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      26.05.2013 22:02
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      Great holiday destination in the south of England

      I love travelling, and like to explore new places and experience other cultures. However, I also like to holiday closer to home. As a child, I'd go on holiday with my family to various places in the south of England - Weston-Super-Mare, Bournemouth, Torquay - and always enjoyed myself. We never travelled abroad: we couldn't afford it, and my dad always said that it was important to get to know your own country before exploring others. Obviously I don't agree fully with this, but I do think he had a point, and this is one of the reasons why I looked into holidaying in the Isle of Wight last year. Another was a shortage of cash! During my childhood holidays, we didn't spend all our time lazing around on the beach: we went out and about, exploring the area and looking at castles and houses. I wanted to do the same, and the Isle of Wight's history and heritage appealed to me. The island is small enough so that you can stay in one area and easily reach the others. A car would come in handy to reach the more out of the way places, but I managed fine without one thanks to the decent network of buses and trains. *Getting There* The Isle of Wight is located off the south coast of England, near Southampton and Portsmouth. However you get there, you'll need to cross the water. If you have a car, you'll need to use the vehicle ferry going from Southampton to East Cowes, Portsmouth to Fishbourne or Lymingtom to Yarmouth. If you're on foot, you have more choice: you can use any of the above plus the Red Jet high speed service from Southampton to East Cowes, the Fast Cat service from Portsmouth to Ryde, or the hovercraft from Southsea (near Portsmouth) to Ryde. The journey can take anything up to 40 minutes; the quickest way is to take the hovercraft which takes only 10 minutes. This is what I did and I found it very exciting to travel by hovercraft! *Getting Around* If you don't have a car, there are still several ways to travel around the Isle of Wight. The Island Line runs using old Tube stock and covers the east coast of the island from Ryde to Shanklin. This also connects to the Steam Railway at Smallbrook Junction, but this is more of a heritage service than a useful transport link. Tour buses run from Ryde to Alum Bay (there and back once per day), round the centre of the island from Ryde, and around the Needles. There is also a network of standard buses helping you get around. A great thing is that a ticket for the standard bus network is also valid for the tour buses. I bought a 7-day ticket which I used extensively throughout the week. *Where to Stay* There are many options when staying on the Isle of Wight: Ryde - a Victorian seaside town. I chose this place to stay because it was where my hovercraft would land. The town is a bit quiet but a decent place to base yourself and it offers good links to the rest of the island. Sandown - this seaside town didn't appeal to me very much as I thought it was rather run-down. However there is a decent beach and several attractions including the Isle of Wight Zoo and Dinosaur Isle, so it might be a good place to stay if you have kids. Shanklin - I loved this place and if I ever go back to the Isle of Wight I will stay here. It has a pretty beach but the main attraction for me is Shanklin Chine, a picturesque gorge with waterfall that you can walk down from the top of the cliff to the beach, and the Old Town, full of beautiful stone cottages and tea rooms. It also had an amazing ice cream parlour! Freshwater - this seaside town was made famous by Virginia Woolf and it is a beautiful place, but a bit out of the way. If you would prefer to relax and not do too much travelling about, this may be the place for you. Cowes/Yarmouth - these places are convenient for travelling as they have ferry links to the mainland. However, I think it's only worth staying here if you have an interest in yachts - in the case of Cowes in particular! Of course, there are many other places you could stay, including out-of-the-way cottages further to the centre of the island, and other small towns and villages. I've just named some of the more popular ones. *What to Do* I found plenty to occupy me during my week-long stay on the Isle of Wight. I haven't written too much here as I have reviewed most of the places I visited separately. Osborne House - this English Heritage-owned house was once the home of Queen Victoria and her family. It's a beautiful place and there are lots to see both indoors and out, including Victoria's private beach. Carisbrooke Castle - perched on a hill towards the centre of the island, Carisbrooke Castle is an impressive example of a fort. It is famous for being the place where Charles I was imprisoned after his defeat in the English Civil War. It's an exhausting walk to the top of the hill, but it's worth it as there is lots to explore in the castle, as well as adorable donkeys and a beautiful garden (oh, and a museum). Yarmouth Castle - in the town of Yarmouth, there isn't much to see but there are a few rooms to explore and lovely views of the Solent. Needles Old Battery and New Battery - at the westernmost point of the island overlooking the famous Needles, these two sites offer fascinating insights into coastal defences in the past. Bembridge Windmill - this listed windmill is a little gem, and still has most of its machinery intact: a fascinating exhibit. Isle of Wight Steam Railway - I enjoyed my ride on this railway; it seemed as though I was going back in time! The central station depot had a small museum and a tea room, and was a lovely place to relax. Alum Bay - this bay is home to the famous coloured sand of the Isle of Wight. There is a theme park here that kids would love, though I didn't spend much time in it. There are plenty of other places to visit which I haven't listed, including the Owl and Monkey Haven, Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight Zoo and Dinosaur Isle. Lots of these attractions are aimed at children, but there is plenty for adults to enjoy too. *Conclusion* I really enjoyed my holiday in the Isle of Wight. I think it would be a good place to go for a family holiday as there is lots to do, but as I've demonstrated there is a lot for adults to see as well. You can visit historical sites, go and see animals or simply enjoy one of the lovely beaches. If you are the energetic type, the cliff paths and rolling downs of the island would be perfect to explore. If you fancy looking closer to home for your summer holiday this year, consider the Isle of Wight! Useful websites: http://www.iwight.com/homepage/ http://www.islandbreaks.co.uk/ http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/places /find-a-place-to-visit/?findPlace=isle+of+wight http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysoutv/southeast/isleofwight/

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      • More +
        24.07.2011 00:42
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        Great for people of all ages :)

