Isle of Wight

Introduction

Great Britain - Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight Landscape

The Isle of Wight is a literal “world apart” from the rest of England, separated by less than a mile of water (only a 15 minute ferry ride) it could be another country. Cross-crossed with hundreds of miles of country roads, the lifestyle is laid-back – very much in tune with the wonderful countryside.

Getting Around

There are many options about getting around on the Isle of Wight. If you bring a car be sure you book your place on the ferry before showing up in Portsmouth (or any of the other ports providing access) for the trip across the water. If you catch the train from London Waterloo it's last stop is on the same pier the pedestrian ferry docks which takes you to the end of the pier in Ryde on the island where the National Rail train service starts (indeed, you can purchase a National Rail ticket that includes all transport including the ferry to any of the stops on this train from anywhere else in the UK). If you are looking for a fun way to cross, there is also a pedestrian only hovercraft service between Portsmouth and Ryde.

Ferry

You can get around without a vehicle by using the very good bus service and the (limited) train service (consisting of old London Underground trains!). An even better option is to use a “push bike” (bicycle) to travel on the roads where there is very little traffic even at the busiest times.

There are many walking and bicycling trails throughout the area which offer a different perspective on the area. The trails are all well marked and maps are available from the many Tourist Information offices on the island. With the whole island being only about 100 km around the perimeter, it is easy to get from one side to another in a short period of time.

Free maps of some of the bigger towns are available from the tourist offices. Additionally, the tourist offices will also arrange accommodation (a key element on a busy weekend).

Annual Festivals

Most of the festivals on the island are held in the summer though there are several now in spring and autumn. In any case, they are a great excuse to visit the island even if some mean you never leave the festival site…

Bestival

View from the top of Robin Hill

Bestival (my guide to the festival) was held every August between 2004 and 2017 in Robin Hill (it appears to no longer be held). New music acts, dress-up and funky art.

Stage

The Garlic Festival

Garlic Food Stall

Obviously heavily influenced by the nearby “Garlic Farm” (above) The Garlic Festival takes place every August (at the end of the road the Garlic Farm is found on) and is a great day out. No, it is not just about garlic (though there is some interesting garlic ice cream)…Great music, loads of stalls selling crafts/food, exhibits along with demonstrations of falconry, etc. It has much more of a country fair feeling.

Garlic

Ring

There is an admission charge and parking in a field nearby but easiest is to visit using the bus which stops just outside the entrance.

The Isle of Wight Festival

The annual Isle of Wight Festival is well known for attracting top names in the rock music industry (it was where Jimi Hendrix performed for the last time, for example). It is the biggest festival on the island and takes some organisation to visit.

Attractions

To keep the tourists interested at all times of the year and in all weather there are a number of things to see and do on the island. There are a lot of old-school tacky things to see but I generally stay clear of those. Here are a few of my personal highlights.

Blackgang Chine

Unlike Shanklin Chine, Blackgang Chine: Land of Imagination is a theme park located in a chine on the south coast of the island featuring some of the most interesting rides on the island. I have never visited but if you are interested in rides this is probably the best place to go…

The Garlic Farm

Outside Shop

The Garlic Farm is open all year round with a surprising number of attractions. There is a large on-site gift shop featuring all things garlic as well as a restaurant featuring the same.

Inside Shop

They have regular tractor tours of the farm itself (for a small fee) which are well worth going on.

Tractor Tours

If you want to try before you buy there is a garlic exhibition/tasting room. Finding the farm can be a bit tricky as it is along a small, narrow road and I would not recommend walking from the local bus stop (dangerous with the traffic on the road).

Fields

There are also a few (free) walking trails here that offer an insight into how the farm manages to be sustainable. A small area to park your car is off the access road opposite the farm.

Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary

Walking

The Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary is a great place to get up and close to a good number of our four-legged friends. Not just for donkeys, the sanctuary is also home to ponies and horses.

Shop

A charity, the sanctuary has a small gift shop, café and often offers visitors the chance to groom or walk the animals (for a modest donation). Entrance and parking is free but a donation is recommended.

Inhabitants

Petting

The Isle of Wight Steam Railway

Train

The Isle of Wight Steam Railway offers trips on it's collection of restored steam trains with four stops starting at their museum at Smallbrook Junction and ending at Wootton.

Junction

Station

There is a museum here as well as ample parking though “Wootton” is also a stop on the National Rail service that can be used to transfer to the steam trains.

The Needles and Alum Bay

Alum Bay Cliffs

“The Needles” are located at the extreme western tip of the island is no doubt the biggest tourist attraction here. The “needles” themselves are a series of natural needle-line chalk formations in the ocean that you can visit in boats that regularly leave from the base of the cliffs of Alum Bay.

Needles by Boat

There is also the National Trust's The Needle's Old battery and New Battery on the top of the cliffs that offer not only amazing views of the Needles but also tours of the old artillery battery active up to 1954 that was built into the cliffs as well as a rocket launch pad.

Chairlift down to Alum Bay

The Needles Landmark Attraction is a somewhat tacky fun park at the top of the cliffs that includes a chair lift to the base of the cliffs to either admire the multi-coloured sand cliffs or catch a boat to see the Needles up close (there is also a free path down to the water if you don't want to take the chair lift but the chair lift is quite fun). There are a number of fair-ground rides for small children, shops and restaurants. A traditional favourite is to visit the “Sand Shop” to fill up glass containers of various shapes with coloured sands though the sands are now, thankfully, not sourced from the nearby cliffs.

Sand Shop

Osborne House

Exterior

Gardens

The holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, English Heritage's Osborne House is located on the north side of the island near Cowes. There are events year round here including a Christmas market.

Carousel

Access to the house and grounds is included in the price of admission. There is ample parking on site though it is a bit of a walk to the house.

Sandown

Pier

A short distance from Shanklin (see below), Sandown is an old English seaside town complete with pier and tacky attractions. A long sandy beach is wonderful to walk along on a sunny day.

Beach

“Pay and display” parking is available along the town's seafront.

Old Shanklin

Though small, “Old Shanklin” is worth a visit despite the tourists and the busy, winding road, that runs through it. There are a series of thatch buildings including several tea huts that, yes, touristy but rather pleasant to spend some time in. The Chine is only a short distance away and is also worth a visit (see below).

There are a few pay and display car parks here.

Shanklin Chine

Shanklin Chine Waterfalls

A “Chine” is the local word for a narrow gorge with Shanklin Chine being quite nice to visit. Though small, it there is a lovely walk through the gorge alongside a the small waterfall on the town side down to the ocean. The chine contains a few minor attractions such as a small aviary, a gift shop and small café which are all located on the seafront end of the chine.

The geological nature of the chine means it has a semi-tropical microclimate so has attracted visitors for hundreds of years to see the amazing flora.

Flowers

Visitor Center

A fee is charged to enter the chine and if you are around when they have night openings, this is highly recommended as the colourful lights really bring the chine to life.

At Night

Park in Shanklin Old Town or at the seafront at the base of the Old Shanklin cliffs if you wish to visit.

Seafront Entrance

Further Information

For further information, please see: