Did you know that Southampton is the start of the best holiday? Did you ever think you could walk along sandy beaches or discover dinosaurs in Southampton? Well you can by jumping on the ferry to the Isle of Wight.
Getting on the Isle of Wight Ferry from Southampton to Cowes is the beginning of a big adventure, nay a love affair that you will never forget. Once you’ve visited the Isle of Wight you’ll forever be under her spell – and she has so many treasures to show you if only you’ll take the time.
Osborne House Isle of Wight, View from the North looking up the ornamental drive towards the main house. Photo Credit: Naturenet
If you’ve only got a day then plan it wisely. Queen Victoria’s former home, Osborne House, is only a short way from the Red Funnel ferry terminal – jump on a bus and you’ll be there in a trice. This year her private beach opened to the public, and you can also tour the majestic house at your leisure, see the stunning terraced gardens and the immaculate walled garden behind the house. Take a short courtesy bus ride through the estate and you can view the Swiss Cottage where her children played and in the summer months you can take another bus, or the choice of two lovely walks, down to the shore, where a new café beckons and changing rooms and showers await those who wish to bathe.
If you’re bringing a car or have transport arranged; the Island is your oyster. Dinosaurs await you on the west coast where you can collect fossils and imagine the monster iguanodons munching their way through the marshland that once dominated this coastline. See the casts of their footprints on the beach at Brook and at low tide you can walk out to see the imprint of their feet on the sandstone ledge.
A guided tour is always a good idea for this adventure and they are organized by dinosaur man Martin Simpson or the guys at Dinosaur Isle over in Sandown. On the beach at Yaverland you can also find dinosaur bone fossils if you know what to look for as the Wealden beds in which they lie exit the cliffs at this point too.
Scenery from just about every area of England can be seen on the Island if you know where to look. The steep chalk cliffs mirror those of the south coast of England, the estuaries along our north coast could be anywhere along England's eastern seaboard, the Warren at Freshwater and the top of Ventnor Downs are covered in heather, just like the highlands of Scotland, and the pretty tunnels made by overhanging trees along various country roads could be anywhere in Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset or Hampshire. The open fields along our west coast have been likened to the mid-west of America, albeit on a minor scale, and the amazing beaches on the same stretch wouldn’t be out of place along the coast of California.
Almost at the southernmost point of the Island is the seaside town of Ventnor, tumbling down to the shore, which was compared to Madeira in the Mediterranean when it grew up in Victorian times. It’s fast becoming the vintage capital of the Island and has loads of great quirky shops, eateries and two of the top hotels: The Royal Hotel and The Hambrough. In August the town hosts the Ventnor Fringe Festival in carnival week: a new innovative experience with loads of art, theatre, poetry, live music, comedy and all round crazy capers.
Ryde and Brighton could be twinned, but Ryde would still remain more picturesque with its miles of golden sand, long promenade along the front, boating lake full of swans and huge swan pedalos, imposing Victorian architecture overlooking the sea and its long, strong pier with quirky ex London Underground train to take you to the top.
Yarmouth and Bembridge at either end of the north coast are upmarket sailing destinations with hosts of holiday and second homes, harbours full of boats and yachts of every size and shape, boutique shops, delicatessens, chandelries, good restaurants and two more top hotels: the Priory Bay in Bembridge and the George in Yarmouth. You’ve come across these destinations in many coastal locations around England but the Isle of Wight does it better: think Padstow without so many people or Torquay with less attitude.
Everyone is welcome here, especially at Yarmouth’s Old Gaffers in June, and the rich and famous hob nob with the locals across our Island – you never know who you’ll bump into in the pub.
Cowes Marina on the Isle of Wight during Cowes Week. Photo credit: Public Domain
Cowes is, of course, the sailing capital of the Isle of Wight and the in place to be in August when every sailor worth his salt is racing on the Solent. But now it also has a Literary Festival in October and of season the shopping here is probably the best on the Island. Hay on Wye watch out!
We have a sleeping dragon on our Island too. According to local legend the chalk ridge that runs horizontally through the Island is his backbone, his head is at the tip of Culver, with its two ‘nostril’ caves, and his tail is the spikey chalk rocks of the Needles. Walk along any point of his back and you will have a stunning view across the Island and on a clear day to the mainland – a panorama of pretty fields, lush woodland, sparse habitation and the blue, blue sea in the distance.
What’s that smoke you can see in the valley? Oh it’s one of the old IW Steam Railway trains puffing its way along the tracks. Vintage is the byword for the Isle of Wight experience and the railway epitomizes this with its wonderful Victorian engines and carriages and a plethora of different events throughout the year.
We’ve also got the oldest theme park in the country at Blackgang Chine that along with its good old fashioned attractions like the life size dinosaurs (it’s them again) and the Wild West Town (that both arrived in the 1970s) and the Crooked House that’s been here since the early 1900s, has an up to the minute rollercoaster and two really enjoyable waterslides and much, much more.
Our motto is ‘All this Beauty is of God’ and you’ll certainly feel as if you’re in your God’s heaven on a clear, sunny day walking across the downs, along one of our beautiful beaches or discovering our cute country villages. There is a little bit of everything for everyone on the Isle of Everywhere.