For travelers who want a break that will feel like a proper vacation, is Isle of wight, just off the south coast of England is about three hours from London by car or train and ferry. Known for its natural beauty, which includes 65 miles of coastline, the island has lovely, expansive sandy beaches, great hiking trails, an impressive Roman villa and excellent seafood. It is not surprising that the island was home to Queen Victoria’s summer holiday home, Osborne House, now an English heritage property, open to the public.
On the way
Travel to the Isle of Wight by car from Portsmouth or Lymington via The Solent Straight takes 40 minutes aboard a Wightlink ferry. Foot passengers can choose a Wightlink catamaran and be on the island in 22 minutes. In recognition of the demand for greener voyages, Wightlink’s new ferry Victoria of Wight is a hybrid energy ship that runs partly on electricity. A day return transfer on the Wightlink by car from Portsmouth to Fishbourne starts at £ 52.50 with a short break in car return crossings from £ 65.50. For foot passengers, tickets are £ 14.40 per person. Person.
Where should I live?
Among the many guest houses and hotels, there are only a handful of luxury properties on the island. Haven Hall Hotel, an Arts & Crafts house built in 1908, is located on a cliff top above Shanklin. The panoramic views of the coast are among the best on the island and there is easy access from the property to the famous coastal path that continues around the entire island. The hotel’s excellent location is its main selling point. A love affair with former British property developer David Barratt and his American interior designer wife Arielle, Haven Hall opened four years ago after a careful renovation of several million pounds.
Accommodation at Haven Hall includes 14 rooms with 7 suites that have kitchens and lounges starting at £ 440 / night including breakfast. Each room, named after a famous person associated with the island, is different and expertly designed by Arielle Barratt. Most rooms have lovely ocean views, including Victoria and Albert, John Keats and Winston Churchill rooms. The beautiful blue and white Seagulls suite has lots of charm with sleeping windows, sloping ceilings and a terrace overlooking the garden. It also has a fully equipped kitchen if you tend to eat in. Each room and suite is carefully decorated by Arielle Barratt with antiques and attractive details like handmade duvets.
Outdoors, two acres of beautifully landscaped gardens with plenty of seating and places to relax and admire the views, a heated swimming pool plus sauna on request and a grass-tennis court. If you manage to leave the lovely grounds at Haven Hall, a stroll down the cliff will take you to some of the best sandy beaches on the island.
What to see and do
Discovered in 1880 by retired Army Captain John Thorp and farmer William Munns uncovering a Bacchus mosaic, Brading Roman villa has been excavated many times since. Today, the site is an amazing museum showing the West Range, built around the AD300, which is the last and magnificent of three buildings on the site. The lack of underfloor heating indicates that it was a cottage for a wealthy Roman family who used it in the warmer months. The foundations of two former northern and southern areas are now outlined in chalk outside. The South Range was erected around 100 AD, not long after the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD. and was followed by the completion of the magnificent North Range around 200 AD. Using artifacts and archeological reports, the museum takes us on a journey from prehistory. up to the present and has well-preserved, rare mosaics, including a man with a cockerel head, the only one of its kind in the world.
Osborne House, East Cowes
Osborne House, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s former holiday home, is located in East Cowes across the estuary from the famous annual sailing regatta at. Cowes. In her diary, Victoria wrote that she “could never be grateful enough to have been given this place.” Osborne House was built and designed to the tastes of Victoria and Albert in 1845; Few English royal residences are as personal as Osborne. Inside are family heirlooms that highlight the royal life of the home. You can see the room where Victoria’s daughter, Alice, got married, and the bedroom where the queen died. The expansive grounds include a walled garden, a lovely woodland walk to Queen Victoria’s private beach where you can see the Queen’s bathing machine. From the beach you see the same view over the Solent to the English mainland that once reminded Prince Albert of the Gulf of Naples.
Currently, only the living rooms of Osborne House are open to the public, but there is plenty to see from the ornate architecture to the furniture and a wonderful art collection. Unique to an English royal home is a large gallery of Indian portraits requested by Queen Victoria in the 1880s, and one is by Abdul Karim, a favorite servant of the Queen who inspired Stephen Frears’ film Victoria and Abdul, starring Dame Judi Dench and Ali Fazal.
Dimbola, Freshwater Bay
“Beauty, you’re under arrest. I have a camera and I’m not afraid to use it. Julia Margaret Cameron
Dimbola, near fresh water, was the home of Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century. Ambitious and successful in his time, Cameron is today credited with creating the first photographic close-ups. Her portraits of “famous men and women” include other members of the “Freshwater Circle”, such as Alfred Lord Tennyson and Lewis Carroll. Dimbola is now a lovely little museum showcasing her photography, equipment and modern exhibits from photographers across the globe. A current temporary exhibition features photographs from 1950s Paris by American fashion photographer Marilyn Stafford. The museum also has a room with Isle of Wight music festival posters, including the original poster from the legendary 1970s festival featuring headliners such as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and others. Outside is a sculpture by Jimi Hendrix. The onsite café is lovely with an excellent selection of homemade cakes and loose tea.
One of the few hip venues on the island is this amazing cocktail bar and record shop with an impressive vinyl selection. The owners of the Ventnor Exchange also founded what has become very popular fringe festival every July. The festival features over 100 different shows from the best new comedians and upcoming bands to events like impromptu hip hop in a laundry.
Compton Bay is the Isle of Wight’s prime location for surfing and its sandy beach and fine views across to Tennyson Down and The Needles make it a top location for a day on it located in the West Wight, Compton’s two mile stretch of sand, rolling ocean, sandstone cliffs and the white chalk cliffs in the distance provide a glorious view from the top.
The needles, a group of three narrow vertical chalk stacks that rise approx. 30 meters out of the sea off the western end of the island in the English Channel, is one of the most photographed groups of cliffs in the world. The area around it is controlled by Heritage UK which runs a chairlift to the beach below and arranges boat trips around the Needles.
Where to eat and drink
Terraces in Yarmouth is a smart new restaurant by the harbor focusing on local fish and agricultural products. The menu is excellent as it has clearly taken full advantage of the quality ingredients right outside the tomatoes for garlic, crab for lobster and even curd made minutes from the door. Menu highlights include today’s Ceviche, shrimp with aoili and focaccia, Isle of Wight Crab Bruschetta with shaved fennel and lobster bruschetta.
Founded in 1832 as a coaching inn, The Royal Hotel in Ventnor is one of the oldest and finest hotels on the island. The royal afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and a delicious selection of cakes and a choice of teas is fantastic. Or for a simpler option, the traditional afternoon tea with scones, jams and coagulated cream is also an excellent choice.
Fish and chips are a must on an island and of course there are plenty of choices here. The steamship on the beach in Shanklin and The Crab and lobster rooster both serve very large portions of excellent cod and chips.
Joliffes in Cowes is a lovely little cafe in a former bootmaking shop that apparently served Queen Victoria. The original shop burned down, and the Art Nouveau building that remains was specially built as a shoe store on the site around 1917. It is now a quaint little restaurant, a great place to stop for coffee and cake.