I have just returned from the most relaxing, long weekend away on the Isle of Wight. Located just off the south coast of England, the Isle of Wight has long been a popular tourist destination. The island is renowned for its white sandy beaches, stunning landscape and picturesque coastal towns. My days were filled with wanders around cute thatched cottage villages, castles, history, coastal walks, bike rides, fantastic food and very welcoming and friendly locals. If you too are looking for the kind of staycation when you can fully relax and unwind amidst beautiful landscapes and places rich in culture, then a trip to the Isle of Wight is just what you need. Here is the perfect guide to enjoying a slow weekend break in Isle of Wight.
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How To Travel To Isle Of Wight?
Ferry Travel To Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is incredibly easy to get to from mainland England. Catch a Wightlink ferry on one of their three routes – Portsmouth to Fishbourne, Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier or Lymington (near Southampton) to Yarmouth. There is the option to travel as a foot passenger or if you choose to drive, to take your vehicle across with you. Whichever option you choose, there are ferries regularly each day. For foot passengers you can step straight off the train at Portsmouth, hop on a Wightlink FastCat and be on the island in a speedy 22 minutes! The car ferries take a little while longer at about 40 minutes.
Cost of Travel to Isle of Wight
The cost of getting a ferry across to the Isle of Wight is fantastically cheap with tickets available from just £8 each way. For more information on fares and crossing times click here.
Best Places To Stay In Isle of Wight
There are plenty of fantastic hotels available for breaks to the Isle of Wight, but possibly the best place to stay in Isle of Wight in terms of hotels, has to be The Royal Hotel in Ventnor. This hotel has long had a reputation for luxury and has won multiple awards since it first opened in 1832. Even Queen Victoria visited here for afternoon tea. And having sampled the food, I have to say that this hotel definitely delivers on fine dining. I read that The Royal Hotel has been listed in every Michelin guide since it first began in 1911, now that is saying something! There are also some fantastic coastal walks only a short distance from the hotel heading down into the town of Ventnor or across to the immensely popular Steephill Cove, a really popular spot with tourists in the summer months.
Bed and Breakfast Isle of Wight
For my two nights on the island I stayed at the wonderfully secluded Godshill Park Barn, a luxury bed and breakfast on Isle of Wight run by a lovely couple, Kathy and Mark. Right from the off I was made to feel incredibly welcome as I was shown around their home, where I would be staying. There are a couple of properties on their land which are available to stay in, including a glamping hut by the lake and a newly built chalet with full length glass windows looking out over the pastures. As my stay with them was at the start of winter, they kindly put me in one of the ensuite B&B rooms in the main house, complete with the cosiest four poster bed that left me not wanting to climb out in the mornings!
As far as accommodation in Isle of Wight goes, Godshill Park was a proper home away from home. I was left to want for nothing, Kathy even offered to drive me into to village in the evenings so I could pop out for dinner at the local pub, The Taveners. In the mornings I was treated to a hearty home cooked breakfast courtesy of Mark who is a keen cook. Just what you need to set yourself up for a day exploring the island. I loved how central this bed and breakfast was on the island. It is only a short bus journey to anywhere you want to get to and handily, there is a bus stop right at the bottom of the drive of Godshill Park Barn. I’m already missing my slow, cosy mornings waking up in the middle of the countryside with views out across the fields.
Click here for prices and availability for Godshill Park Barn.
Attractions On The Isle of Wight
When it comes to a weekend break in Isle of Wight, this place is not to be missed! Osborne House is the former home of Queen Victoria and is a must visit whilst on the island! After her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840, Queen Victoria felt the need for a family residence in the country. To use her own words, ‘a place of one’s own – quiet and retired’. Osborne House and Gardens was acquired to fulfil this role and it is utterly breathtaking. You could easily spend a whole day exploring this place. From the Italianate gardens designed by Prince Albert hiself, the walled kitchen garden, the swiss chalet the children used to play in, to the beach overlooking the Solent where Queen Victoria used to bathe. Osborne House is one of the most popular places to see in Isle of Wight for good reason! And the interiors are to die for! Especially all decked out for Christmas as they were on my visit. One of the most spectacular rooms is the Durbar room. Just look at the photos below to see how ornate the walls and ceiling are!
