What's to see & do
It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot’ said Queen Victoria of the palatial holiday home Albert built for her on the Isle of Wight (by Thomas Cubitt). View the stately rooms, private apartments and children's play-cottage for an intimate glimpse of royal family life. This was Victoria’s favourite House (and where she died in 1901). Stroll through the pergola and garden terraces with Solent views that reminded Prince Albert of the Bay of Naples. Don’t miss the walled garden. Take the minibus or walk down to their private beach at the Swiss Cottage.
Osborne reflects Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's passions, tastes and style. Ornate furnishings and artefacts from The Royal Collection fill rooms and corridors where Victoria entertained heads of state, inventors, princes and princesses and ruled the vast British Empire. ‘Victoria & Abdul’ was filmed here. Allow at least 1-2 hours to see the House (guided tours available). English Heritage York Avenue East Cowes PO32 6JX 01983 200022
Ventnor Botanic Garden
Visit this unique 22 acre garden with a sub-tropical microclimate (5 degrees warmer than anywhere in Britain). See more than 6,000 species of plants, shrubs and champion trees, Tropical House full of Giant Amazonian Waterlilies, Victorian Tunnel Tour, an underground mushroom fruiting chamber and red squirrels,
Refresh at the Plantation Room Café ~ light lunches and lovely cakes or the Edulis Restaurant in the Mediterranean Garden (best use of local & garden grown ingredients) ~ plus a shop selling the garden’s own produce from chutneys to beers, plants and local crafts. Dog friendly (on lead). 01983 855397
Undercliff Drive, St Lawrence, Isle of Wight, PO38 1UL
The Needles are a group of tall chalk peaks below the cliffs on the Western tip of the Island. One of the peaks was so sharply pointed it looked like a needle, until it crumbled into the sea during a storm (see the gap?)
History: In 1863 the Military Battery on top of the cliff was completed to guard the West end of The Solent. The stunning Military Road (built to move the troops) offers the best cliff top views on the Island. In 1897 Marconi broadcast the world’s first radio transmission from The Needles. Between 1955 and 1971 top secret missile and space rockets were developed and launched from here.
Today it houses a large fun fair, a glass making factory and lots of shops, cafes, including a quaint tea room at the Battery on the top of the cliffs overlooking The Needles.
Drive the beautiful Military Road to reach Alum Bay, the Southern most tip of the Island
Home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) the most famous Poet Laureate of the Victorian era, renowned for his dramatically powerful subjects and highly wrought melodious style. ‘It’s better to have tried and failed than to live life wondering what would’ve happened if I had tried.’ His immense popularity forced him to seek refugefrom London. His enthusiasm for the romantic poet John Keats led him to settle on the same Island where Keats had chosen to write (in Shanklin). ‘Ours is not to wonder why. Ours is just to do or die.’
Tennyson lived at Farringford for 40 years where he and his wife raised their family and enjoyed planting the gardens themselves. This Grade I listed building has been lovingly and accurately restored with fully furnished interiors, walled kitchen garden and historic parkland. Earphone tours reveal many fascinating stories of their Victorian life. Don’t miss Tennyson’s top floor study where he used to retreat to compose his poems. Here you can listen to a recording of Tennyson himself reading one of his poems. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ Guided tours by appointment only. Bedbury Lane PO40 9PE 01983 752500 Contact@farringford.co.uk
Nearby is Dimbola Lodge, the home of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), pioneer of photography as art (especially close up portraits of her famous friends like Tennyson). She & Tennyson often visited each other as her garden had direct access to the grounds of Farringford. The house holds many of her most famous photos plus a few original furnished rooms. There is a small café. Terrace Lane, Freshwater Bay PO40 9QE
Shanklin Old Village
Famous for its chocolate box OLD VILLAGE, Shanklin became popular as a holiday destination during the 19th Century when Queen Victoria decided to build her own retreat on the Island: Osborne House. These quaint thatched houses offer a plethora of cafes, pubs, restaurants and shops.
Shanklin boasts some of the best walks & cycling paths on the Island with stunning cliff paths, beautiful beaches, and promenade revetments by the sea. The lower esplanade also has many attractions for families plus lots of water sports and boating.
