THE ISLE OF WIGHT
This compact little island is perfect for day trips or traditional holidays by the sea, with its miles of sandy beaches and rugged cliffs. It boasts beautiful unspoiled countryside, high chalk downs, little old villages and seaside resorts.
The island was Queen Victoria’s favourite holiday resort and she died at Osborne Houser, her family home near Cowes. Osborne House is open to the public. Within the House are many domestic reminders of the Royal Family’s daily life, with Victorian opulence and Indian finery.
Cowes itself contains many fine Georgian and Victorian buildings; it is also famous for its yachting tradition. It is famous throughout the World for Cowes week, when the famous yacht races draw competitors from all over the Globe. The Maritime Museum illustrates the maritime history of the island with models, photographs, paintings and books.
Cowes is the home of the Royal Yacht Club and the club house stands on the site of a castle built originally by Henry VIII. Brass cannons stand on the semi-circular platform of Victoria’s Parade; they are used to start races and royal salutes. Outside of Cowes lies turreted Norris Castle, set in attractive grounds; its rooms are crammed with pictures, furniture and armour.
Outside of Newport lies Carisbrooke Castle which was the original capital of the island, now Newport itself. The castle was built by a kinsman of William the Conqueror shortly after the conquest, and became the home of the island’s Governor. It has high parapets, a chapel and a fascinating wheel-house with its 160-foot-deep well.
Brightstone and Godshill are picture postcard villages complete with thatched cottages, cafes and gift shops. Godshill has a Model Village in the Vicarage gardens and a small but interesting Natural History Museum. South of Godshill are the ruins of Appuldurcombe House, damaged by a landmine in 1943. The shell of this great mansion is surrounded by beautiful gardens landscaped by Capability Brown.
Of particular interest to photographers is the pretty inland village of Calbourne. Within is Winkle Row, a group of ancient cottages. The Caul Bourne stream, flowing through the village, used to power the Calbourne Mill, which stopped grinding flour in 1955; it is now a Rural Museum. The grounds are paraded by peacocks and the mill-pond is stocked with water-fowl.
The main coastal resorts are on the south coast, except Ryde on the north coast facing the Solent. Ryde was turned from a small village into a fashionable resort in the early nineteenth century, and is still popular today. There are five miles of sandy beach, a pier nearly half a mile long with an electric railway. There is an esplanade which leads to pleasant gardens, a swimming pool, a boating lake, an ice rink, a bowling alley, a fairground and parks.
To the east of Ryde lies the quiet village of Bembridge. It is well known for its yachting centre. There is also a lifeboat station, a National Trust windmill and a small Maritime Museum.
Inland from Bembridge is Brading, once a seaport on the tidal river Yar in the nineteenth century. The Town Hall has a stone lock-up and a whipping post and stocks. THe sixteenth century building close by houses a wax museum which includes a spine chilling torture-chamber. The Lilliput Dolls Museum here has a collection of dolls and toys, displayed in a small, charming cottage.
Sandown is a larger resort on the island, and with its neighbour Shanklin forms a continuous holiday complex three miles long. The old village of Shanklin has been restored although most of it has retained its Victorian atmosphere.
Ventnor, another major resort, is built on terraces leading down a cliff to a small seafront and pier. Its sheltered position gives it a warm climate and exotic plants flourish in the Botanic Gardens. Close by is the fascinating Museum of Smuggling History and Blackgang Chine, a pleasure park.
The island countryside affords many opportunities for pleasant walks. Whether on open high ground with magnificent views as on Brightstone Down, or Tennyson Down where the great chalk stacks of the Needles can be seen standing in the sea. Also in the cool, shady woodland of Brightstone Forest or Parkhurst Forest.
Robin Hill Country Park, on Arreton Down, covers eighty acres of grass and woodland. Wild and domestic animals roam free; there is also a selection of caged animals.
The Isle of Wight can be easily reached from Lymington, Southampton or Portsmouth ferry ports.
Solent Travel Operators
Lymington-Yarmouth Wightlink 0871 376 1000
Car and foot passengers www.wightlink.co.uk
Southampton-Cowes Red Funnel 0844844 9988
Car and foot passengers www.redfunnel.co.uk
Getting around the Island
Bus service Southern Vectis 0871 200 2233
Taxi services Ryde Taxis 01983 811111
ABA Taxis 01983 882187
Train service Island Line Trains 08457 484950
Car hire 1st Call Car, Cycle 01983 400055
& Scooter Hire