8 reasons to visit the Isle of Wight, UK
Although the Isle of Wight only consists of a mere 147 square miles in many ways it is England in miniature. Visitors are impressed by the beaches, the downs, the forests, the acres of pasture and, of course, the iconic Needles.
Renting a house in Ventnor, Karl Marx described the place as a paradise. Charles Dickens was also impressed. Staying at Bonchurch, he wrote to his wife, “It is the prettiest place I ever saw in my life.” While Tennyson thought that the island’s invigorating air was “worth six pence a pint.” JMR Turner, the great painter of light, was frequently drawn to the island for its sweeping views.
1. Cruising across
Ferries have sailed to the Isle of Wight since 1420. The rapid Wightlink crossing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne continues the tradition in style.
Leaving their cars on the decks below, passengers relax as they cruise through the Solent, with just enough time to grab a drink and a snack from the cafe.
2. Osborne House
Queen Victoria’s love of the Isle of Wight, as an escape from the stuffy formalities of court, helped raise the profile of the island as a holiday destination during the nineteenth century.
Today, English Heritage care for Osborne House, the Italianate palazzo-styled escape that Prince Albert designed for the family’s summers. Their nine children loved playing in the Swiss Cottage and heading to their private beach.
3. The Royal Hotel, Ventnor
Victoria visited the island before she became Queen. In Ventnor, Fishers Hotel, built in 1832, became a favourite haunt for afternoon tea. In honour of her patronage, the hotel changed its name to The Royal Hotel.
Sheltered by Ventnor’s steep cliffs, the cypress and palm trees by the hotel’s swimming pool show how a micro-climate gained the town the nickname of England’s Madeira.
The two AA rosette Geranium Restaurant, with royal crests set in its royal blue carpet and a dozen chandeliers, recalls the grandeur of the Georgian and Victorian eras.
4. Carisbrooke Castle
Again cared for by English Heritage, Carisbrooke Castle tells the story of the Isle of Wight’s history through the centuries.
Besieged by the French in 1377 during The Hundred Years War, Carisbrooke Castle has been far more than just a fortress. It’s museum tells the story of how King Charles l was imprisoned during the English Civil War. Also, the castle has served as a mansion, royal residence and place of governance.
Museum exhibits reveal the island’s industries through the ages: agriculture, fishing and at the peak of the smuggling business it was estimated that 80% of the population was involved in the trade.
5. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway
Havenstreet Railway Station has been restored and now serves as the base for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. The steam trains, museum and station tell the story of the Golden Age of Railways when the small island had 33 stations. Visitors can book nostalgic journeys on the trains, either First or Third Class.
Alongside Havenstreet Station lies the Haven Falconry where flying displays of falcons and hawks take place.
6. The Taverners at Godshill
Godshill with its thatched cottages is one of the most picturesque of the island’s quaint villages. Attracting many cyclists and walkers, The Taverners, formerly a bakehouse and then a post office, is now a popular gastropub.
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Oak beamed and with flagstones worn smooth over the centuries, this gastropub offers fine-dining, either indoors or in the large garden during the summer. Specials on the blackboard reflect seasonal produce and the local fisherman’s daily catch.
7. Blackgang Chine
This year, 2023, Black Gang Chine celebrates its 180th anniversary, making it the UK’s oldest theme park, created long before the term theme park was invented.
To celebrate the anniversary, the new ride Extinction is now open. Throwing its passengers through full 360-degree vertical rotations, the ride gives spectacular views of Blackgang’s coastline.
8. The Coastal Path
A 70 mile coastal path takes in much of the Isle of Wight’s variety. It passes family friendly yellow-sand beaches gently shelving into the seas.
At other times, the walk gives grandstand views of sailors taking on the breezes and currents ripping through Solent and English Channel.
In places, the meadows are rarely mown to encourage the return of wildflowers such as orchids and the butterflies that flutter amongst them.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored byVisit Isle of Wight.