Isle of Wight
The Garden Isle was once described as a miniature England cast adrift in the English Channel. Its coastal perimeter extends some 60 miles, varying from pleasant sands, to chines (as the deep coastal ravines are called), grottoes and eye-catching rock formations. Inland, the picturesque landscape is punctuated with stone cottages, thatched farmhouses and secluded villages. The seaboard townships provide excellent facilities for holidaymakers, especially those keen on yachting and fishing. Visitors arrive at Ryde, whose attractions include a pavilion, canoe lake, Appley Gardens and Puckpool Park; it is the home of the Royai Victoria Yacht Club.
Leaving Ryde and moving clockwise round the island, Bembridge is the home of yet another yacht club. The nearby small public school has a library of John Ruskin’s works. The last windmill on the island stands near the B3390. The Maritime Museum has an interesting collection of model ships. Sandown on the south east coast is a popular resort. Battery Gardens are in the grounds of an old fort, while the Museum of Isle of Wight Geology houses, among other exhibits, over 5000 fossils found on the island. A six mile cliff walk leads around the bay to Shanklin, where the hurly burly pier end contrasts with secluded Hope Beach. The old village has thatched cottages festooned by roses, and gardens with exotic trees. Three miles sout west of Shanklin is Ventnor. Predominantly Victorian, the town has imposing hotels with verandahs, an abundance of parks and gardens and, because of its sheltered beach, is known as the Madeira of England. Places of interest include ruined Appuldurcombe House at Wroxall, and the Museum of the History of Smuggling which traces this profession back over 700 years.
North west of the isle’s southernmost tip, St Catherine’s Point, lies Blackgang Chine, one of the best known of these deep rocky clefts, which has a large amusement complex to add to its natural attractions. Newport lies some eight miles inland from Blackgang. This centrally positioned community serves as capital of the island South west of Newport is Carisbrooke Castle where Charles I was imprisoned for a year (1647-8) before his eventual execution in London. He was visited here by his son Henry and daughter Elizabeth. Other places of interest include the Roman Villa. Freshwater is 10 miles west of Newport where Farringford House, now a hotel, was once the home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Museum of Clocks, with more than 200 exhibits, stands in beautiful countryside. Beyond Freshwater, at the most westerly point of the island, lies Alum Bay, surrounded by cliffs whose strata are many-coloured, and offshore are the Needles, three huge chalk pillars jutting from the sea at their end 15 Needles Lighthouse, built in 1858.
Yarmouth stands at the mouth of the Yar opposite mainland Lymington. The harbour is a delight. Yarmouth Castle was built by Henry VIII, and Fort Victoria, to protect the western approaches to Portsmouth, in 1853; it is now a country park. Cowes is Britain’s yachting capital; Cowes Castle built by Henry VIII houses the Royal Yacht Squadron. 22 brass guns line Victoria Parade ready to start races and fire Royal Salutes.
Cowes was the point of departure for several expeditions to America. East Cowes across the River Medina, is the centre of the UK hovercraft industry.
One mile south east is Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s home at the time of her death in 1901. The house was designed in the style of an Italian villa by Prince Albert and Thomas Cubitt. The apartments are furnished as they were in Queen Victoria’s day. The Swiss Cottage, built as a playhouse for the Royal children, now contains the Queen’s writing-table and her collection of porcelain. Nearby is Norris Castle, where the young Princess Victoria frequently stayed with her mother.
Among the many other places of interest on the island are Arreton Manor on the Newport-Sandown road; the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Haven Street, south west of Ryde, and the Flamingo Park at Seaview, a village just along the coast from Ryde. Brading, inland from Sandown, has a Lilliput Doll and Toy Museum, Osborn-Smith’s Wax Museum and Animal World, and not far from the town are the remains of a Roman villa and 17th-century Morton Manor.