site proposed for the Mount Rushmore carvings. The location was rejected by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum owing to the poor quality of the granite and the fact that they were too thin to support the sculptures. The Needles attract approximately 300,000 people annually.

Needles Lighthouse

The Needles Lighthouse is an active 19th century lighthouse on the outermost of the chalk rocks at The Needles on the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom, near sea level. Designed by James Walker, for Trinity House at a cost of £20,000. It was completed in 1859 from granite blocks, stands 33.25 metres (109.1 ft) high and is a circular tower with straight sides. It replaced an earlier light tower on top of a cliff overhanging Scratchell's Bay, which was first lit on 29 September 1786.

SS Varvassi

SS Varvassi is a wrecked ship just off the Needles lighthouse, which is at the western end of the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight is off the South coast of England, near Southampton.

Varvassi was a 3,875-ton Greek merchant steamship that was wrecked on the Needles rocks in 1947. It was carrying a cargo of tangerines from Algiers to Southampton. The ship became wrecked after an engine failure in stormy weather, and drifted onto the rocks. When an attempt was made to haul the ship off the rocks, she flooded and sank. All 36 crew were rescued unharmed, as was approximately one third of the cargo of tangerines and wine.

There are still remains of the wreck lying just below the surface. Some parts of the wreck can be seen at very low tides. The wreck constitutes a hazard to small craft that attempt to sail too close to the lighthouse.

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The U.S. National Forest is named for the majestic Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees which populate 38 distinct groves within the boundaries of the forest.

The Giant Sequoia National Monument is located in the national forest. Other notable features include glacier-carved landscapes and impressive granite monoliths. The Needles are a series of granite spires atop a narrow ridge above the Kern River. Forest headquarters are located in Porterville, California. There are local ranger district offices in Dunlap, Kernville, Lake Isabella, and Springville.

South Dakota Highway 87

South Dakota Highway 87 (SD 87) is a 37.894-mile-long (60.984 km) state highway in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of South Dakota. It travels through the Black Hills region. The highway's southern terminus is at an intersection with U.S. Route 385 (US 385), about 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of Pringle, within the southwestern part of Wind Cave National Park. Its northern terminus is at an intersection with US 16/US 385 about 3 miles (4.8 km) south-southwest of Hill City, within the east-central part of the Black Hills National Forest.

The highway travels through Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. The northern 14 miles (23 km) of the highway is also known as the Needles Highway. The Needles Highway, along with the concurrency with US 16A, are also part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Portions of the highway are also a section of Custer State Park's Wildlife Loop.

Straylight Run

Straylight Run is an emo band based in Baldwin, New York. The band has released two albums, Straylight Run and The Needles the Space, as well as three EPs, Prepare to Be Wrong, About Time, and Un Mas Dos. In 2010, the band announced that they would be going on indefinite hiatus, but might reunite in the future. Two of the members, John Nolan and Shaun Cooper, are currently in Taking Back Sunday.

The Needles (Arizona)

The Needles are a distinctive group of rock pinnacles, mountain peaks adjacent to the Topock Gorge, and the Colorado River on the northwestern extreme of the Mohave Mountains within the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge in Mohave County, Arizona, United States. They range from 1207 to over 1600 feet in altitude.

The Needles Batteries

The Needles Batteries are two military batteries built above the Needles stacks to guard the West end of the Solent. The field of fire was from approximately West South West clockwise to Northeast and they were designed to defend against enemy ships.

Thorley, Isle of Wight

Thorley is a village on the Isle of Wight, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from Yarmouth in the northwest of the island. Public transport is provided by buses on Southern Vectis route 7 and the Needles Tour.


Totland is a village, civil parish and electoral ward on the Isle of Wight. Besides the village of Totland, the civil parish comprises the western tip of the Isle of Wight, and includes The Needles, Tennyson Down and the hamlet of Middleton.

The village of Totland lies on the Western peninsula where the Western Yar almost cuts through along with Alum Bay and Freshwater. It lies on the coast at Colwell Bay, which is the closest part of the island to the British mainland.

Unitary authorities
Major settlements


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