The Isle of Wight and the surrounding waters of the Solent were actually awarded UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Status earlier this year. This means the Isle of Wight has been recognised as one of the best areas in the world for managed landscapes, where human impact does not detract from the landscape and wildlife due to the work of various organisations and land-owners. The island’s elevation to UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status also enhances its reputation as a special place to live and to visit. Queen Victoria had the right idea all along!
To get to Osborne House via bus, catch the number 4 from Ryde and it will take you straight to the entrance of the house.
Click here for prices and opening times for Osborne House.
When you finish exploring Osborne House, if you catch the number 4 bus again going back in the same direction you came to get to Osborne House from Ryde, you will be able to get off at the entrance to Quarr Abbey. A working abbey that is still in use to this day. This abbey has a mixture of architectural styles, from French, Byzantine and even Moorish design. Not to mention that it is set in the most idyllic woodlands where you can wander to your hearts content, taking in the birdsong and looking out for red squirrels running across the woodland floor.
You can take a walk down a country lane towards the ruins of the old medieval abbey. This walk was lovely in the late winter sun that I had on my visit. Also make sure to wander back to the modern day abbey and explore inside and around to the back of the abbey, past the cemetery to explore the tiny Pilgrim’s chapel. When you’ve finished wandering the grounds and looking around the abbey, pop into the tearooms to sit down and relax with a cream tea. You won’t regret it!
Quarr Abbey is free to visit but click here to visit their website for any other information you require.
Like all the finest castles, Carisbrook Castle stand on the top of a hill overlooking the surrounding landscape. Perfect for keeping an eye out on approaching enemies, or today, just for taking in the views. Carisbrook is now in the hands of English Heritage who take care of this fantastic castle to make sure that it can be enjoyed by all who want to pass through its historic walls. You can walk the parameter of these walls, which are all still in place or enjoy the tranquility of the chapel. You can visit the donkeys which they use to demonstrate the 15th century wheel which was used to use to bring up water from the 49 meter deep well. There is also a museum in the main keep which houses a number of fascinating items such as a Turner painting of the gate house of the castle which he sketched during a visit himself. The only Turner painting on the island.
I particularly enjoyed seeing the bedroom that was used to imprison Kind Charles I. Whilst he was held here, he was still treated with the respect of his station and was fed 16 meals a day!! Naturally, he gained rather a lot of weight! He twice plotted to escape from his captivity and on the first occasion when his rescuers came to aid him in his escape, he found that he was too plump to fit through the window. There are so many fascinating stories to discover here. Of all the places to visit in Isle of Wight, this was one of my favourites. So rich in history.
Click here for prices and opening times for Carisbrook Castle.
Set in the former home of the Victorian pioneer photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, the Dimbola Museum has a fascinating range of exhibitions. My favourite was the celebration of David Bowie, with a collection of signed photographs. They also have a brilliant exhibition about the history of the early pop festivals, something very fitting seeing as the Isle of Wight holds the world renowned Isle of Wight Festival each year. In 2006, a statue tribute to Jimi Hendrix was erected which now looks out towards Afton Down, the site of the iconic 1970 festival that was held there, where Hendrix performed.
Places To Eat in Isle of Wight
The Piano Cafe, Freshwater Bay
I could have spent hours in the Dimbola Museum but I tore myself away and walked 5 minutes up the road to The Piano Cafe, the ideal spot to stop for refreshments whilst in Freshwater Bay. The Piano Cafe got its name as it was once home to Queen Victoria’s piano tuner. I settled down on a comfy sofa and tucked into a delicious slice of carrot cake. The perfect way to take a relax and take break.