SHANKLIN CHINE dates back to 1817, making it the Island’s oldest tourist attraction. Accessed from the beach or the Old Village, this pretty tree lined ravine contains waterfalls, lush vegetation, parrots and a quaint café. Near the beach entrance, discover a genuine old smugglers tavern ‘Fisherman’s Cottage’, now a pub right on the beach.
‘Chynklying’ Chine was recorded in the Domesday book of 1086 and gave the town its name ~ Shanklin. Follow footpaths and walkways to enjoy the views and learn about the important role it played during WWII concealing the Pluto pipeline that supplied fuel to boats and tanks during D-Day.
Not far from the Old Village is an original Victorian Theatre lovingly restored by local people, still in use. Tickets available at Shanklin Theatre box office.
History: both John Keats & Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stayed in Shanklin, writing some of their best poetry & drama.
The quintessential romantic castle set in rolling countryside, Carisbrooke Castle is at the very heart of Isle of Wight history. The Castle was first built by the Normans around 1066; it became an Elizabethan artillery fortress - first to counter the French and then the Spanish (when Elisabeth I made her cousin Sir George Carey captain of the IOW, he added a 13 room mansion); During the Civil War, Charles I was imprisoned here between 1647 – 1650; Around 1700, St. Nicholas’s Chapel was rebuilt in Georgian style amidst other renovations and then the castle became the base of the IOW Militia as well as a tourist attraction; Queen Victoria’s youngest child Princess Beatrice became governor of the IOW in 1896 and modernised it as her Summer residence.
English Heritage: Stroll the ramparts, visit the small museum, enjoy the castle's Edwardian garden and watch the donkeys at work. Enjoy panoramic views from the highest castle walls. (not many interior rooms to see) Teas & light snacks available. Castle Hill, Newport PO30 1XY 01983 522107
Butterfly World ~ walk amongst hundreds of butterflies flying freely in a natural environment – magical! Fountain world, Italian and Japanese gardens with Koi ponds too. Wootton Bridge, Ryde, PO33 4RW 01983 883 430
Monkey Haven ~ award-winning charity primate rescue centre that makes animals & people happy! 01983 530885 Staplers Road, Fire Acres Farm, Newport PO30 2NB
Newport Roman Villa ~ a fine example of a Romano-British farmhouse built in 280 AD. Villa has a well-preserved bath suite with hypocaust central heating. Illustrative text panels provide a clear explanation of the site plus artefacts on display which chart the history of the Roman occupation. Cypress Road, Newport PO301HA 01983 529720
Quay Arts Centre ~ Small gallery exhibiting travelling shows that change regularly, café bar, music events. Sea Street, Newport PO30 5BD 01983 822490
Remember the old Beatles song - 'she's got a ticket to Ryde'? Well, come and visit the largest town on the Island, full of quaint boutiques and beautiful Victorian beaches.
WHAT’S TO SEE & DO?
Shopping ~ Quaint boutiques full of interesting souvenirs, toiletries, little antique shops, pubs, restaurants and the flagship shop of Liz Earle cosmetics.
Ryde Beach ~ biggest sandy beach on the Island, good for swimming, ball games & kite flying
Ryde Pier ~ 200 years old, nearly half a mile long, with an old railway running its length to connect with ferries.
IOW Bus and Coach Museum ~ 20 historic vehicles with transport displays & photographs. 01983 567796
Booze makers ~ Addlestone Vineyard, Rosemary's Vineyard, Isle of Wight Distillery (Mermaid Gin & Vodka)
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Quarr: a working Benedictine monastery built in 1912, on the site of a 12th century abbey, set in beautiful tranquil surroundings. The name Quarr comes from the stone quarry nearby, once used for ecclesiastical & military buildings - including parts of the Tower of London. The Monastery is home to a small group of monks who dedicate their lives to the glory of God, prayer, work & community life.
Only the church, art gallery, shop & grounds are open to visitors (but you can attend Services). There are lovely walks through the woods down to the beach. A small art gallery displays works of local artists, and a book shop offers a wide selection of spiritual, monastic and Benedictine books as well as souvenirs. Inside a walled garden, their farm shop sells the monk’s produce, freshly prepared food with a tea garden & picnic area. Don’t miss seeing all the healthy pigs & piglets!
