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Isle of Wight, peaceful and calm island
Isle of Wight in General
Member Name: julwhite
Isle of Wight in General
Advantages: Lots to see, good mix of history and modern attractions
Disadvantages: Not good for those who don't like ferry travel!
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!
Summary: Worth a visit, even if just a short break
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