Isle of Wight, an uncommon place!
On the Isle of Wight these days there’s something groovy in the air. For decades this slab of rock anchored off Portsmouth was a magnet for family holidays, and it still has seaside kitsch by the bucket and spade. But now the proms and amusement arcades are framed by pockets of pure funkiness. A long-running music festival draws party-goers, just-caught seafood is served in kooky fishers’ cafes, and cool camping rules – here sites are dotted with yurts and vintage campervans. Yet still the isle’s principal appeal remains: a mild climate, myriad outdoorsy activities and a 25-mile shore lined with beaches, dramatic white cliffs and tranquil sand dunes.
Here’s our list of the reasons why you should head to the Isle of Wight on your next holiday.
These three head-turning spikes of chalk are around 30 metres high and pierce the Isle of Wight’s seascape just next to Alum Bay. Perched shyly behind the third of these jagged mounds is the red- and white-striped Needles Lighthouse, too. There was once a fourth shard, known as Lot’s Wife, which fell into the sea in 1764 and had the sharp, column-like appearance of a needle, which is where the remaining three shapes got their charming name. Take a boat trip for a closer look at these unique, natural works of art.
Perfect for long, windswept dog walks or even a horseback ride, the beaches on the Isle of Wight are many and beautiful. From the sweeping curve of Whitecliff Bay to the pleasant Englishness of Sundown Pier and the tumbledown charm of Steephill Cove, there is fresh air and crashing waves galore on this pretty island.
Whether it’s smooth jazz, club classics, live poetry or yoga workshops that float your ferry, you can catch one across from the mainland to one of this island’s renowned music and arts festivals. There’s the legendary Bestival, one of the most creative and unique festivals in Britain, every year proposing an immense program made of music, comedy, theater, circus and art at the castle of Lulworth.
Or the sparkling Isle of Wight Festival, the longest running music festival in the United Kingdom, born in 1968, and remains one of the most famous in Europe. Every year it attracts about 90,000 music fans to the island for a weekend with rock stars, the great artists of underground dance. Among the big names that have performed on his revered main stage can be Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and The Who.
As well as the quirky Eklectika which showcases electronic, dance and pop acts big and small, and beyond the music, festival-goers will be able to immerse themselves in Eklectica’s diverse, quirky and creative mix of circus, poetry, comedy, art and more.
This peculiar hexagonal tower, otherwise known as St Catherine’s Oratory, could be straight out of a fairy tale. It is the remains of England’s only surviving medieval lighthouse, dating back to 1314. The story goes that wealthy landowner Walter de Godeton came into possession of some stolen wine (174 casks, to be exact) which had been on its way to France in a ship that ran aground. The Catholic Church was unimpressed, so as penance, Walter built a lighthouse where a priest would pray for sailors wrecked on the treacherous rocks below.
One of this island’s biggest appeals is, of course, its coastline. And while sandy and shingle beaches make for a glorious walk come rain or shine, the Isle of Wights cliffs offer jaw-dropping views not to be missed. Take a walk across Bembridge and Culver Downs (the second of these chalk cliffs takes its name from the old English word for ‘dove’.) A gulp of sea air and marvellous views make this an unforgettable stroll.
What could be more British than the sight of a cosy cottage with a pretty thatched roof? Wander round almost any corner of the Isle of Wight, and you’ll find postcard-perfect homes with colourful gardens just waiting to bring your Instagram feed some old-fashioned charm.
There’s a hearty array of eateries dotted across this verdant island to please the snobbiest foodie and fussiest five-year-old in one go. Try The Three Buoys for some classic dishes, served with a chic modern touch, or look out for the Royal Isle of Wight Society’s Wight Marque logo so you know your produce is locally made.
THE OLDEST PASSENGER TRAIN IN THE UK
Vintage trains from the real London Underground and dating back to 1938 still run along Ryde seafront and pier. With the old-school ‘mind the gap’ signs on the trains and platform edge, it’s a pleasant trip down memory lane. Not only that, but this throwback train ride is a breezy way to take in the loveliness of the island’s coastline.
SPEND THE NIGHT IN A VINTAGE CARAVAN
For that quintessentially British holiday feel, book yourself into one of Vintage Vacations‘ cosy caravans. Mixing the whimsy of the Carry On movie franchise with modern amenities and tasteful decorative touches, these bonny mobile homes stay put on the plush green lawns of the campsite. There’s something truly exciting about waking up to breakfast in a deckchair on the grass.
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