Free & open everyday except Christmas 10:30 -5pm RYDE PO33 4ES
Cowes hosts the world’s oldest and biggest sailing regatta (since 1812) every August. The seafront will delight you, especially on a sunny Summer day. During Cowes Week the promenade throngs with people watching the races whilst sipping champagne from stalls lining the streets. Live music and pop-up food abound. In fact, sailing races happen here most of the Summer but without the crowds.
When you tire of watching the boats sail by, there’s SHOPPING!! the charming pedestrianised High Street with the best boutiques on the Island: dresses, handmade jewellery, antiques, wonderful gifts like driftwood mirrors, artisan bread, cheese, wine, locally produced chutneys, oils and jams, basketry, and for sailors ~ that necessary piece of rope, sailing gear, antiques & nauticalia. The small shops which line the town’s quaint pedestrian street make a lovely stroll (zillions of cafes). Consider visiting the Heritage Museum or the Max Aitken Museum for small exhibitions. Or just enjoy one of the many quayside pubs.
Not far away:
Yarmouth ~ not far from Cowes is this boutique seaside town, with its own harbour & port. Visit Yarmouth Castle ruins (English Heritage) on Quay Street, Yarmouth PO41 0PB or stroll out on the quaint little pier with an ice cream. The George Hotel - next to the Castle & pier has an inviting bar with roaring fires in Winter and outdoor beach patio in Summer, plus the Conservatory restaurant. A few boutiques, pubs and antiques shops may tempt you plus lots of lovely nature walks nearby.
Fancy a boat trip to The Needles or some fishing? It’s easy! Just wander down to the harbour. For the Needles, book Coral Star Cruises: 01983 760212 Yarmouth PO41 0NT
Newtown National Nature Reserve & Old Town Hall Discover a quiet backwater marsh with an important Medieval past, now a protected wildlife sanctuary – great for serious bird watchers. Town Lane, Newtown, PO30 4PA
Quite central to the Island, Godshill is a charming little English Village with the 14th century All Saints Church: the landmark perched on top of the hill that you can see for miles. The narrow winding High Street passes lots of quaint thatched cottages. There are many wooded walks around the village in the hills going past farmland, alpacas and sheep. The town itself abounds with traditional tea rooms and little craft shops. Large parking lot available.
The Old Smithy & Gardens ~ a cluster of small shops sprinkled throughout a small pedestrian lane as well as throughout Godshill village (selling clothes, accessories, crafts, gifts, collectables, chocolate, books etc) Cream Teas beckon from the many pretty tea gardens, pubs, restaurants and cafes. High Street, Godshill, PO38 3HZ
Don't miss The Model Village ~ unusual yesteryear model of Godshill & Shanklin, with true representations of houses, cottages & pubs, complete with running toy trains filled with tigers & dinosaurs. Lovely topiary gardens. High Street, Godshill PO38 3HH
English Heritage: partly restored shell of what was once the grandest house on the Island: an 18th century Baroque mansion standing in 11 acres of rolling grounds designed by Capability Brown. Lovely walks around the house, grounds and nearby forest.
Home of the Worsley family: Sir Richard Worsley, the 7th Baronet, gained notoriety for a sensational 1782 court case against his wife. This scandalous story enthralled everyone at the time, as the Baronet had actively encouraged his wife (granddaughter of Jane Seymour) into having 27 lovers while he enjoyed being a voyeur (movie: ‘The Scandalous Lady W’). Appuldurcombe Farm, Wroxall, Ventnor PO38 3EW
The Donkey Sanctuary ~ home to hundreds of rescued donkeys of all ages, who are sure to win your heart! Indoor and outdoor areas where you can meet, stroke and adopt the donkeys. Dogs on leads welcome. Small tea house. Lower Winstone Farm, St. Johns Road, Wroxall PO38 3AA
Visit the Garlic Farm
The Garlic Farm ~ learn all about garlic, walk around a working farm and see fields of wildflowers & garlic, highland cattle, pigs, horses, peacocks, red squirrels & chickens. Jump on the tractor trailer to tour the farm or walk some of the trails.
