Isle of Wight: 10 things to see and do
Since I moved to the UK a song has been echoing in my ears, the beginning is this:
“Sai cos’è l’isola di Wight
E’ per noi l’isola di chi
Ha negli occhi il blu
Those are the notes to a Dik Dik song (Italian music group). Have you heard it? I was looking forward to discovering this island so the first weekend after the long and tiring lockdown I immediately took advantage. It’s a real hidden gem for anyone who wants to get away from London to relax by the sea in search of peace and tranquility. This isolated area offers several activities to do and is also suitable for families with children. You can go from getting to know the medieval history of the island associated with the castle of Carisbrooke to enjoy the natural beauty of its landscape while walking or cycling to the stacks of Alum Bay but also eating good food or participating in a festival musical. You’re spoilt for choice! In this article. I talk about 10 things to do and see on the Island of Wight.
ISLE OF WIGHT
The island of Wight is a county of England and is located about 15 kilometers from the famous port of Southampton, nestled in the waters of the English Channel. It was separated from the mainland about 7,000 years ago by the melting of ice sheets that led to sea level rise. The geology of the island consists of several types of rocks including chalk, clay but also Cretaceous stones. These rocks indicate that the climate was favorable to accommodate the dinosaurs. You can see some evidence in the southern beaches. Nature has given life to wonderful landscapes. Rugged headlands and cliffs that leave undisturbed from the sea alternate with golden beaches. Much of the territory is recognized as AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
HOW TO REACH THE ISLE OF WIGHT
From London you can reach:
- Portsmouth Harbour from London Waterloo train station, once you arrive at the station take the bus 8/X4/16 to the port.
- Southampton Central from London Waterloo station, from station take bus 3/U1C to port.
- From Victoria Coach Station buses depart to Southampton and Portsmouth served by the National Express.
Wight County is easily accessible by ferry. There are currently three different ports from which you can leave to reach the island:
- From Portsmouth to Fishbourne: this is a popular route as it is both a car and passenger ferry. Managed by Wightlink, the journey takes about 45 minutes, this option arrives on the north-east side of the island, perfect if you want to visit directly some of the most beautiful beaches.
- From Southampton to East Coves: the ferry is also for cars and passengers! This service is operated by Red Funnel and takes about 1 hour. It has room for over 200 cars, there is a good chance to find a ticket at the last minute.
- From Lymington to Yarmouth: it takes only 30 minutes to reach Wight. The ferry not starting from a main city, is often less crowded and is therefore perfect for those who want to enjoy a beautiful view of the coast.
- From Southampton to West Coves this option is only for passenger service and is a fast solution in fact it takes only 25 minutes. Operated by Red Funnel, on arrival you reach their ferry terminal.
- From Porthmouth to Ryde by hovercraft it takes only 10 minutes as well as being a nice experience.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit the island is from April to October, when the weather will be more favorable with long days of light. Most attractions will be open daily.
WHERE TO SLEEP
The county offers a different range of accommodation from budget to more luxurious. If you have a limited budget camping is a good option. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a little more comfort,glamping is a great mix between enjoying the natural landscape of the Isle of Wight and staying in a place with some luxury. Or you can opt for an airbnb in different areas of the island. Sharing house with locals can give you the opportunity to have locals share valuable advice about the island. The accommodations where I stayed were clean and comfortable
HOW TO MOVE AROUND THE ISLAND
Buses on the island are operated by Southern Vectis. Regular services operate between the main cities of the island and offer connections to most rural villages. There is also Island Coaster – a bus that follows the coast and departs from Ryde, reaches Bembridge, the easternmost point of the island, then up to Sandown, Lake and Shanklin. It crosses Ventnor, Whitwell and Chale on the south side of the island, before crossing the Military Road towards Freshwater and the iconic Needles Landmark Attraction at Alum Bay where it ends the race. Remember to see the schedules well, when I went, in the low season the service ended at 17.30. There is also a operated South Western Railway line, operating from Ryde to Shanklin, with stops at Brading, Sandown and Lake
10 THINGS TO SEE AND DO ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT
#1 VISIT THE OSBORNE HOUSE
The immense mansion, now part of the English Heritage, open to the public and open to visitors, is located near Cowes. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert fell in love with this remote property, far from everything. Built between 1845 and 1851, according to the style of the Italian Renaissance, with bell towers, reflects the passions, tastes and style of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Decorated furnishings and artifacts from the Royal Collection fill rooms and corridors where Victoria entertained heads of state, inventors and princesses. And the Durbar Room is the most elegant place in this vast mansion. Designed by Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard Kipling, the room reflects the status of the Queen as Empress of India. It was the venue for ceremonial dinners for European royalty and the backdrop for theatrical entertainments built with intricate Indian-style plasterwork. Queen Victoria loved her sumptuous summer home, spent many summers here and wrote about it: “It is impossible to imagine a more beautiful place”.
