The isle that’s all Wight by us!
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For a multi-generational break in the UK the Isle of Wight has everything you need
The Isle of Wight is fast becoming a family favourite of ours for holidays and short breaks.
My own treasured memories of traditional holidays there by the sea brought me back a few years ago and in 2019 I am very glad to say the ‘traditional’ seaside is still available but now with a vastly expanded offering for the discerning traveller who wants upmarket accommodation as well as dining.
In trying to analyse why I like it so much I came up with several things - the fact that you take a fun sea crossing to get there; that there are so many beaches to choose from, none very far to drive to from anywhere on the island; and that there are so many activities to enjoy for all ages and then there’s Osborne House, the jewel in the crown, literally.
We have to thank Queen Victoria for bringing this gorgeous stately home to our attention and it was the queen and her beloved husband Albert’s connection to it that brought our multi-generational group to the island to enjoy celebrations for the 200th anniversary of their births.
On a previous visit it had been the film Victoria and Abdul, the story of the queen and her Indian servant, brought to life by Judy Dench’s performance, that had caught the imagination of visitors.
But in May there were festivities with a distinct Victorian flavour that attracted thousands to the English Heritage home and grounds.
In fact, it was so popular that the prescribed route around the gorgeous house was much slower than usual, so we could really take in all the fascinating items and snippets of life enjoyed by the family. It was a truly beloved family home for both the royal parents and their nine children.
We were all able to take a good look at the works of art, including paintings and sculptures, that the couple enjoyed so much and gave each other as gifts.
And while we might think of Victoria as being that austere old lady of her famous portraits, in fact, she could be described as a bit racy. Nude statues and paintings of bare-breasted women abound in the extensive collection.
During our day in the grounds there were arena events and stalls and funfair rides that reflected the past. The helter skelter proved particularly popular. But a walk down from the house to the beach, where Victoria herself bathed and enjoyed quiet time, to enjoy our ice creams on a deck chair looking out to the Solent was a lovely relaxing break from the crowds.
Our party of seven was staying in a truly gorgeous rental ‘cottage’ that was huge, modern, well-equipped and, to our total delight, just a short walk from Seagrove beach, which was never crowded and which we claimed as our own. The house had a vast kitchen and several lounging areas with smart TVs so that adults, children and teens could do their own thing. All four bedrooms are en suite. We could also eat outside if we wanted and the home owners had usefully left games for us to enjoy too.
On a multi-generational level, it was an ideal venue as we could all get together when we chose to and, also, retreat to our own spaces (with TV) when we wanted.
On the family outing agenda there is so much choice on the island.
For another day’s activities we chose to get back to nature and test our inner Bear Grylls’ capabilities.
The Goodleaf Woodland Adventure, had us all setting up camp in a small wood with our leader and testing our survival skills in lighting a fire without matches. It involved shredding wood with axes - immediate trepidation from grandparents of youngsters which turned out to be unfounded - then making sparks to light our ‘tinder’. We were all, with ages ranging from eight to 68, enthralled and had differing amounts of success as firemakers. The youngsters were also able to test their den-making skills and have fun on tree swings and other fun games among the trees.
Towards the end of our adventure we were then rewarded with hot drinks and treats made on an open fire that tasted all the more delicious having worked so hard for it!
The adventure is based near Shanklin, one of the Isle of Wight’s most popular beaches. Take in all the fun of a traditional English seaside here along the esplanade with its amusement arcades and shops selling buckets and spades.
It was the winner of the ‘Beach of The Year’ in the Countryfile Magazine Awards 2019.
A few years ago, I also visited Shanklin Chine (officially a steep-sided river valley through cliffs to the sea) which is both beautiful and fascinating. Of course, enjoying an open-topped bus trip is always a family favourite. The Needles Breezer travels along the coast at this tourist hot spot. The Needles, itself a natural wonder, and the most recognisable feature on the island. But it’s not all just looking at the view here, there’s lots more to do at The Needles Landmark Attraction - not least a spectacular chairlift to the beach and back, a 4D cinema, plus other rides.
Other activities and attractions to enjoy on the Isle of Wight
Dinosaur Golf Adventure, SandownAt the cost of £½m ‘Dino Islands: A Golf Adventure’ takes players on a prehistoric adventure into a land of dinosaurs. The multi-level course includes a number of water features, alongside life-sized Dinosaurs. The family-friendly, 18-hole experience, suitable for all ages, also includes obstacles ranging from volcanoes, to waterfalls. Future plans for Sandham Gardens include a Sky Trail, electric karts, enhanced catering and beach huts. More details
The Isle of Wight Steam RailwayTaking a short trip in beautiful Victorian and Edwardian carriages to enjoy the open farmand and Downland of the Isle of Wight on the railway. In Havenstreet, just outside Ryde, the award-winning attraction was just a short drive from our base. More details
Laid-back touringA guide to 8 sustainable travel routes around the Island that can be explored by bike, bus or on foot is a great way to discover some of the hidden delights of the island. All routes contain suggested cycle routes and walks as well as to visit island attractions, including some of the lesser known ones.
Walking, cycling or taking the bus (or train) around the Island will enable you to slow down, visit all of the Island’s ‘headline acts’ and explore many of its lesser-known but delightful spots. Along the way you will come across hidden beaches, nature reserves and tight-knit communities, where artists and other creative types thrive and which will enable you to get under the skin of the island. Perhaps above all, you will encounter an incredible number of local food producers who grow a wide variety of mouth-watering breads, cheeses, fruits and much more.
For more information visit slowwighttravelguide.co.uk
Beaches to try on the east coastAppley beach and park - a big, sandy beach in Ryde and a popular spot with locals. There’s a lovely walk along the Esplanade to the town. Ryde also has a 19th century pier and lots to do.
Seagrove - just a short walk from our beautiful holiday accommodation. Great for sunbathing, walking and swimming. Between Seaview beach and Priory Bay beach.
St Helens Duver (National Trust) is between the villages of Bembridge and Seaview. Sand dunes to explore.
Seaview seafront is great for rock pooling and crabbing.
Whitecliff Bay - half-mile-long sandy beach two miles from the village of Bembridge.
Family-friendly places to eat
Three Buoys Restaurant overlooking Appley Beach.
The Boat House - 1-minute walk from Puckpool Park.
Michelangelo Restaurant just off Ryde seafront.
The Seaview Restaurant a few yards from the seafront.
Quarr Abbey teashop, near Fishbourne ferry.
Wonky Cafe, Whitecliff Bay, Bembridge.
Ruth and family made the crossing from Southampton to East Cowes on the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel.
A seven-night stay in The Swallows near Seagrove beach is from £804 with Classic Cottages.
To find out all you need to know about visiting the Isle of Wight, including ferries, accommodation, activities, beaches and planning, visit www.visitisleofwight.co.uk
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