Shanklin is located at the southern end of Sandown Bay on the south east coast of the Isle of Wight. The Bay is sheltered from the prevailing winds by Dunnose Point with the cliffs at Luccombe and St. Boniface Downs beyond. Looking back over The Bay views across the English Channel extend to the White Cliffs of Culver and Bembridge Downs. Shanklin’s location means that it has a record as one of the sunniest places in the country.
At the north end of Shanklin Esplanade is “Small Hope Beach” which eventually meets Sandown Beach. “Small Hope Beach” is famous for its many, brightly coloured, traditional beach huts which are available for hire during the summer months. There are a number of cafes along this stretch which are used by those having a lazy day on the beach taking advantage of the deck chairs available for hire and those embarking on the beautiful walk along the revetment to Sandown. “Hope Beach” stretches in the opposite direction with the back drop of the Esplanade with its traditional amusements, crazy golf, pitch and putt, hotels and cafés. “Hope Beach” offers all the beach amusements that you would expect from a traditional holiday resort. There are deck chairs, sun loungers and parasols for hire and for those who are feeling more active there are pedalos, kayaks and even banana boat rides. Shanklin even has its very own Rowing Club and Sailing Club both of which are located on the Esplanade.
Shanklin Pier was destroyed in the Great Storm of October 16th 1987. The remains of the pier were finally demolished in February 1993. The building of the pier started in August 1888 and it opened on August 18th 1890. It was 1200 feet long. The pier was continually altered and added to during the following years with a bandstand-like pavilion built by 1893 and in 1909 the Grand Pavilion in the centre of the pier was built. During the Great War cruises to the pier stopped. The piers landing stage was damaged and removed in 1915 and in 1918 the pavilion was also destroyed. By 1927 the pier had new owners and the “Casino Theatre” had been created. A new landing stage was also completed by 1931. This meant that steamers were once again able to use the pier and cruises to Brighton, Eastbourne and Cherbourg in France were available. By 1932 the small pavilion had been rebuilt as the “Dancing Over The Sea” dance hall. During this time water carnivals and regattas were popular with the pier also being used for fishing and clay-pigeon shooting. Local stunt men also provided regular entertainment. During World War II, the pier again suffered damage and was sectioned to prevent it being used as a landing stage. It was also used as part of the PLUTO project. The pier reopened in 1947 with bands, dances and boat trips. By the 1970’s attendance at the theatre shows were beginning to drop off as Shanklin Pier was finding it difficult to compete with Sandown Pavilion. By 1974 the pier had dodgems, an “Astroglide” ride, a disco and a bar. The “Casino Theatre” became the “Showboat Theatre”. In the 1980’s “The End of the Pier Show” was filmed at Shanklin Pier. When disaster struck in 1987, plans had been in place to transform the pier into a leisure and conference complex. The remains of the pier were recycled to form sea defences. Today, on the esplanade where the entrance to the pier used to be there is information and photos about the pier. There is also a time capsule which was buried in 2000 and is due to be opened in 2050.
At the southern end of the Esplanade is an entrance to Shanklin Chine. It is here that you can discover more about “The Pipe Line Under The Ocean” (PLUTO) which was one of the greatest secret successes of World War II. There are still 65 yards of the pipe remaining today. A cross section can be seen in the Heritage Centre at Shanklin Chine. The pipeline was undetected by the Germans and carried petrol 65 miles under the Channel to Cherbourg during the Normandy invasion in 1944. This forked pipeline from the Chine and Sandown delivered 56,000 gallons of petrol a day. Once the Allies had advanced the pipeline was transferred to Dungeness in Kent where millions of gallons of petrol a day were piped to Boulogne and even as far as the Rhine. As well as PLUTO, the Chine played an important part in the war effort as it was taken over and used as an assault course by the commandos whose Head Quarters were at Upper Chine School.
There are several methods of accessing the Esplanade on foot from the cliff tops and Old Village. You can take the beautiful walk down Shanklin Chine, head down the side of the Chine past the Chine Inn, take the steps from Rylstone Gardens to the beach and past Fisherman’s Cottage or take the zigzag steps about half way along the Esplanade. An alternative method to negotiate this route is via the Cliff Lift. A hydraulic lift carrying passengers on the 45m journey up the cliff face was first built on the site in 1891. This lift was pulled down in 1957 and replaced during the 1960’s with the lift which is still in use today.
For those wishing to take their cars, there is ample parking along the Esplanade and in two car parks. “Hope Road” car park is at the bottom of Hope Road which is the only vehicular access down to the Esplanade. The second, “Spa” car park is about half way along the Hope Beach stretch. All parking is on a pay & display basis.
Written by Hana Johnson, Editor of Visit Shanklin Community Magazine