        I have a long history with the Isle of Wight . Although my first visit was at the tender age of one, my family connection goes back a lot further, as my Mum's mum and her family going back a few generations were natives of this lovely place. Mum and her sister were brought up in Gurnard and Cowes , and it was her Dad, and by then her Step-Mum, that we used to go and stay with in Cowes when I was a child. Now, it's me and my own family that visit, sadly now visiting graves rather than relatives, although we have managed to keep in touch with one of Mum's best friends from school. The Isle of Wight , for those who may not know, is situated south of Southampton and Portsmouth , and can be accessed via various forms of sea-going vessel from those ports and also Lymington , from where we took the car ferry this time, arriving at Yarmouth . Car ferries also serve the Southampton to East Cowes route, and Portsmouth to Fishbourne (just outside Ryde ). Journey time for each of these is between 30 - 50 minutes depending on route and traffic in the Solent. As a foot passenger, you would also have the options of the high speed catamaran services from Southampton to West Cowes , and Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde pier (roughly 20 minutes), not forgetting the exhilarating option of the hovercraft from Portsmouth Southsea to the Ryde beach terminal, which at under 10 minutes is by far the fastest and most fun way to arrive! Unfortunately they can't accommodate my other half's needs, so car ferry it is for us every time, not that I'm complaining as I love standing up on deck as we chug across, watching the sea birds and enjoying approaching the familiar skyline. We have had many holidays on the Island over the last few years. For most of them we have stayed at The Old Clubhouse at St Helen's , a wheelchair adapted National Trust property in the west of the Island, but on this occasion we had a change of scenery. For a week during the Easter holiday this year we installed ourselves in The Little Stables at Chessell Pottery , not far from Freshwater at the western point of the Island. It's a barn conversion, well, a stable conversion which sleeps six in three bedrooms, with The Old Stables next door sleeping 7. While it isn't at all advertised as wheelchair accessible, we rang and asked about various measurements around the cottage, and the owners were extremely helpful, to the point where we decided that it was safe to give it a go. While the door widths are fine, the interior is on a split level so we took our portable ramps with us (and our portable commode as well!), and with a spot of improvisation, we had a pretty successful stay. It's a well-equipped cottage, with central heating which was hugely appreciated even when we went - it can get surprisingly cold on the Island at Easter! It might be worth me saying at the outset that just prior to our visit in April, due to council cutbacks, all of the tourist information offices were closed, as well as the public toilets. One letter in the local paper very sensibly suggested that the home addresses of the councillors should be published so that people could knock on their doors and ask to use the loo when nature called. The tourist industry was bracing itself for an unnecessarily difficult time at the beginning of the season - a ridiculous situation for a place that relies so heavily on tourism for income, but there you go. There were still plenty of leaflets for individual attractions to be had in places such as supermarkets though, so still plenty of ideas to be had for visits! CHESSELL POTTERY Our first activity this year was to visit the pottery - having spent most of the previous day on the road, the last thing we wanted to do was get back in the van and traipse off on another trip. Our holiday came with a complimentary voucher to put against a session in the Pottery Cafe, decorating blank pieces which are then fired and can be collected later during your stay, or posted to your home if you prefer. Since this is the Island outpost of the Bridgewater Pottery , many of the blanks are their own pieces, which gives you some great shapes to work with. We all decorated something (the girls did a cereal bowl each, I did an egg cup, and my other half did a small wall-tile), and were able to collect them on the last day of our holiday. The pottery also has a gift shop, with a great range of pottery items, but also some really good craft kits for the kids, some very natty kites and construction kits, and a few Island guide books. It also had a tea room which at the time of our visit held the prize for best cream tea on the Isle of Wight - this is hotly contested each year so it remains to be seen who gets this year's title! Recommended as a half-day visit, and a great rainy day activity, but be ready to part with a fair bit of money if you want to decorate the pottery. SANDOWN / YAVERLAND It wasn't long before we gave in to the urge to visit our favourite stretch of beach, at Yaverland , which is just to the east of Sandown . There's a pay and display car park here, which is free for blue badge holders (this is true of most Island car parks in fact), and a kiosk selling ice creams, hot and cold drinks, and lovely rock cakes. The best bit though is the beach - and at Easter it's at its best for us. Freezing cold, and almost deserted apart from some hardy dog-walkers and sea fishermen, it's beautiful on a sunny afternoon, and this time we saw (and heard) Common Terns swinging around the sky and diving into the sea for fish. The car park is quite a bit above sea level and there's quite a flight of steps to get down to the sand, but my other half's always quite happy to be left sitting 'up top' in peace, enjoying looking out to sea and watching the ferries and cargo ships moving around in the distance. THE ISLE OF WIGHT ZOO The car park is also convenient for the Isle of Wight Zoo at Sandown, so we did actually all get out of the van this time, and walked across to the zoo. It's a small but well-cared for place, specialising in lions, tigers and lemurs. Another attraction on the Island is Amazon World, also a zoo of sorts but always feels big on novelty effect and not so hot on space (I hope it's improved on that count - we visited twice on consecutive years and decided not to bother again). The Zoo, on the other hand, I feel quite sensibly has a limited range of animals, all of whom seem to have good wandering space. The animals also look happy and in very good condition. There are feeding times and talks posted on a board at the front so that you can plan your visit around these if you wish, and a new cafe building which is very welcome as it can get a bit windy, being right on the coast! The food is very good - we had an Angus burger each which knocked Burger King's version into a cocked hat :) SEAVIEW WILDLIFE ENCOUNTER Our favourite animal park-type visit is Seaview Wildlife Encounter (formerly Flamingo Park), which is located near Ryde. As we were at the other end this year, we didn't make it to Seaview, but it is a wonderful day out, with penguins, all sorts of rare and interesting birds both outdoors in aviaries, or indoors in a specially constructed tropical house. There is also a large paddock that you can walk through with wallabies, our kids love stroking them and they've often got little ones when we visit at Easter so there's a very high cute factor! It's located on the side of a hill so parts of the site are on a bit of an incline, but not so much that you can't get a wheelchair up the hill with a bit of effort. We've happily spent a lovely relaxing day there on many occasions, and the cafe's been good, serving a good range of decent basic fare. ROBIN HILL We decided on this trip to try a theme park - there are a couple on the Isle of Wight, with the most famous probably being Blackgang Chine, but we went to Robin Hill Adventure Park and Gardens. We thought that it would be a pretty safe bet as it advertises itself as having everything from fun park rides to falconry displays, with woodland walks and Roman history thrown in. There are a lot of rides dotted around, including Pirate Ship etc at the top of the park, and a simulator ride that our youngest fancied trying. Further down there's an adventure playground, and on the way back up the other side there are further play areas, one for younger and one for older kids. There's a toboggan run too! In fact, what we didn't fully take in was the 'Hill' part of the name - it is very steep in places, and I was a bit worried about my husband attempting some of the inclines. There's very little likelihood of someone in a manual wheelchair getting around here comfortably - well, put it this way, even when I was younger and fitter I wouldn't have attempted to try pushing Ian around here! He managed, with us hanging onto the back, to get down the slopes ok with his powered-wheelchair, and getting back up wasn't quite so hard thankfully. The attractions are spaced well around the park, with a cafe and loo block