The Isle of Wight is a gorgeous island in the English Channel, about 4 miles off the coast of Hampshire. Brimming with natural beauty, this island is a unique mix of quaint English towns, a magnificent coastline , some astounding views of the countryside with a surprising dash of modernization. If you’re planning a visit, here are a few pointers you could use:
How can I reach there?
- The island itself can be reached by Ferries that run from Southampton (Red Funnel Ferry or Red Jet) and Portsmouth (WightLink). Since I travelled from Southampton, I can only speak of the Red Funnel ferries.
- The red funnel one is primarily meant for people who are carrying their vehicles with them. And although foot passengers are allowed, if you don’t have a vehicle with you, you must go for the Red Jet instead as it is much faster.
- The prices for the ferries can be found on their websites. We had travelled for approximately £40 for the two of us. Charges are higher when you carry a vehicle on board.
- How you reach Southampton or Portsmouth is another thing you need to think of. We had taken the train from Slough to Southampton and that cost us about £80 (for 2, with return).
What Should Be the Length of my Visit?
- Surprisingly, the inputs we received while planning this trip was that a day’s time was sufficient & more to visit this Island. Having been there, however, I would suggest atleast 2 complete days to explore this beautiful island well. There are LOTS of things to see here, suitable for different age groups and interests.
- The best way to go about planning your trip would be to study beforehand which places you would like to explore and allot time accordingly.
What should I see there?
- The island has basically 4 main areas.
- The North is the Cowes(East & West). Towards the East/South East, there are Sandown, Shanklin & Ventnor. The West has Yarmouth, Freshwater Bay, Needles Bay, Alum Bay & Totland Bay. And the center has Newport and the surrounding areas.
- East Cowes has the famed Osbourne House which is Queen Victoria’s seaside home. It is supposedly beautiful(we couldn’t visit it) and has lot of artefacts from India as well.
- West Cowes has some great places to eat and is a must visit if you want to see a quaint English town.
- The West has come spectacular views from the bays and the Needles Battery point, and the drive to the top is truly breathtaking. Alum Bay is known for its intricate glass products.
- The Shanklin and Sandown area has some beautiful beaches .
- The Shanklin Chine is located very close to the Shanklin Beach and is basically a mountain ridge with a small river running through creating waterfalls amidst the scenic greenery. Known for its ancient woodlands the chine was supposedly an inspiration for famed writers John Keats, Charles Dickens & Jane Austen. Although enjoyable, its true beauty in my opinion can only be seen in the rains. A thing to look out for in the summers is the Chine Lumiere, when hundreds of lights will illuminate the paths, streams & waterfalls after dark.
- The BlackGang Chine in the south has an interesting history as being a regular smuggler’s haunt.
- The little town of Godshill has a cute little model village and an Old Smithy’s garden that gives a sneak peak into the days of the yore.
- The Carisbrooke Castle located near Newport was home to Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice.
- The Brading Roman Villa is one of the finest Roman sites in the UK.
- There are vineyards with free tours of their grounds.
- And the one thing we really enjoyed was the Garlic Farm with an array of all things garlic and its delicious black garlic ice cream was a unique experience.
- There are also lots of things children & wild life enthusiasts can enjoy. There’s a Monkey Haven, a Donkey Sanctuary, an Owl & Falconry Center.
- For those with interests in shopping, there’s the Isle of Wight Pearl and the Oasis.
- Do note that all these places are quite a distance apart and hence the more the things you want to cover, the more the time you must have on hand.
- There are also lots of Festivals that take place in the summer, there’s the Jazz Festival from 31 May-4 June 2017 or the Isle of Wight Festival from 8-11 of June. You can try finding out on them ahead of your trip and plan accordingly.
