Portsmouth and Isle of Wight by coach
If you want an overseas holiday but don’t
fancy going far then the Isle of Wight ticks all the right boxes.
At Portsmouth we hopped on an Isle of Wight
Tours coach for the forty minute Wightlink ferry crossing to Fishbourne and
were soon weaving our way along country roads to a garlic farm. The island is
famous for its garlic and holds an annual festival of garlic produce, including
A short drive from there, nowhere is far on
the Island, found us at Shanklin Chine. This historic tree-lined gorge runs
from Shanklin Old Village to the sea and was written about in 1813 by Jane
Austen and by Keats in 1819.
Shanklin Chine was also the starting point
of PLUTO, the Pipe Line Under The Ocean. This remarkable 1944 undertaking saw
the laying of a fuel pipeline on the seabed from the island to Cherbourg, some
seventy miles away, in just ten hours. It delivered 56,000 gallons of fuel a
day to the Allied forces in Europe.
We stayed overnight in Shanklin with its
wide sandy beach and next morning headed off to Havenstreet, home to the Isle
of Wight Steam Railway. It’s not just the engines that have been lovingly
restored but also the passenger carriages and goods wagons. Sitting in an old
carriage, pulling up the window using a leather strap and opening the carriage
door by leaning out of the window brought back memories of journeys to school.
You almost expect Harry Potter to be waiting at the station!
We saw some of the carriages that were yet
to be restored and marvelled at how the skilled workforce managed to bring them
back to their original glory. We also enjoyed a short return journey on the
train and the friendly staff even allowed two of our party to stand on the footplate
as the engine changed ends; a memorable birthday for one of them.
Next stop was the archetypal village of
Godshill. It’s best known for its model village, a replica of the village
itself, and is a masterpiece of modelling work – well worth a visit. The
villagers wanted a church built on the hill overlooking the village but, much
to their dismay, it was decreed that it would be built next to the cricket
ground. Materials were delivered but next day the workmen found they had been
moved to the top of the hill. They were subsequently brought down and work
commenced on the foundations. The next morning the workmen found that the
foundations had been moved to the top of the hill again. Assuming this was
divine intervention the church was built at the top of the hill and the village
was named Godshill.
After lunch we visited the Needles. At Alum
Bay a chairlift took us down to the shingle beach where we admired the famous
multi-coloured sand. We then enjoyed a short boat trip to the Needles and its
lighthouse before taking the Needles Breezer bus to the top off the cliffs and
the Old Battery, a gun emplacement built in 1861 to defend the Solent against
After another overnight in Shanklin we
headed out to visit the star of the show, Osborne House, designed by Prince
Albert and the holiday home of Queen Victoria, Albert and their children. As
well as the magnificent house and gardens we walked to Swiss Cottage, a house
built for the children so they could have fun, grow crops and learn to cook and
sew. We also visited the beach and saw the bathing machine which was wheeled
into the sea so that the Queen could enjoy the waters in privacy.
We didn’t have time to visit other
well-known attractions on the island. One of these, Carisbrooke Castle, is an Elizabethan
fortress where Charles I was imprisoned and today provides a fun and
entertaining learning environment for all. Further back in its history, the
island was a Roman stronghold and Brading Roman Villa, with its remarkably
preserved mosaic floors and artefacts, is one of the finest Roman sites in the
It was time to head back to the mainland
and we took the other main route, the Red Funnel ferry to Southampton, and joined
the captain on the bridge as he kept a close watch on the many small yachts
enjoying a Sunday afternoon sail. We drove back to Portsmouth and took the lift
to the viewing platform of the Spinnaker Tower before heading off to our hotel
for the final night of our trip.
Next morning saw us at the Portsmouth
Historic Dockyard where we visited the newly re-opened Mary Rose exhibition. It
was amazing to see how much of this old ship, which was built in 1510 and sank
in 1545, has been skilfully preserved and re-assembled, let alone the almost
20,000 artefacts that have been recovered, including the ship’s bell.
Alongside the Mary Rose exhibition is
Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, the oldest serving ship in the Royal Navy. She is
both a historic structure and museum as well as the flagship of the current
First Sea Lord, a great link between past and present and a great ending to a
memorable few days on this lovely and fascination part of our coastline.
We travelled as a guest of Visit Isle of Wight and the Coach Tourism Association
which promotes travel by coach for 150 UK coach tour operators. One of their
members, Shearings, has a
tour departing 4 November for £149 per person and Robinsons, based in the north
of England, also has many Isle of Wight tours. For more details of these and other operators visit www.findacoachholiday.com.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Shearings Holidays.