very near the entrance which we found very helpful as we got lost trying to find the place! The gardens were very decorative and well-maintained. Bearing in mind we were there pretty early in the growing season, I should think it's fairly spectacular in later spring and summer. We mainly toured around on this visit, and didn't take full advantage of all of the attractions on offer, although the girls spent a happy half hour in the huge adventure playground right at the bottom of the hill. There is a tractor train available to haul you back up if you're too tired to walk it, but it is very popular, and many people had to wait for the next rotation. The forest walk is beautiful, the bluebells were out while we were there, and we also very much appreciated the sculpture trail which few people seemed to be bothering to look at (nice to have it to ourselves though!) If you have a go on everything that is laid on here you could easily spend the day here and still not have done everything, I suspect. Oh, and by the way, it's the location for the famous 'Bestival' music festivals in September :) At the time of our stay, Robin Hill's admission price included a return visit within the week, as did our next destination... CALBOURNE MILL After all of that excitement, Calbourne Mill, very close to where we were staying, was the perfect antidote. It's a preserved water-wheel driven flour mill. Ian didn't come with us as he needed to rest out of his wheelchair, so I took the girls to visit a mill that I was taken to by my Mum many years before. My only memory of that trip was getting soaked waiting for the bus to go back! This time, we had our own transport, which was just as well as like many other routes on the Island, the old bus service is no more. Having paid our entrance at the ticket office, we were immediately greeted by one of Calbourne's many beautiful peacocks in full display mode. The main route into the site is very unsuitable for wheelchairs due to the amount of steps, however there is a vehicle access route round the back of the ticket office which is opened for anyone needing a flat route round, and this takes you right to the middle of the site. The mill is regularly run, unfortunately this time we couldn't stay long enough to watch. If memory serves it was due to be mid to late afternoon. It's a mechanical geek's dream, this place - you can (if you're feeling adventurous) clamber up and down the wooden ladder steps all over the old mill building examining the machinery, and if that's not enough there are further buildings to explore, for example a fire station with a vintage fire engine in it, and a second world war display with aircraft relics, which was still under construction during our visit but was looking very good already. If you're into sheds full of machinery and old bits & bobs though, the pieces de la resistance are a bit further on - one large store of historical household goods, from trivets to washing machines and refrigerators, and further on a massive long shed full of carts, farm machinery, and an old steam engine. There's also a short woodland walk up the hill behind the sheds which our youngest dragged us up, and a cafe and small shop, which have the added novelty of a section of transparent plastic roofing that you can, if you wish, sit under and enjoy watching the peacocks' feet marching about above you while you enjoy your cuppa and cakes! It's a lovely way to spend probably half a day, I'd recommend checking which end of the day that the mill's working so that you're there to see it. CARISBROOKE CASTLE One place that we had previously visited and the kids wanted to see again was Carisbrooke Castle, just outside Newport . Owned and maintained by English Heritage, the origins of the present castle date back as far as the 1100's. It's an imposing 'proper' stone castle, with walls and a keep that you can clamber all over and explore, with great views to be seen - be careful on breezy days though as it can get a bit hairy going up to the keep! There are some complete buildings within the walls that are open to view too, in particular the Carisbrooke Museum, which houses items from throughout the castle's long history. Charles the First was imprisoned here after the Civil War, and there is memorabilia relating to this, and also from a much later era when Princess Beatrice, daughter of Queen Victoria, made Carisbrooke her summer home. The newly-designed Edwardian style Princess Beatrice garden is open to visitors, and we enjoyed walking round and taking notes for possible plans for our own garden one day. Since it was still early spring it wasn't at its full glory, I'd love to see what it looks like now! It wasn't until some weeks later that I found out that it was designed by Chris Beardshaw of Flying Gardener fame. Carisbrooke is also well-known for its Elizabethan well-house where donkeys still draw the water from the well by being walked in the big wooden wheel - often their human 'carers' walk the bucket up with them. They give demonstrations, donkeys permitting, hourly during the day. You can also meet the donkeys in their stalls when they're off duty. Also well worth a look-in is the chapel, which is a peaceful place to spend a few minutes if you wish. Carisbrooke is a lovely place to spend a good part of a day, if you're up for exploring the whole site. There is a lovely cafe which is wheelchair accessible, and a well-stocked shop (which, dangerously for gardeners, also occasionally has a plant section). There is disabled parking on the road almost opposite the main gate, and a large car park a little further round the corner. FORT VICTORIA Another regular visit for us is Fort Victoria near Yarmouth. It was commissioned by Prince Albert (hence the name), and you can walk around the top of this structure and enjoy the view across the Solent back to the mainland, as well as enjoy the various displays that are housed inside it. There's an aquarium, a small planetarium, a marine archaeology of the Solent exhibition, a cafe (serving lovely cakes, as well as simple but very satisfying meals), and a massive indoor model railway layout. There are also loos, but no separate one for wheelchair users so for anyone caring for their spouse, it's dive into the ladies or gents and hope no-one minds time! Each of the attractions has an entrance charge, but once you've paid for the first, if you show your ticket to any others that you enter, you get a reduced ticket price. We've been coming here for many years, and it's pretty much stayed the same throughout, but we felt that maybe it could do with a bit of updating and improving here and there. That said, it's still worth a family visit as it has good educational potential, and also a pebble beach (and cake!) OTHER FAVOURITE PLACES Last but not least - the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and Brading Roman Villa . Both favourite destinations of ours, but ones that we didn't make this time due to time and location. The railway's primary station is located at Havenstreet , and is well signposted from Ryde. It runs from Easter weekend normally each year, and is a beautiful route to travel. The preserved steam railway also links up with the Island's remaining mainline train service at Smallbrook Junction, so it is possible to buy a ticket to travel the length of both, as far as I know. At Havenstreet, you can enjoy the lovely food in the restaurant, the kids can let off steam in the play area, nature lovers can enjoy the woodland walk, and everyone can. have a rummage around the large shop, and have an admire of the engines in the yard. Brading Roman Villa is further south, past Bembridge and on the way to Sandown , and is a beautifully preserved floor of a large Roman villa, housed in a purpose-built wooden structure. It's a bit chilly in there but it's a great place to get to for anyone who's a history enthusiast - there are displays all around the building, it's possible to see the preserved remains in great detail, and there is also a replica Roman garden outside, along with a small well house. It has a well-stocked shop and a lovely restaurant with views out across the fields. summing up... The Isle of Wight is often advertised as ideal for walking and cycling holidays, which it undoubtedly is - it's a beautiful place, it's like Britain in miniature, and I've really only scratched the surface here. With it being such a small place, it doesn't really take too long to get anywhere, although it does get extremely busy during Cowes week, in the first week of August - a great sailing extravaganza. You're never far from the sea wherever you go! We're limited to places that we can get my husband to, so most of our itinerary is car (or in our case van) based, but there are heaps of walks signposted all over the Island. It is one of our favourite places, and despite our children now being 14 and 10 respectively, they still love visiting as much as they did when they were little, and always look forward to returning. Isle of Wight, we will be back!