The Tavener’s Pub, Godshill
The Tavener’s is located in the village of Godshill and was just a short 10 minute walk from where I was staying at Godshill Park Barn. The Tavener’s is a real country pub, warm and welcoming and popular with locals and tourists alike. They buy their produce daily depending on what is available at the markets, from the farms and what has been caught, foraged, shot or hunted. On the cold winters night when I popped in for some food, I found a cosy seat next to the fire and tucked into a mouthwatering steak and ale pie. The ideal remedy for a chilly evening.
The Royal Hotel, Ventnor
From where I was staying in Godshill, I hopped on a bus towards Ventnor and made a beeline for The Royal Hotel. The hotel was renamed from the Ventnor hotel, to the Royal hotel, after Queen Victoria visited and endorsed it for afternoon tea in 1855. Sir Edward Elgar has even passed through its doors.
Being well aware of the hotels reputation for fine dining, I wanted to sample the food here for myself. And it was absolutely delicious! My lunch started with halloumi in a red onion marinade and finished with a beautiful piece of pork belly cooked to perfection. It was just what I needed before a walk along the coast!
Coastal Walks Isle Of Wight
Ventnor To Steephill Cove
From The Royal Hotel I turned right and followed the coastal footpath to Steephill Cove, an immensely popular place in summer when it is teeming with people hitting the waters. Visiting out of season I had the place entirely to myself and I got to enjoy uninterrupted views and take in the fresh sea air. I always enjoy visiting places out of season! Keen to see more, I walked back along the coastal path towards Ventnor where I explored the seafront and the rest of the town before catching a bus 10 minutes up the road towards Shanklin where I found a gorgeous pink thatched cottage and a cosy thatched pub where I stopped for a drink by the warmth of the roaring fire. The perfect way to end the day after a couple hours of coastal walks.
Yarmouth To Freshwater
Situated in the old railway building in Yarmouth, you will find Wight Cycle Hire. The old railway line has been turned into a brilliant cycle path and if you hire a bike, you can ride straight from Yarmouth into Freshwater Bay, taking in all the magnificent scenery and the white cliffs along the coast. This was one of the highlights of my trip and the icing on the cake to round off what was a fabulous trip to the island.
Best Villages To Explore On The Isle of Wight
The delightful village of Godshill, where I was based, is definitely somewhere you should add to you list for a trip to the Isle of Wight. With its delightful medieval church, charming thatched roofed cottages and a winding main street lined with traditional tearooms, a cider maker and a model village where you will find scale models of Shanklin and Godshill villages as they were in the 1920’s, the village of Godshill really is worthy of a visit.
Situated just north of the town of Ventnor, Shanklin is another gorgeous place where the old heart of the village is lined with thatched cottages that transport you back in time. As much as the cottages in themselves drew me to visit, Shanklin is generally known for its long stretch of white sandy beach which attracts tourists and locals alike during the summer months. If you are looking for one of the best beaches in Isle of Wight then Shanklin beach is definitely worthy of being on the list.
One of the things I enjoy most about exploring a new place, is stumbling across hidden gems. Just like the picture postcard village of Calbourne, arguably one of the prettiest villages on the island. Even the street names were charming! The street in the photos below is Winkle Street and comes complete with babbling brook, thatched cottages and a water mill that is mentioned in the Domesday Book. In fact, it is the last working water mill on the island. Discovering places like this are why I love slow travel. Usually on foot, I love taking the time to allow for stumbling on unexpected gems.
So there you have it! A fantastic selection of places to stay, see and go to give you an incredible weekend break in Isle of Wight. However you choose to enjoy your trip to the Isle of Wight, make sure to take it slow. Walk, cycle, take the bus – you will be rewarded with the most relaxing break away and will discover so much more!
Have you visited the island before? What were the highlights from your trip?
Find more Slow Travel routes around the Isle of Wight here.
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