What's to See & Do
The Isle of Wight offers a wide variety of places to see and things to do: Stately homes, Roman ruins, Gardens, Animal sanctuaries. Visit the website www.visitisleofwight.co.uk for a complete list including all the family attractions. Here is a select list of our guests favourite places.
Osborne House (English Heritage) ‘It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot’ said Queen Victoria of the palatial holiday home Prince Albert built for her on the Isle of Wight. 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 1903). 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. And if you have time, walk or take the free coach down to the Swiss Cottage to see their private beach.
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). Only 20 minutes drive away.
The Needles & Old Battery (National Trust) 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. History: In 1863 the Military Battery on top of the cliff was completed to guard the West end of The Solent. The cliff top Military Road that offers the best views on the Island was built to move the troops. 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.
3 Options to view them:
Drive to the Alum Bay Needles car park along the beautiful Military Road. Then walk up the hill to the Old & New Battery (20 minutes) for wonderful views over the cliffs and lots of military history. The Battery has a charming 1940’s style Tea Room serving great lunches and homemade cakes.
Take the famous cable car over the edge of the cliff to the bottom and view the Needles and Rainbow Sands by boat. The Needles is a major tourist site with lots of shops & attractions for children, so expect crowds in Summer. (N.B. the 4D Dinosaur movie is pretty terrifying!)
Drive to Yarmouth Harbour and take the 1 hour & 45 minute boat ride to view the Needles, coastline and Rainbow Sands.
Farringford & West Wight Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) the most famous Poet Laureate of the Victorian era, 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. In Tennyson’s top floor study 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.’
Dimbola Lodge originally the home of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), pioneer of photography as art (especially close up portraits of her famous friends like Tennyson).The house holds many of her most famous photos plus a few original rooms.
Tennyson Down a grassy, whale-backed hilly ridge of chalk which rises to 482 ft/147m above sea level (National Trust). Worth the robust walking effort for the beautiful views. Tennyson used to walk on this Down almost every day, saying that the air was worth 'sixpence a pint' (hence the monument). It is possible to walk all the way to the Needles Battery for tea.
Shanklin OLD VILLAGE became 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.
Hope Beach: 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 and 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.
Appuldurcombe HouseEnglish 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’).
Godshill 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.
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.
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.
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.
Carisbrooke Castle 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.
Newport ~ the central heart of the Island
Butterfly World ~ walk amongst hundreds of butterflies flying freely in a natural environment – magical! Fountain world, Italian and Japanese gardens with Koi ponds too.
Monkey Haven ~ award-winning charity primate rescue centre that makes animals & people happy!
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.
QUAY ARTS CENTRE ~ Small gallery exhibiting travelling shows that change regularly, café bar, music events.
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. PO31 7A
When you tire of watching the boats sail by, the charming pedestrianised High Street can supply that necessary piece of rope you need, a sailing top, artisan bread, cheese, wine, or souvenirs like driftwood mirrors, locally produced chutneys, oils and jams, basketry, jewellery or nauticalia from the small shops which line the town’s quaint pedestrian street. Consider visiting the Heritage Museum or the Max Aitken Museum for small exhibitions. Or pop into one of the many quayside pubs.
Yarmouth ~ not far from Cowes is this boutique seaside town, with its own harbour & port. Visit Yarmouth Castle ruins (English Heritage) on Quay Street, 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 patio in Summer, plus the Conservatory restaurant. A few little boutiques, pubs and antiques shops may tempt you plus lots of lovely nature walks nearby.
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.
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. 01983 855397
Wellbeing classes and therapies available by appointment: Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong & Pilates plus other therapies.
Quarr Abbey, 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 an old 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.
The church, art gallery, book shop & grounds are open to visitors (but you can attend Services). A small art gallery displays works of local artists and their farm shop sells lots of the monk’s produce. Inside a walled garden, you'll discover a cafe with freshly prepared food, a tea garden & picnic area. There are lovely walks through the woods down to the beach. Don’t miss seeing all the healthy pigs & piglets!
Ryde ~ lots of quaint boutiques full of interesting souvenirs, toiletries, antiques, pubs & restaurants, plus the flagship shop of Liz Earle cosmetics. Ryde beach is huge at low tide, perfect for ball games & kite flying. The oldest pier in the UK (200 years) stretches half a mile long and still has its old railway running to the pier head to meet the ferries. Nearby is the IOW Bus & Coach museum, Addlestone Vineyard, Rosemary Vineyard and Isle of Wight Distillery (famous for IOW Gin).
Also not far away is the Butterfly Farm, an exquisite indoor garden world ponds, flowers and thousands of live butterflies to walk amongst.