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          13.03.2010 18:31
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          I would recommend nowhere over a visit to the Isle of Wight, it's a fantastic place.

          The Isle of Wight is somewhere I find difficult to stay away from! Situated near to the Portsmouth coast, the Isle of Wight is a surprisingly large island with many spectacular views and scenery. You can reach the Island from Portsmouth and Southampton using either a ferry or a hovercraft (the only place in the country to have hovercrafts in active service). These go to Yarmouth, Cowes and Ryde on the Island. The main towns on the Isle of Wight are Ryde, Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor which stretch from the North-East part of the island, down the East coast to the South-East. Newport is situated roughly in the middle of the island, with Cowes just above. The far South and Western parts are far less populated with just Yarmouth found in the North West part of the island which can be considered a town, despite being very small. Transport around the island is excellent. The bus company, Southern Vectis, run regular services to almost every area of the island and there's also the Island Line train service that runs between Ryde and Shanklin. The island features many tourist attractions such as theme parks and zoos, but it is also good for a more quiet stay with breathtaking walks found all over the island, but from my experience, especially along the South coast. One particular walk near the Needles (in the West) lets you see right across the island, with sea surrounding you on three sides. The island has so much to offer and many things to do for all ages and tastes. One tip for accommodation is the Travelodge in Newport. I have stayed here a few times and aside from always being clean and tidy, you can get rooms for £9-29 per night if you book in advance, which saves a small fortune compared to other places. If you fancy a non-overseas holiday in England, I would recommend nowhere over the Isle of Wight.