Enjoy the easy farm atmosphere of the Allium Café for a memorable breakfast or lunch - try the garlic beer & garlic ice cream! Great homemade cakes for tea. Large farm shop selling lots of wonderful garlic chutneys, jams, olives, mayonnaise, farm produce, cheese, etc as well as a huge variety of different garlics. Tempted to try garlic chocolate or the garlic ice cream? An experience you won’t forget! Mersley Farm, Mersley Lane, Newchurch PO36 0NR 01983 865378 Best to book!
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway ~ step back in time to a bygone era when steam power was the order of the day. Settle into the beautifully restored Victorian carriages and discover an idyllic view of the unspoilt countryside along the 10 mile tourist route, stopping at quiet rural stations.
After the railway mania of the 1840’s, an extensive network of lines was built to connect all the Island towns. In the museum you’ll find several steam locomotives and a small series of diesel shunters. The oldest locomotive on site was built in 1876, the carriages - around 1864. There’s a small shop and railway café. Within the grounds is the Haven Falconry Bird of Prey Centre.
Only a few of the old routes are still used by Island Line Trains. Most of the old railroad tracks have been turned into bridle paths or cycle paths – great for lovely walks. 01983 884515
The Railway Station, Main Road, Havenstreet PO33 4DS
Golf ~ Nearest course is in Sandown
Browns Golf Course brownsfamilygolf.com
Cowes Golf Club cowesgolfclub.co.uk
Newport Golf Club newportgolfclub.co.uk
18 hole Osborne Golf Club osbornegolfclub.co.uk
Ryde Golf Club rydegolfclub.co.uk
18 hole Sandown-Shanklin Golf Club ssgolfclub.com
Ventnor Golf Club venorgolfclub.co.uk
18 hole Freshwater Bay Golf Clubfreshwaterbaygolfclub.co.uk
Cycling ~ over 500 miles of cycle and bridleways for world-class cycling await - Rent a bike!
Route Fifty7 – Shanklin 07491 000057
Blackman Powerbikes – Sandown 01983 407049 PO36 9PL
Church Street Cycles – Ventnor 01983 852232 PO38 1SW
Wightcycle Hire – Yarmouth 01983 761800 PO41 0QU
Wight Mountain – Newport 01983 520530 PO301JZ
Gym (& indoor Pool) The Heights Leisure Centre Broadway, Sandown PO36 9ET 01983 823881
Horse Riding ~ on bridle trails and beaches
www.islandriding.com 01983 214000
Allendale Riding Centre www.Allendale-ec.co.uk
Mountain Boarding ~ www.adventureactivitiesuk.com/isleofwight 01983 755838
Paragliding ~ www.highadventureparagliding.co.uk 07811 700410
Rib Rides ~ www.powerboat-training.com 01983 778077 Cowes www.Needlespleasurecruises.co.uk 01983 761587 Freshwater www.boat-charters.uk.com 07796231316 Yarmouth
Segway Rides ~ Segway course www.tackt-isle.co.uk 01983 875542
Shooting ~ Bowcombe Shooting Ground shootingisleofwight.co.uk
West Wight Sports Centre westwight.org.uk
The Heights ~ fitness centre in Sandown
Medina Leisure Centre Newport
Trampolining ~ indoor trampoline park 01983 400444 Lake www.islejump.co.uk
Tree climbing ~ climb a mature 70 ft mature oak tree using rope and harness. www.goodleaf.co.uk 0333 800 1188
Watersports ~ rent a catamaran, dingy, windsurfer, kayak, surf board, paddle board, bodyboard, wet suit, canoe, rib ride or go sailing!
WIGHTWATERS Shanklin Esplande PO376HS www.wightwaters.com01983 404987
www.tackt-isle.co.uk 01983 875542
www.adventureactivities.com/isleofwight 01983 755838
Wight Karting ~ 500 metres of all weather indoor Karting, all gear provided. Off the Brading Road near Tescos PO33 1QS