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Review: Isle of Wight


United Kingdom

Civilised Isle of Wight

  • By SilverTraveller soopernan

    35 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon

  • Aug 2011
  • Wife

143 people found this review helpful

A couple of friends of ours recently moved to the Isle of Wight, after living away from the island for many years, and invited us to stay with them in their rented converted ex-railwayman’s cottage in Cowes, close to the harbour, shops, and both ferries. No bridge or tunnel to the Island, nor ever likely to be, so we decided on one of the two main ferries – there are others, but Wight link and Red Funnel are the main two, the first from Portsmouth, the second from Southampton. Those travelling from the Portsmouth terminal take the well-signposted route from the M27, which we had done previously, but in this occasion we decided on Red Funnel, our first time with them. So easy, junction 3 from the same M27, and it was close to the cruise ship terminal. They were £20 cheaper for the off-peak crossing return, even though the crossing time is one hour, which is twenty minutes longer than Wight Link.

Cowes is at the mouth of the River Medina, and there is a chain ferry for the short crossing for those who don’t want to take the road route via Newport. Cars are £2, foot passengers and cyclists free. Some compare the Isle of Wight with a time warp, but we prefer to refer to it as a little bit of England as it used to be. The pace of life is slower, agreed, but that’s no bad thing when you appreciate that the prices, apart from petrol, tend to be the same as on the mainland, the standards and manners are inclined to be more civilised, and the people have a tendency to have English as their first natural language. There is an excellent social scene, which is hardly surprising bearing in mind that the population is in excess of 90,000, and eating out can be as reasonable or wallet-crushingly expensive as you want to make it. A simple example is ice creams, with the local variety being from the Minghella family (yes, they are connected to the film man). Delicious, lots of varieties (try the banana and toffee, Pam described as disgusting, but Roger and I raved over) and well under £2 for a large cone.

We stayed with our friends for three nights, and went to various places. But bear in mind that all roads seem to lead to Newport, and from north to south you will struggle to take an hour on the roads, no dual carriageways that I can recall, and lots of quality attractions to linger over. Try Godshill, the village that really is in a time warp, with its miniature village, tea rooms, and souvenir shops. The coaches stop here as well, and anticipate crowds at peak times of the year and you won’t be disappointed. The garlic and lavender farms are not on the coach route, and they are both worth a stop. They have the obligatory tea rooms, but at the garlic farm they have free tasting, which is delicious, a shop selling quality products, a local history lesson with artefacts, and tractor rides. The lavender farm is a bit more basic, but it is obvious that they have invested a lot of money in this outlet. Could not understand however why they felt it necessary to sell expensive dolls in the shop that had nothing obviously to do with lavender. The main product at £5 per bunch was pretty steep, but there wasn’t a lot on offer when we were there at the beginning of August, which I thought was the peak of the picking season?

We also went to Arreton Old Village, which is on the coach route. Free admission is its best point, as we found the attractions poor reproductions. Much money has been invested, visit by all means, but be aware of expensive tat. £15 for a dvd about pirates? I don’t think so. Buy the fish and duck food at £1 a bag – no, not for yourself, nature’s little friends need it more than you do. Don’t let me put you off, though, see for yourself. Some of the hotels have ferry and accommodation packages included, don’t just book them separately. Some of the major coach companies have their own hotels, and they are also worth enquiring about. We spoke with some people who stayed at the Daish's Hotel in Shanklin, and had excellent reports. Our friends showed us a lot of places that only the locals know, spoiled us rotten, and we highly recommend the Isle of Wight for a break to a civilised holiday destination, reasonably priced, and where civil unrest is a rarity. Go and enjoy yourselves.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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