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          03.12.2009 11:02
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          Rather than go on about the thousands of places that there are to visit on the Isle of Wight, I thought I'd base my review on the 'Seven Wonders' of the Isle of Wight. The people of the Isle of Wight are quite proud of their wonders - that is if you are to believe the countless postcards, tea towels and other souvenirs with them emblazoned accross! There is some debate though as to how many there are, some say six, some say seven and some say eight. However, in accordance with the wonders of the world, I've always believed there were seven and here they are: 1. Cowes - you cannot milk Is a small town at the top of the island where the famous Red Funnel passenger and car ferries dock. It is split into two parts (Cowes and East Cowes) by the River Medina. It's a lovely, sleepy little town with a big focus on the sailing community. It absolutely comes alive though during Cowes Week - the world famous sailing meeting that brings in enthusiasts and celebrities in their droves. It's a fabulous time to be there, but book early and don't be surprised by significant price hikes. 2. Needles - you cannot thread The needles are a series of three brilliant white rocks on the Western-most point of the Island. An unlikely tourist attraction, they have become very popular and as a result have become the basis for the Needles theme park. Here you'll find all manner of tourist traps including a fairground, a glass blowing exhibit, a sweet making factory, crazy golf, arcades and the sand art shop. The sand art shop is a popular place where you pick a glass container (available in every shape you can imagine) and you fill it withthe different coloured sands. It makes a very popular, if not a little tacky, souvenir. Also, you'll find a rather decrepit-looking cable car that will take you down to the beach for even better views of the needles away from the chaos of the theme park. 3. Newport - you cannot bottle Newport is the Isle of Wight's county town and is located at the end of the River Medina, at the centre of the Island. Here you'll find all the usual things you'd expect to see a typical city centre - shops, restaurants, businesses and clubs. There's also a fairly new cinema and entertainment complex. Parkhurst (a suburb of Newport) is home to three prisons: Parkhurst Prison (the most famous), Camp Hill, and Albany. Parkhurst and Albany were once amongst the few top-security prisons in the United Kingdom. 4. Freshwater - you cannot drink Once home to the Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson, Freshwater is a small village formed around Freshwater Bay, near the needles. There are a few things of interest in the village. These include the Old Battery - a Victorian port and rocket testing site during WW2. There is an interesting little museum here that is free to enter. Also, at low tide you can actually see dinosaur footprints at Compton Bay. Finally, nearby Afton Down, was the location for the 1970 Isle of Wight festival. 5. Ryde - where you walk Ryde is the Isle of Wight's equivalent to Blackpool, in my opinion. It's the most populous are in the Isle of Wight and is home to a one of the oldest and longest piers in Britain. You can connect to the mainland via hoverraft from Ryde to Portsmouth. Entertainment wise, there is plenty on offer in Ryde; there are five street carnivals each year; the ice rink is home to the Island's hockey team; and there are also theatres, restaurants, arcades and nightlife-a-plenty. 6. Lake - where you walk and stay dry Unfortunately, there isn't much to say about this tiny village near Sandown Bay at the bottom of the Island. In fact, it's probably only on the list thanks to its name! 7. Newtown - that is very old Another very small place (a hamlet in fact) that was probably founded around the time of the Norman Conquest. There is a legend about a piper, very similar to the Pied Piper of Hamlin who had to lure the village rats into sea. When he wasn't paid by the villagers, he lured all the children away, resulting in a loss of a generation and the demise of Newtown! Some of them, as you can see are very tenuous to say the least, but it is all meant as a little bit of fun for the tourist market. All joking aside though, this list isn't a bad place to start if you're considering where to visit during a visit to the Island. All of them have their own quirks and attractions and all make great destinations.

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            04.04.2009 13:31
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            A great place

            The Isle of Wight........ Fancy a short break away where you don't have to travel too far? Well the Isle of Wight is surely the place to go! It is only a 50 minute car ferry ride or a 15 minute Hovercraft ride from Portsmouth but when you arrive you will feel like you have travelled for over 50 year, back in time! The Isle of Wight, also known as "The Garden Isle" feels like a sanctuary from the modern world of "The Mainland". With no motorways and not much hussle and bussle it really is the perfect place the relax and unwind and I must say, for me, the perfect place to live. There really is so much to see and to do on the island that any short break here will be packed full of activities. Every thing is in close proximity compared with the mainland as it pretty much won't take longer than half an hour to get to any where on the island. The main attraction of the island has got to be the glorious beaches that are best enjoyed peak summer. Sandown, Ryde and Shanklin are all lovely beach towns where you can enjoy the wonderful golden sandy beaches which are all a stones throw from the town centres. In the towns you will find enough shops to keep you busy from the supermarkets to souvenir shops. Attractions on the island also include the Zoo, Amazon World (where tropical animals can be found), The Roman Villa, The needles Pleasure park, Wax Work museum, Blackgang Chine and so many more. Blackgang is a particular favourite of mine and can be found on the west side of the island. It it open in the spring and is a real family fun day out. It focuses around the smugglers that were often common place back in the days on the shores of Blackgang and at the park you will find a whole host of things to keep children and adults alike entertained. There are also plenty of lovely walks that can be tackled around the island from short 2 mile round routes to 15 miles for the more adventurous of walkers. All walks have wonderful views of the luscious countryside and wildlife for which the island is so very famous for. On the island you can really enjoy the back to nature aspect of living and make your stay as remote as you like. There are so many areas where you can walk for miles without coming across anyone and this for me is another really nice aspect, of having the feeling of peace and tranquillity. I think the island has so much to offer for both young and old and would make the perfect holiday destination for so many. There are plenty of hotels to choose from in so many different towns that visitors are spoilt for choice. All in all I think the Isle of Wight has got to be given a five star rating and an exceptionally high recommendation. I love living here and feel very privileged every day. I am not sure I could cope with the busyness of the mainland on a daily basis and enjoy my country walks too much to ever move away. Come and visit the Isle of Wight and I assure you, you will not be disappointed. I do hope this has been of some help to you. Thank you for taking the time to read.

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              09.10.2008 19:52
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              need to see it to believe the beauty

              i used to visit family at portsmouth and regularly visited the isle of wight,we travelled there by catamaran,it was a choice of that or hover craft. once setting foot on the island it felt like another world,it was stunning and so picturesque,it reminded me of a picture on a postcard and i found it to be the most peacefull place ive ever come accross almost heavenly,it has clifftops where you can view the beech below and lookout for miles,there is a train that takes you to all the different places on the island,which was so handy as we would spend the whole day there.shanklin will always be my favourite really enjoy it there. there are quaint little shops and tea rooms all over the island where you can get refreshments while looking at the stunning scenery.and the water is so clean and clear,with its sandy beeches. there is also a huge amount of history which is soon apparent while traveling round,we came accross a roman village which still has a villa where they have unearthed a mosaic tiled floor and found lots of relics from roman times. the isle of wight is a place i would like to retire to and enjoy the surroundings a my leisure as im sure there are loads more places there im yet to visit and enjoy the splendour of.

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                06.10.2008 15:09
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                You have to visit to understand the attraction

                If I could pick one place to spend the rest of my life it would be the Isle of Wight. It is just the most beautiful, peaceful place I have ever visited. When you step off the ferry you honestly feel like you have gone back in time to a simpler much more relaxed existence. Having holidayed on the island every year of my life since I was 4 [I am now 27] and having spent a summer working in Gurnard, I plan to move here with my family over the next seven years. I cannot think of a more perfect place to bring up children, there is loads to keep them entertained whilst being very safe. Free entertainment is in abundance on the Island if you like walking as they have hundreds of public footpaths. The Island also has a rich cultural history with some of the greatest artists, writers and musicians living and holidaying there. All in all it is a little island paradise protected from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

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                  18.09.2008 18:40
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                  My homeland of choice!

