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.


Festival of Flower Fireworks

The firework display of giant Echiums is one of the best known and loved features of Ventnor Botanic Garden. Echiums are scattered throughout the garden, but our best specimens can be seen flowering in the Mediterranean Garden in May.

All of our Echiums come from the laurel forests of Madeira and the Canary Islands, but if you look closely, you will see that they are all subtly different from one another. The species most commonly seen in gardens is Echium piniana, originally from La Palma. It produces a single, tall flowering stem in its second or third year bearing mauve flowers, and then dies, seeding copiously. Other Echiums are perennial and produce woody, branched stems which sport a mound of foliage and tight spikes of bright blue flowers. Echium candicans from Madeira, where it is known as the ‘Pride of Madeira’, is one of those. Other species are also grown here and cross breed with one another, producing an eclectic and unusual range of hybrid plants. Our most visually striking species is the true blue Echium gentianoides from La Palma, which produces large sky-blue flowers and smooth, grey-green leaves.

The Mediterranean Garden boosts a dazzling array of Echiums, each with a flower spike containing thousands of flowers with every shade of colour from sapphire blue to dusky pink. The result is a stunning floral explosion which resembles a natural firework display.
Chris Kidd, Curator – “Our display of Echiums in our Mediterranean Garden is simply stunning. Visitors are unlikely to see anything quite like it anywhere else in the UK. We don’t practice traditional formal gardening methods here at VBG, choosing to let Mother Nature take charge and create the plant communities that thrive together in our sheltered warm climate. We call it the Ventnor Method and it puts the garden at the leading edge of modern botanical science. The Echiums choose where they want to grow, we just let them get on with it and see what happens each year. The results speak for themselves and visitors usually clamour to take seeds and plants home with them at the end of their visit to try and grow them elsewhere in the UK, often with great success as they aren’t that difficult to propagate. Give them a well-drained sunny spot in the garden and they pretty much look after themselves. It’s in their second year of growth that the fireworks really do begin, with a stunning flower display in early summer.”

Contact us

Refund Policy

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