#2 RELIVE THE PAST AT CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Carisbrooke Castle is a historic castle built over 1000 years ago. William Fitzosbern is believed to have built the first castle to protect the Isle of Wight from Norman incursions. Although the exterior is not particularly impressive this fortress near the city of Newport offers layers of history. The remains of an ancient Roman fort, the Anglo-Saxon strongholds and the provisions of the modern era come together to reveal the impressive historical and cultural heritage of the island. It became famous as the place where Charles I was held here during the Civil War, shortly before his execution. Today, a visit to this romantic manor is one of the things not to be missed, it is run and maintained by English Heritage.
#3 EXPLORE THE SHANKLIN CHINE
If you’re visiting Shanklin, then don’t miss Shanklin Chine, the oldest tourist attraction on the isle of Wight. It’s a wooded coastal gorge, containing waterfalls, trees and lush vegetation, with footpaths and walkways. It’s formed by a river, which cuts the village from Shanklin Old Village to the beach, it’s 400 meters long with a vertical drop of 32 meters. The lush gardens created to surround the path along the canal are wonderful. And at night the gorge is illuminated by a system of colored lights that create a spectacular atmosphere. If you visit this site, I recommend you not to miss the old part of the village of Shanklin. You see the quaint English atmosphere in cottages with thatched roofs, small shops, pubs and traditional tea rooms such as Strawberry Thach Tea – unmistakable for its pink color. There is also the Pencil store where writers like Keats and Longfellow bought stationery. I found it really pretty.
#4 RELAX IN VENTNOR
Ventnor is the southernmost town on the isle of Wight and particularly renowned for its unique microclimate. Sheltered from the northern winds by St. Boniface Down, Ventnor, with its beach and traditional seaside attractions, is a popular destination for family-sized vacations but also for solo travelers, cuoples and friends. Developed in the Victorian era, it has beach huts that once had wheels and carried nobility to the sea to swim. The resort is built on a series of terraces, giving it a continental feel. Ventnor is sometimes described like ‘English Mediterranean’ and ‘Mayfair by the Sea’.
#5 WALK TO FRESHWATER BAY
Freshwaterbay is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island and is located south of the town of Freshwater and three miles from the famous landmark of the Needles.This town became a popular residential area during the 19th century when the poet Tennyson moved. Located on a spectacular stretch of the island’s coast, Freshwater is very popular among tourists. The beach overlooks a small horseshoe-shaped inlet that has been eroded by gypsum cliffs by the action of wind and waves, leaving isolated some stacks that emerge offshore. In this town there is also the only church with a thatched roof, the church of St. Agnes. From here starts an easy coastal path, which I’d recommend, to reach the “The Needles”– the view is wonderful. The white of the coast in contrast with the blue of the sea creates magic atmosphere.