                  I have to confess to being slightly biased on this subject as I have spent most of my life on this Island, mainly leaving for work and education. The Island has has many beautiful unspoilt beaches and you are rarely more than a fifteen minute drive from one of them! The best of the beaches are on the south of the Island and this is where you wil find the most 'touristy' areas such as Sandown and Shanklin. Ryde, however on the North East also has a great beach and has a real holiday feel to the town with seafront cafes and amusement arcades........oh and those ever so tacky but truley british gift shops full of tat ;-) For a small Island there is a lot to do for both residents and visitors. We have an ice rink, multiplex cinema, zoos and theme parks. That is not to mention the stunning countryside and hundreds of miles of beautiful country walks. I can highly recommend the coastal walk along the cliff tops on the south of the Island, especially if you time it in with the sunset, truly stunning! Accomodation wise there are plenty of campsites and caravan parks. There are also plentiful b&b's and hotels, all giving that personal touch with a warm island welcome! The main downside to the Island is the cost of getting here! It is always a hot topic of debate for islanders as I believe the Solent to be the most expensive stretch of water to cross in the world! Our local MP has even been lobbying in parliament for the government to intervene! In the height of the summer season you can get flights to places like Spain cheaper than a ferry to the island! I would recommend keeping an eye out for special offers and comparing the two main companies (Red Funnel and Wightlink) as the cost between the two can be quite substantial! You also get discounts for booking online so this is wel worth doing. Another downside of the Island is salaries as they tend to be quite a bit lower than our main town counterparts the other side of the water. You are also restricted on choice on jobs. I myself have just moved back after a three year stint working on the mainland and do still work for a mainland firm! Overall the island is a great place to grow up, live and retire! It seems to act like a magnet as every time I move away I seem to be drawn back! We have quite a laid back way of life over here and most people are charming and friendly (yes, we do have yobs and hoodies like everywhere else lol). We are very proud of our Island and you won't have to travel far over here to find out the Wight delights for yourself!

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                    15.04.2008 01:10
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                    Worth a visit, even if just a short break

                    I have visited the Isle of Wight numerous times, and find it a delightful place. The Island is situated in the English Channel, just a few miles from Southampton and Lymington on the south coast. Around half of the Isle of Wight is designated as an Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, so there is no shortage of areas to walk, cycle or ride a horse along. The whole island has a feeling of peace and quiet and is a superb location for a holiday break. The main towns in the island are Newport, which is situated in the centre of the Isle of Wight, Yarmouth to the west, Cowes to the north, Ryde and Bembridge to the east and Ventnor to the south. There are no cities on the island, but Newport is the largest town. Travelling around the island is quite easy, you can of course take your car on the ferries, but public transport around the island is very good. Some buses to the main routes run on a 24 hour service, and there is very good provision for tourists. Ferries are also very frequent, so you needn't worry about times and crossings too much. There is also a train line (called the Island Line) which operates, although much of the line has been removed over the years due to the cuts in the railways. The trains are amazing as they are formerly London Underground trains, and they are over 70 years old! Although the line is run as a regular scheduled service, it does feel quite quaint, but the countryside it travels through is beautiful. There is also an Isle of Wight steam railway, which was formerly part of the island's main rail service. This traditional old route runs from Ashey to Wootton and is linked to the Island Line. Although this service is only five miles long, it does make a good day out if you visit the towns at either end of the line as well, especially if the weather is good. Some highlights that I'd advise you might want to visit. Carisbrooke Castle is operated by English Heritage, and is where Charles 1 was held in exile and imprisoned. My memory of the visit is the wheel which was operated by donkeys. Entry is just over five pounds. The only unfortunate piece of news about the castle is that on my visit they had suffered from some vandalism of benches the night before which had been destroyed. Another house famous for its royal connections is Osborne House, formerly the home of Queen Victoria. Although Victoria found it a home from home, after her death, King Edward VII was not as eager to maintain it, and it was given to the nation. Today the house and gardens are also operated by English Heritage, although they are a bit expensive as it costs ten pounds to get in. Children five pounds, but they are likely to enjoy Swiss Cottage, which is a real cottage which was transported from Switzerland for Queen Victoria's children to play in. I like visiting historic houses, which is fortunate as there is another English Heritage property on the island, Yarmouth Castle. Entry costs just 3.50 pounds, and the castle is a remnant of the prpotections Henry VIII put up to protect the country from invasion. There is a museum display inside the castle and good views. There is a long history of occupation on the island, as can be seen at Brading Roman Villa, where there are mosaics and a good visitor centre. I've visited this location twice, and there are also nice gardens to look round. The site had remained forgotten about until the late nineteenth century when a farmer was building a sheep pen! Another worthwhile visit is the Isle of Wight Zoo, situated near Sandown. Entry price is quite reasonable, under six pounds for entry. They have collections which are mainly primates and big cats, but they also have other animals and a good reptile display. Good for the children, and they do an offer of entry for two adults and two children at under twenty pounds. If you like music festivals, there is a famous festival each year, this year (2008) the Isle of Wight Festival is held in June, and has a good range of headline bands already booked to play. The event is always quickly booked up though, so you have to plan this early on. As the island is of course surrounded by water and cliffs, there are some amazing views. Although I haven't yet, it'd be a great adventure to walk around the island, and there is a coastal footpath to let you do just that. The most famous view though is the Needles, which are the most westerly point on the island. These are three enormous chalk stacks which come out from the sea, with a lighthouse to protect ships from hitting the rocks. They are called the Needles because long ago there were four chalk stacks, one in the shape of the needle, and although this has collapsed and the others look nothing like needles, the name has remained! The island has over 130,000 residents, and has long since been independent. It was formerly part of Hampshire, but is now a separate authority. It only sends one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons as they didn't want to split the island and share an MP with the mainland. Overall, definitely worth a visit. Lots to see, and there is so much open space that you can either get away from it all, but still be near a good selection of towns, never be far from the sea and most of all, get some peace and quiet!

