The Isle of Wight is alright!
There's been something about this summer that has reminded me of my childhood holidays, much simpler times when getting in a car and setting off to the seaside for a short stay was all you could possibly want or dream about. The on-going travel restrictions and complexities have made many of us in the UK look to our own shores for our summer breaks. That included us.
Late May/early June we hopped on a train to Portsmouth and caught the Catamaran to Ryde on the Isle of Wight where our friends have a holiday home. There was something about catching that ferry and travelling across water that made it really feel as if we were properly travelling, rather than just a short hop from South London.
We hadn't booked anywhere for lunch, which was a mistake, as the Isle was very busy. So please do think to book ahead if there is somewhere specific where you want to eat. Eventually we found somewhere, but it wasn't great, they'd run out of crab, and even egg mayonnaise for our vegetarian host!
The afternoon got better when we visited Ventnor Botanic Garden billed as Britain's Hottest Garden, and walked the world in plants and trees. From the South African Terrace, to Australia and then New Zealand to the Japanese garden., the oriental terraces and then the Mediterranean garden. We also crossed the coastal path to get a look at the hops growing for the Botanic microbrewery. A selection of the ales were then purchased in the shop for later consumption, along with a packet of rare and exotic seeds to grow next year for our very own patch of subtropical paradise at home.
Our friends are very fit and enjoy lots of the islands activities; trail running (it's very hilly in places), sea swimming, cycling, paddle boarding, horse riding and kayaking. If you are looking for an active break, the Isle can certainly provide plenty of opportunity.
We are far more sedate, but enjoy a decent walk - especially if it's a circular one with a pub in the middle! So one of the days we did just that. We drove to Mottistone Manor and started on the Warrior Trail, a 6 mile circular walk. It gets it's name from the so-called invincible horse Warrior who survived some of the worst conflicts of WWI, and returned to the Isle safely. Dubbed the “Horse the Germans Could Not Kill” by the papers of the time he and his owner General Jack Seely are celebrated in the local church and Carrisbrooke Castle Museum. The route we took mostly followed the route where Warrior was exercised.
We peeked inside the church and then took the coastal path which yielded some spectacular views. Back inland a little, the woods around Badger Lane were beautiful - it was a bit of a steep walk to the top, but really worth it. It was quite a hot day, so we diverted to the Sun Inn at Hulverstone for a spot of lunch and a cold drink. This is a quintessential English pub, complete with thatched roof.
After lunch we took a public footpath to see the Neolithical Longstone before completing the circuit back at Mottistone Manor. We had wanted to pop in, but like all attractions at the moment pre-booking is required.
Whilst our friends went for a sea-swim at Freshwater, we visited Dimbolla Lodge for a cup of tea and got to meet Jimi Hendrix who played the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. We followed that with a perfect G&T from the island's own Mermaid distillery served from a mobile bar.
A trip to Osborne was a 'must do' for me, once the holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it has beautiful grounds, gardens and its own beach. We bought tickets for the grounds only and loved seeing the gardeners planting the formal garden, the Swiss Chalet (exterior only - the interior was closed due to Covid) and the prince and princesses' gardens. Evidently Prince Albert would pay them for the produce they grew from their individual patches. We walked everywhere, but there is a little bus if your legs need a rest.
Photos from the Cadet Beach Club, Appley.
We enjoyed evening meals at the Boathouse and the Cadet Beach Club, both of which were walkable from where we stayed in Seaview. The former was very busy and struggled with service. We have eaten here before and it's been perfect, I think that this was was just a small glitch after re-opening. My friend particularly loves the option of gluten -free fish and chips that they offer. The latter restaurant had really interesting and delicious food, but do watch your bill - we were over-charged and have so far have been unable to resolve it with the restaurant despite many attempts.
On our final day we walked along the sandy beach to the Bembridge lifeboat station and even managed to collect some twisted driftwood for our friends' garden.
After blowing away the cobwebs we stopped for lunch at Baywatch on the Beach, a popular casual café where I had crab on chips with chili and a glass of chilled rose. The perfect end to a perfect few days break.
We found plenty to do; beautiful walks, excellent food, and even a relaxing facial in Liz Earle in Ryde. But the one message I have is - book ahead for everything! Maybe next year will be more normal.