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A Weekend on the Isle of Wight

A Weekend on the Isle of Wight

5 April 2018 | Suzanne Frost

From dinosaur remains to beaches, with fine fresh fish served across the island and sunny sky's stretching on forever, the Isle of Wight is perfect for a summer weekend getaway.

Nestled in the English Channel between Hampshire and France, the Isle of Wight is the most southerly point of the UK and arguably it’s sunniest: thanks to a favourable maritime influence, the island has much fine and sunny weather and the climate is generally between one and two degrees higher in temperature than the mainland. Isle of Wight sunshine records regularly make the news so it is no surprise the island is a popular holiday destination and has been since the Victorian age. Queen Victoria loved the island so much, she had the family’s summer residence Osborne House built in the style of an Italian palazzo and lived there permanently after Prince Albert died.


Image Credit: English Heritage
 
The island is very quiet and rural in many ways – don’t try to rely on public transport, a bus only comes round the corner every hour or so – but that doesn’t mean you can’t find lots to do! It is very much a summer island though, with many of the attraction only kicking off in high season, from May to September. The beautiful sandy beaches are certainly the islands main attraction and because Queen Victoria made the Isle of Wight so fashionable, there are many pretty and elegant seaside towns with an air of the splendour of yore about them. Because of the mild climate and fresh sea air, many high society families came to the island to “take the air in" and in the southern coast seaside towns such as Ventnor and Ryde with their beautiful piers and seaside arcades you can still imagine the beaches dotted with beach chairs and parasols.
 
Modern day visitors shouldn’t miss a spot of lunch at the Spyglass Inn right on Ventnor Beach, where you can sit on the sunny terrace, listen to the waves breaking and order a pint of prawns freshly caught just a few meters away.


 
If you are up for some swimming, Yaverland Beach on the west coast of the island is the undisputed best, a long stretch of sand and great swimming waters for children and families. The Isle of Wight is made up of a variety of rock types dating from the early Cretaceous period (around 127 million years ago) to the middle of the Palaeogene age, and at Yaverland, you can study the different coloured cliffs with your eye stretching all the way to Culver Down. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the fossils and petrified wood you can find here. The Isle of Wight was declared the best location for finding dinosaur fossils in the UK by the Natural History Museum, explaining the loving nickname Dinosaur Island. Little explorers can learn all about it at Dinosaur Isle Interactive Museum in Sandown.
 
If you are in the need of a tea break, the Old Thatch Teashop in Shanklin Old Village dates back to 1690 and has a romantic secret garden in the back where you can enjoy homemade scones and clotted cream. Shanklin Old Village contains some of the oldest dwellings on the Island, many of them with Thatched roofs. Shanklin Chine is the Isle of Wight's oldest tourist attraction, which first opened in 1817. Carved by Mother Nature’s own hands over thousands of years, the stunning tree lined gorge is a tranquil and magical place for rare plants and wildlife.
 
Surrounded by the sea it is no wonder that sailing plays a huge part on the island and probably the best time of the year to visit is Cowes Week, the oldest and largest annual sailing regatta in the World and an iconic feature of the British sporting calendar. Eight days of competitive racing, black tie champagne and cocktails party and fireworks bring the glitterati to the Isle of Wight every year. One of the Royal family will usually show up at the Royal Yacht Squadron, one of the most prestigious yacht clubs in the world.


 
If you are more interested in some down to earth country living, the Isle of Wight is great for hiking, driving around the picturesque winding country roads, horse riding or taking your dog for a walk on the beach. Bembridge beach is perfect for rock pooling when the tide is out. Carefully lift aside any slimy seaweed and rocks and search for miniature crabs, tiny fish and colourful sea anemones. Take a picnic up to Culver Down and enjoy spectacular views of the sea and rolling hills spotted with sheep. Keep your eyes peeled for the Minghella Ice Cream van. Edoardo Minghella has been making the Isle of Wight’s most loved and celebrated ice creams for over 60 years and yes, he is the father of Academy Award winning director Anthony Minghella, director of The Talented Mr. Ripley and The English Patient.


 
On the West coast of the Island, the Needles are the iconic postcard image of the island, a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk that rise about 30m out of the sea. Head to Alum Bay and take the chairlift down to the beach and the coloured sand cliffs. In summer you can take a boat trip around the Needles or create your own souvenir filling a glass bottle with the coloured sand of Alum Bay. Unique in having 21 recognised shades of colour, gifts made from sand were presented to Queen Victoria in 1860, which began a very special souvenir tradition that still enthrals visitors today.
 
After all that exploring it’s time for a good meal and as you’re so close to the source, seafood is what we would recommend! Salty’s in Yarmouth has a well earnt reputation is for some of the best fresh fish and shellfish in the solent, sourced from the local catch of the day. The Spinnaker in Bembridge has become a real gastronomic destination providing a tantalising choice of homemade dishes using local produce and the abundance of fresh fish from the local shores. The last ferry will go back to the mainland at 11pm but we’d recommend staying for the night. The Crab & Lobster Inn in is just a short walk away and you’ll love their pretty rooms with sea view and a hearty breakfast in the atmospheric pub decorated with a multitude of nautical instruments. There is so much to explore!
 
Wightlink Ferries go from Portsmouth Harbour to either Ryde (passenger ferry) or Fishbourne (car ferry) to the Isle of Wight every hour.

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