Tel: 01983 855397

The Tunnel

Our regular Tunnel Tours are currently postponed. Please email if you'd like to enquire about a private tour.

Ventnor Botanic Garden has many secrets, some dating back to the days of the Royal National Hospital that formerly stood on the site. Underground caverns, secret passageways and a tunnel through the cliff can be found by the visitors to the Garden.

A proposal to dig a tunnel from the gardens down to the shore was mooted in the late 1800s.  The Royal National Hospital annual report for 1875 states that “There can be no doubt that if the patients were able to obtain free access to the shore it would be very conducive alike to their recovery and their enjoyment.” Money for the tunnel at that time was not forthcoming and although it was built later, its function was by no means the rather romantic conception that has given rise to a good deal of speculation and comment; it was in fact used as a conduit for rubbish that was propelled through it and dumped into the sea. Steel tramlines are still visible on the floor. Exactly when the tunnel was built is unknown; possibly it was in relation to a new system of drainage and sewage disposal that was completed sometime in the 1880s. The tunnel was closed at both ends in 1940.

The 350 foot long vaulted roofed tunnel exits through the cliff midway down and is inaccessible. DO NOT attempt to locate the exit, or try to enter unless with one of our guides, as the cliff is extremely dangerous. Bolted gates are also in place for safety.



The Australian Terraces are planted with a faithful representation of the riverine flora of New South Wales. There are parts of this landscape in which the visitor is immersed in surrounding vegetation to the exclusion of all else except the shared sky itself. Growing plants in this style gives the feeling of what it is actually like where these plants originate from, whether the intensely sunny gumtree banks or shady treefern gulley.


Amongst this synthetic ecology are artificial rock formations created by Artecology Ltd. These are glimpsed through stands of Eucalyptus, you will see recreations of aborigine-inspired artwork. The aboriginal people of Australia had no written language and often used artwork painted on rocks and the oral tradition to pass on their culture through stories and legend to new generations. Some of their artwork appears obscure and surreal, some very pictorial of wild animals and birds. Story-telling walls going back centuries have been found. One particularly profound collage depicts the arrival of Europeans (complete with ships, hats and guns) after which no more art was made.

This year we have installed a new artificial rock on the route through the Australian Terrace. This has recreated the original depiction of the European arrival artwork. The poignancy is complimented by the nearby Wollemi Pine, which since its discovery in 1994 has been both saved by human agency in cultivation and yet doomed in its wild state.

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Tel: 01983 855397  |  Ventnor Botanic Garden Community Company C.I.C  | Company Number: 07976468 | Registered Address: Undercliff Drive, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1UL