- One additional tip. If you are taking the ferry from Portsmouth, you can keep some time apart from shopping at the Gunwharf Quay. This shopping complex has loads of designer brands at discounted prices, and sometimes with additional discounts on it as well. If you find a good deal, that could be great start to your vacation 😉
How do I travel within the Island :
- The Southern Vectis buses running on the island are really good. For a mere £15, you could travel ALL over the island for 2 days. What’s more, this ticket allows you to hop onto the open top Breezer buses (Downs Breezer, Shanklin Breeser, Island Coaster & Needles Breezer), giving you brilliant views of the sea and the countryside on your way to the various attractions.
- The down side of relying on buses is of course that you have to match up to their timings. So, although these buses run till very late in the night, there may be times when you waste time waiting for them.
- Another disadvantage is that since these buses run on the main roads, there may be times when you have to walk a bit from the bus stop to reach a point or they may be no bus routes to a location at all. We faced this problem since we wanted to visit the Vineyard and the Garlic Farm. We also ended up skipping the Carisbrooke castle since we could see there was a long walk from the stop and we were short on time.
- A third problem with the buses would be that the buses basically run from Newport, which is the central place on the island. Since we were staying in Cowes, we took a bus from there to Newport and then changed buses depending on where we had to go.
- If you are planning ahead and are good at driving, I would definitely suggest hiring a car on the island. One point of caution I would like to mention here are the cycling options most pamphlets on the island recommend. What I realized once I reached there was that this is England’s Largest Island!! So while I had gone expecting a tiny place, the sheer vastness of the island shocked me. Going from Cowes to Shanklin or Freshwater is no cake’s walk. Also, vast stretches of the island are deserted with nothing but the countryside giving you company. So unless you are accustomed to cycling long durations, this is not the place to give it a try.
Where can I stay?
- There are lots of hotels and B&Bs all across the island. Since we took the Red Funnel Ferry which dropped us off at East Cowes, we booked a B&B at Ashley & Simone’s lovely home. It was super convenient, being just 1 minute away from the bus stand. They were lovely & gracious hosts and the breakfast we had there was nothing short of restaurant class. They helped us with the drops, suggested places to cover, recommended restaurants and we exhanged stories of India & Goa. If you decide to stay over in Cowes, theirs would be the best place you could find. You can contact them at http://abnb.me/EVmg/cGulZ6ZfNC.
- However, if what you have in mind is a stay on the beach then I would advise you to look for a place near Shanklin.
Where should I head for some great food?
- West Cowes has some good restaurants for seafood, Murrays (or Murries, I can’t remember) being one of them. The Coast is another such famous place. I would definitely recommend a meal at The Garlic Farm. Do call and ask for their lunch timings and don’t forget to try the Black Garlic Ice Cream. There are lots of Garlic products to shop there as well. The Fisherman’s Cottage is a good place at the Shanklin Beach, and the walk to the Chine begins very close to it. There are loads of other recommended places on the island that many pamphlets can inform you about.
- However the one thing I would ask you to not miss at any cost would the Cream Tea. We had it at the Vernon Cottage and the scones were superbly delicious. Before you start to eat the scones though, don’t forget to slice it in the middle and load on dollops of the Cornish clotted cream and jam, that’s what the tea is all about!!
Anything else I should know?
- Yes, this one stems from my disappointment. Now when we planned the trip there, what I was looking forward to was a weekend on the beach. We covered Shanklin on the evening of the first day and thought there were lots of beaches on the West Coast to linger on the next day as well for a good time. Unfortunately, on the West, all you get to see are bays (spectacular, nevertheless). Upon asking for a sandy beach, we were directed to the Colwell Bay and again while beautiful, it was a very narrow stretch of sand near the water. For someone who’s used to vast stretches of sandy beach in India, this was a big disappointment.
- So if you want beaches, Shanklin & Sandown area is all you can get. But if you are looking for some time well spent in the midst of nature, the island is a view to behold!
#I have loads of pamphlets and booklets with regards to the places to see and the bus timings on the Island. If you need any info, do drop me a note and I would be glad to share the PDFs with you.