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                      24.07.2007 19:36
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                      If you haven't been before, I suggest that this becomes one of your priorities for a British Holiday

                      Wow!! This just about sums up my thoughts and feelings about this lovely island, which is one of my favourite places in Britain. My love for the island started as a child when my family went frequently to the island for summer holidays. Since then, I've visited as an adult and the charm is still there. To be honest, I probably appreciate the island more now. Last year, I visited twice and I am due to go to the island again in August with my family for our Summer holiday. I can't wait to introduce my 3 month old daughter to the island!! When my mother in law visited with us last year, she seemed to think the island was even nicer than her homeland of Guernsey and believe me, that's some compliment!! So what makes the island so special?? It is incredibly easy to travel to the island by ferry, although the fares are very expensive considering the short amount of water to cross. Red Funnel offer ferries from Southampton (approximately a 50 minute journey)and Wightlink travel from Portsmouth and Lymington. Personally, I have found the red funnel fares to be cheaper, although the journey time out of the three routes is the longest. Travelling around the island is incredibly easy and the pace is quite layed back. There are no motorways, but all areas are easily accesible and signs are good and easy to follow. Even the furthest stretch from one end of the island to the other will only take an hour or two, at a relaxed driving speed. The landscape of the island is spectacular. The beaches are clean and there are plenty to choose from. Busier resorts, such as Shanklin and Sandown, are great for kids and there are also quieter beaches to be found. The cliffs and hills offer breathtaking views of the Solvent. There are lots of chines and coves to explore. The island has numerous visitor attractions and almost every crossroad or road turning will point you in the direction of a visitor attraction, which are well signed using the brown signs. There simply is too many to mention, but the attractions include: a donkey sanctuary (which is free to visit!!), the village of Godshill, which is pretty in itself, but also has a model village, a steam railway, an aquarium, blackgang chine (a themed activity attraction - great for under 10's), a zoo and various other wildlife attractions, Osbourne House (Queen Victoria's holiday home), Bembridge lifeboat station, the Needles lighthouse, Cowes yachting harbour, Shanklin chine, Brading wax works and many many more. Also, there are many towns and villages to explore. Sometimes, it is hard to believe that a little island can offer so much and there is no way you can fit it all into a week. In addition to the many attractions, the island also offers a range of accomodation options (caravan sites, camping, holiday cottages, hotels, guesthouses), many pubs, restaurants and amusement arcades. You will also find shops ranging from larger stores and supermarkets to more traditional quaint gift shops. Personally, I prefer self catering holidays, as they offer more freedom to explore the island. Homes from Home holidays offer a good range of holiday cottages at very reasonable prices (they have a website) and my personal recommendation if you're travelling as a couple is 'The Crow's Nest', a small chalet type buliding, small and cosy, perched on the edge of Culver Cliff, with specatcular views!!

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                        20.04.2007 15:35
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                        better than expected

                        myslef, my partner and her 2 children who are aged 7 and 12 had a weekend break at lower hyde on the isle of wight during easter. we had a great time, the staff from the moment we arrived until the moment we left were all so friendly and professional, always smiling and saying hello. the kids club was great, jake and sam had so much fun. the facilities were always clean and tidy Our caravan was a bronze 2 bedroom in an area called appley, again this was clean and comfortable and good value for money. we will be visiting again later this year it was so good.

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                          03.02.2007 17:20
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                          Wonderful place to visit, definately recommend it.

                          Well what can I say, the Isle of Wight is such a lovely place to visit. I am originally from London, but have lived on the Island for the past 8 years. I came to the Island for holidays with my parents ever since I can remember, and as a child I had a great time. There is so much to do here if you have children, or if you are child free it is also a great place to visit. There are some lovely walks ranging in distance, which are great for kids or adults. There are some great cycle tracks too. There are a few places here where you can hire bicycles for your holiday if you wish. The pace of life here is much slower than any other place I know, which if you are on holiday is just what you need. There are some great places to eat, but my favourite has to be The Culver Haven pub on the Culver cliff in Sandown. There is a lovely walk to get to it, and the view as you eat is superb. The only down side to coming to the Isle of Wight for me has to be the fare they charge you to cross the Solent on the ferry!! It is extortionate!! Especially at peak times of the year. It is cheaper if you travel over at night, and I have found that Red funnel are cheaper than Wightlink, so bare that in mind. All in all I rate the Isle of Wight very highly, and would definately recommend you to visit.

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                            08.10.2006 12:18
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                            NEVER AGAIN !!!

