We are going to be spending two days on the Isle of Wight in early September. Yes, that's right when Bestival is taking place, but it fits with the rest of our plans that way. Our main aim is to get some scenic beauty after spending three days wallowing in naval history in Portsmouth. We have guidebooks and web sights, but does anyone have a favorite spot we shouldn't miss. The only thing I'm absolutely sure we want to see is Yarmouth Castle. Also, any good experiences with B&Bs along the south or east coasts of the island?
The Needles! Beautiful! Especially on a clear day! I want to go back to see the Osborne House (where Queen Victoria spent a lot of time after Albert dies). I enjoyed just driving around the Isle of Wight (well my husband drove and I navigated). Very charming.
Dav I would say ,as someome who grew up on the Island, you have made a great decision to visit. If you aren't going to Bestival I would suggest Carisbrooke Castle where King Charles 1st was imprisoned during the Civil War. Osborne House by contrast is where Queen Victoria voluntarily spent many of her later years is a very attractive Italianate House, think Downton Abbey with knobs on. Appledurcome House behind Ventnor is a wonderful picturesque ruin. Mottistone Manor is a National Trust property with fine gardens associated with War Horse which you may have seen either as a play or film. If you are interested in the Island's music history Dimbola Lodge in Freshwater Bay has a fine exhibit of the first three IOW Festivals including the appaernces of Dylan, Hendrix and so many others. I have dimming teenage memories of attending the 1969 and 1970 events! I would advise Ventnor or its neighbour Bonchurch to stay. Ventnor is a quirky and increasingly popular resort. It has good restaurants , hotels and pubs. The Lake Hotel in Bonchurch runs as B&B and is set in a large well maintained grounds. There are more expensive options but for a couple of nights the Lake Hotel would do very well.
I realise seeing a lighthouse is not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed visitng St Catherine's Lighthouse in Niton (you do need to be able to climb steep steps; also it is not open every day). The lighthouse has, I recall, some cottages they rent out too but we've not used them - it is just down the road from Ventnor.
We spent a week on the island last summer, and a long weekend the previous February. We rented a house, so I can't help you with B&Bs. I do underline what others have said about Osborne House. My teenage daughter is a big fan of historical dramas and obviously had studied the Victorian period in school, and she loved it. The house is probably, in my opinion, the best small stately home you will visit anywhere in Britain, the gardens are lovely, and last year for the first time they opened Osborne's private beach, which looks across the Solent to Portsmouth. They had a Punch & Judy show with a Victoria and Albert theme, an ice cream stall, and Queen Vic's bathing machine was on display. Between the house, gardens and beach you could spend a whole day there. It's just outside East Cowes. I loved the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm. They have a garlic festival in August, but it's still worth going because they have a fantastic restaurant there. We arrived early, on a weekday, and still had to wait 45 minutes for a table outside on the terrace, so it's worth booking. The food was excellent: http://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk/
cont... By the way, if you are going to be in Yarmouth then I recommend The Gossips Cafe. We always travel via Yarmouth (because the ferry terminal is only 20 minutes from our house) and we've used it a number of times. Yarmouth is a very small but old and attractive town, and is worth an hour to just wander around. Quirky secondhand book shop in one of the back streets, next to a shop selling fossils and crystals. Scenery on the island falls into two parts. In the north, views across the Solent to the mainland, especially from the Needles (although there is an extremely tacky "amusement park" at the Needles as well, which should be avoided at all costs). Across the centre and south of the island there is a band of chalk hills (which continue 20 miles to the west on the Purbeck peninsula) which makes that area very hilly, with narrow and winding roads. It takes twice as long as you think it will to get anywhere. The Military Road runs around the western and southern coasts and is worth driving for the sea views, and there is a viewpoint just on the eastern side of Blackgang Chine where it's worth stopping. There is usually an ice cream van parked there, and behind that a footpath up to the cliffs. There are also great views from Bonchurch Down, in the south eastern corner of the island and at Bembridge Down, in the east. Finally, probably our favourite thing on the island, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. You can ride up and down the route as many times as you like, through lovely countryside, in old Southern Railway carriages. It can get very busy, being a huge family attraction, but we found the whole thing completely relaxing - an insight into how we used to travel in the days of steam.
Definitely Osborne House (favourite royal residence) and if you are interested in Romano British History take a look at Brading Roman Villa.
Don't they have some kind of a boat race there every once in a while......Cowes Week.........Solent.........all the words mush together, but I think I've heard them once or twice.
Cowes Week is a huge sailing regatta, but it isn't in September. I've done the Round the Island race a few times, but that (I think) is in June.
A few years ago I took the ferry to the Isle from Portsmouth. I rode the tram/streetcar vehicle along the east side of the island. It was fun. There are several small towns along the way. I thought I'd like to return and explore more.
Swan, you were travelling on the Island Line, which uses former London Underground tube trains originally built in 1938. That reminds me - the Island Line connects with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Smallbrook Junction, and for travellers coming from Portsmouth there is a special ticket which gives unlimited travel on both railways: http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/promotions.aspx#118282
Is the British rail pass valid on the Isle of Wight railways? I don't mind buying a ticket, but we plan to have the pass anyway.
Yes, a BritRail pass is valid on the Island Line between Ryde and Shanklin. As for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, Google points to various sites which list it as one of the heritage lines where a BritRail pass will get you a discount, but it isn't clear what that discount is.
Thank you all for your comments. I've been reading them carefully. The current plan is to take the ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde and then take the railway all the way to Shanklin. We'll establish ourselves in a B&B there and spend the day at attractions relatively close to there. Then we'll have all of the next day to travel further afield.