#6 ADMIRE “THE NEEDLES”
Located in Alum Bay, the Needles is one of the most beautiful places on the isle of Wight and perhaps the most famous landmark. The Needles is a row of three distinct chalk stacks that rise from the sea off the western end of the island. Actually, there were four rocks, but one of them collapsed during the great storm of 1764. In the stack further away there is a lighthouse that with the white and red stripes in contrast with the turquoise sea is a sight for the eyes. This image has become the icon of the Isle of Wight. There are several ways to admire them:
- Walk from Alum Bay to the beach below then via a boat
- Through the chairlift up to Alum Bay then aboard a boat that takes you right near the rock formation.
- If you have some free time, you could start your hike to Freshwater Bay on foot. In this case, the hike takes about 2 hours.
Once you visit “The Needles” you can visit the National Trust Needles Battery, a former military installation where rockets were once secretly tested. The museum offers a number of fascinating exhibitions on the role of the Battery in World War II and there are also numerous activities for children. If you are visiting the Isle of Wight by car, you can park at Alum Bay parking for £5 per day.
#7 DISCOVER THE MINIATURE VILLAGE IN GODSHILL
A nice experience is to visit the miniature village, a joy for everyone but especially loved by children. Inside there are 1/10 scale models of the villages of Shanklin and Godshill – including reproduced houses, cottages, churches and pubs. All works reflect real buildings. I noticed a particular attention in the exposure and attention to detail where the context is cared for in a natural way with meadows, trees and flowers and makes the work more truthful. Godshill is also a typical English village and boasts some of the oldest architecture on the isle of Wight. So I suggest you take a walk inside the village. It features a delightful medieval church, charming thatched-roofed cottages and a winding main street lined with traditional tea rooms. The first edition of the famous music festival was held in 1968 at the Ford Farm.
#8 WATCH THE SUNSET AT ST CATHERINE’S LIGHTHOUSE
The lighthouse is located a short distance from the town of Niton and a 10-minute drive from Ventnor. In addition to the superb location it was the world’s first lighthouse illuminated with electricity when incandescent arc lamps were installed in 1888. A first testimony of a small light set up with the functions of lighthouse to warn the ships of the danger of the coast comes in 1323 thanks to Walter de Godyton and all this continued until 1530. The present tower was built in 1838 after the loss of the ship Clarendon, which resulted in the death of 23 people. Initially it was built too high because the lantern was often shrouded in fog so it was decided to lower the tower. Today what we can admire is its white tower that stands on the promontory where we can enjoy the sunset.
#9 HAVE FUN AT THE MUSIC FESTIVAL
The Music Festival started in the late ’60s thanks to the will of the Foulk brothers. The 1969 edition also featured Bob Dylan and was his first paid participation since the motorcycle accident three years earlier. The festival rose to prominence in 1970 with the unexpected participation of about 600,000 people. The following year, Parliament added a special section to the Isle of Wight County Council Act 1971 preventing open-air night meetings of more than 5,000 people without special Council permission. For many years the event was suspended, resumed only in 2002 and since then is held every year in September. Legendary artists such as Bryan Adams, David Bowie, The Who and Coldplay participated in the various editions. The festival is one of the most popular and important attractions of the island. In those days the atmosphere changes radically For 2021 the festival is scheduled from September 16-19 with big names to perform as Liam Gallagher, David Guetta, Snow Patrol, Duran Duran and many others.
#10 EAT CRAB IN BEMBRIDGE
One of the culinary experiences to do is to delight yourself with typical dishes such as crab. There are places along the coast where fishermen arrive directly to the restaurant to bring lobsters and crabs freshly caught. I stopped at “The Best Dressed Crab” located in the Port of Bembridge. The atmosphere inside is very relaxed and cozy with a beautiful terrace overlooking the harbor. Even the presentation of the dish was very accurate, the fresh crab served with salad and bread really won me over. In addition to the crab the restaurant also offers other dishes of fresh fish. Also, in this village there is also the only surviving windmill on the island, built in 1700. Its use was initially designed for local people and only later the ground cereals were sold to the navy.
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