                            oh my god ! we went to lower hyde holiday park for a week (owned by park resorts). on first arrival we thought it didn't look too bad, if maybe a little small and dated. as it was too early to collect the keys we decided to go for a drink first.this is where reality started to hit home. the bar was tiny and when i say tiny i really do mean tiny. there are windows in the bar that look into the indoor pool.(ha ha ha ). the pool is not a pool it is more like a kiddies paddling pool, i am not joking it holds a maximum of 20 people but you can't swim in it as it is no deeper than 2 ft. how they can advertise it as an indoor pool i will never know ! the caravan was clean and tidy so that wasn,t a problem ,(or so we thought ). every thing seemed to be going fine until about 11pm , we where sat watching the tv when i decided i fancied a cup of tea , so i put the kettle on, off goes all the electric ! we then tried to find the fuse box in the dark ! when i found it all of the trips where still on which meant the problem was in the main tripbox outside of the caravan. so i went to reception CLOSED !!! i then managed to speak to a member of security who said he would send someone to the caravan, and to be fair they got there very quickly. i was then told if i tried to use the kettle while the tv and the lights where on i would be overloading the power which is why it would keep on triping out !! strange that because every other holiday we have been on this has never been a problem . the next morning my 2 boys wanted to go and play in the football court. they went off but where back within 5 minutes saying that it was too full and they couldn't get on, this seemed strange as the park was virtually empty. but when we got there it was overrun with teenagers. and they obviously weren't on holiday , we spoke to reception who said that it was difficult to tell who was on holiday and who wasn't !! didn't the fact that they where nearly all wearing jackets from a local youth football team give it away !!!!! we decided to spend as much time as possible off site. the only thing we found to do was go to blackgang chine which the kids really loved. great day out and you can return for free within 5 days if you keep your ticket. we then went into town one day and that must have filled up about 45 mins !!! by the time we got to the thursday we had all had enough and wanted to come home, but decided to try and stick it out as the ferry was booked for the saturday. on the friday we went out and had a look around the old town , at this point my youngest son fell on some uneven cobbles, now he isn't one to moan but his words were "this really is the isle of crap "! when i looked at him a couple of minutes later the tears were streaming down his face and he was trying so hard to stop himself from crying. my husband then went to talk to him and my son then said "please dad i just want to go home " at this point my husband said we are going now. my son was 10 years old at the time and believe me he is no wimp and a big boy but he just couldn't take anymore. we got back to the caravan at about 1.30pm and were on the 3.00 ferry ! the best bit of the holiday was the ferry ride home !!!! i can honestly say i would never ever go back there again, in fact we all felt so dissappointed that we booked to go to devon cliffs for a weekend 3 weeks later to get over it !!! in the weekend at devon cliffs we had more fun in the entire week at lower hyde.

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                              13.09.2006 11:37
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                              If your on the isle of wight you must visit Amazon world.

                              On each of our visits to the Isle of wight we have always taken a trip to the Amazon World. Amazon World is on the Isle of wight and is very easy to find as they have good sign posting to tourists attractions. They are situated on the A3056 opposite the 'Fighting Cocks Roadhouse' between Newport and Sandown. You can also get a bus from Sandown or Newport Route 3B. Or why not book a Taxi if you phone in advance they can do a round trip for a set price, my parents used this on their last trip. They are open from 10am all year round and close approx 5pm, check boards on the way in. Don't expect to spend all day here we did the whole thing in about 3 hours but it was Quite when we went. Amazon World is set in a large air conditioned building, with some out doors areas. Amazon specialise in unusual animals. The design of the building is great which makes you feel like your in the Amazon with rocks, water falls, statues and more. Some of the statues look abit scary. The building is quite hot but each time we have been its not been too crowded so we could take our time. Amazon World has a wide selection of small to medium animals including small wild cats, Lots of different types of monkeys from around the world including the smallest type of monkey. Lots of rodents like Capybara, Porcupine, mice, rats, etc. Other animals include otters, Bats, Birds, Parrots, Racoons, Sloths,penguins. Reptiles includingTortoises , Lizards , Snakes,Turtles and Terrapins,chameleons,Crocodiles and Caiman. Plus lots of different types of fish and Amphibians. Don't forget the creepy crawly section (I will not for certain). Sorry you will not find any big animals like elephants but you will not be disappointed. Amazon world has lots going on including the following talks/Displays plus the keepers are always around to ask questions about any of the animals.The talks lasted about 20 minutes approx and we all found them very interesting and some of the comments are quit amusing. I got to hold a snake, it wasn't as bad as i thought it would be. I was not going to hold the spider they could keep that. My son liked the lizards and crazed us for days that he wanted one, you would be glad to here, that he settled for a hamster instead. The Falconry display was short and sweet not like some i have been to at larger zoo's but it was good display. Trading Post' gift shop: This shop was a nice and friendly with a countryside feel with all items relating to Amazon world but also craft items from the local area, i brought some lovely home-made soap. The shop was the ideal size for Amazon and was not too crowded. Prices were excellent because they has the cute novelty items as well as the expensive statues etc. You can also get some very unusual gifts here, amazon related. My children loved the play tunnels which go under the Anteater's enclosure, this enclosure also house's of small mammals too. In the tunnels they can see right into the cages behind glass bubbles.… The children enjoyed themselves and was never board once, my son is very talkative and interested in knowledge and there was plenty of keepers for him to ask questions and they all were friendly even if my son went on and on :) The Assault course was good for us adults as the children could run off some energy while we adults could sit down and relax. Unless your my husband who decided to have a go and nearly feel flat on his face. If i could give this attraction a rating i would say 7/10 because i feel that Amazon could make improvements. Some of the walkways were very narrow and if you did meet several people coming the other way it can feel a bit cramped. Other than that its my only fault.

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                                14.07.2005 18:38
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                                great stuff

                                we went to bembridge caravanning a couple of years ago and travelled round most of the island.we visited really old villages and found places off the beaten track just by turning off the main drag. one interesting sight was where a car park had fallen into the sea this however did not deter the resident ice cream man who just moved his van back a few more feet from the edge.old shanklin is an absolute must if you like olde worlde the houses and shops are all thatched and it is like stepping back in time.we managed to come across the oldest inn on the island at over 600 years old of course we were obliged to have a drink. this year we went back to the ryde just for a day as i wanted to go on a hovercraft it took about ten minutes we were able to take our pushbikes over for no extra cost however, the weather on the mainland was rotten when we got off the hovercraft in ryde the sun was shining we cycled round had a wander round the town and watched england playing against northern ireland we then made our way back to the hovercraft terminal. the hovercraft can only carry two bikes on any crossing so on our return journey as other passengers already had bikes we crossed on one sailing and our bikes came on a later one which was cool because there is a pub a couple of hundred yards from the hovercraft terminal which we sat in and watched our bikes coming to land it cost 12 pound return (april 2005) great day out!

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