Explore the Victorian Love Affair – Isle of Wight’s Top 5 Adventures
The Victorian Love Affair and Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has been a fashionable vacation destination since the 18th Century and famously reflect Queen Victoria’s love affair with the island and Osborne House, which was the Royals getaway. Initially, the island was a getaway for summer vacations and later, during Queen Victoria’s later years, it became her permanent home until her death in 1901. The island is also popular for its castle, Carisbrooke Castle, where Charles I was imprisoned.
You can read more on Queen Victoria and Osborne House, or on Carisbrooke Castle via Kindle or by simply purchasing a book if you are old-fashioned (like I am!) and want to feel the pages:
My fascination with Isle of Wight began many years ago when I read about Queen Victoria’s reign as monarch and the strong loving relationship between her and her husband, Prince Albert. Their love so strong that Queen Victoria went into a long period of mourning and devoted herself to wearing only black after Prince Albert died.
Her later years on the island is beautifully captured in a recent movie, Victoria and Abdul, which was released a little over a year ago. The movie depicts a story of friendship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant. It was filmed on location here and in Osborne House. You can watch the trailer ↓↓
Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight is England’s largest island and it cannot be any closer to the mainland! The island can be accessed in 45 minutes via a short sea crossing from southern England, from Portsmouth across the Solent – see below on useful information.
There are many things to do here, at Isle of Wight – perfect for families, couples and “slow-travellers”! You can look-up activities at The Needles that may be of interest to you. There are beautiful beaches and secluded coves for rock-pooling. The island is also a hiker’s paradise and you can access the various walking routes by clicking The Wightlink Explorer.
Although the island is the largest in England, it is quite a small one. Some may suggest that a day trip would suffice, but I’d say otherwise. For one to truly experience Isle of Wight, you should spend at least a couple of days.
Isle of Wight’s Top 5 Adventures
There are so many adventures here for you to explore but here are 5 which topped the list for me.
1. The Needles Landmark Attraction, Alum Bay
The Needles is one of the main attractions in the Isle of Wight. It is a row of three sea stacks of chalk rising-up as a cone at about 30 metres out at sea. At the end of it is the Needles Lighthouse which was built in 1859 and has been automated since 1994. There are boat trips that offer close-up views of the Needles and the Lighthouse. Also, equally attractive is the chairlift that takes you to see the Needles and the coloured sand.
Isle of Wight is also famous for its coloured sand and it is here that you can visit the sand shop. You can see all the different colours and have one filled in a bottle to take back as a souvenir.
The glass factory, Alum Bay Glass is quite amazing – if you have time, I’d recommend that you visit here. You can watch the skilful art of glass blowing and see a range of crafted glassware.
If you have a sweet tooth or you are just craving for some sugar, head towards the Sweet Factory and taste a sample – and you will walk out with a bag or two of different varieties.
There is an amusement park to entertain both the young and the adults
Of interest are the areas which form part of the Needles Marine Conservation Zone which covers the waters and the seabed here and the area of the Needles along with the shore are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
2. Whitecliff Bay, Bembridge
If you are looking for white sandy beaches and palm trees, you will not find them here! What you will find are @simplethingsmadebeautiful – the melody of voices describing the purpose of their sandcastles being built, Princesses trapped behind the walls and dragons to attack 😊 playing hopscotch and beach ball. Carefree laughter accompanying their rush into the inviting waters…or the simple pleasures of exploring, as we did – explore the rocks for snails and starfish and crabs, it is incredible what you find underneath those rocks that one “collects” in a quarter-filled bucket of water – even for adults 😊
As the melody of voices grows distant and the beach becomes less visited, there is always a spot here for you to sit and look out to the English Channel or watch the busy shipping line heading towards the Solent…listen to the sounds of the gentle waves and the seagulls above – where time has no essence – @timeispreciouswasteitwisely is one of the best moments of my adventures.
Whitecliff Bay is a popular sandy bay with shingles and is a popular tourist site. There are several holiday parks here which makes the beach a busy place during the day. Access down to the beach is through two-steep concrete tracks.
3. Carisbrooke Castle
This prominent hilltop structure which dominates the centre of the island was the centre of power and defence for over 1000 years. This Castle was a Saxon fortress, an Elizabethan fortress and a King’s prison.
When you are at Carisbrooke Castle, walk through the main gates and take your time in exploring this quintessentially romantic castle which still has working donkeys to work the Well-House. There is a museum and a chapel here for you to learn more about this Castle. Take the wall-walk and enjoy the breath-taking views of the island that it offers. There is plenty of space to roam around especially if you are visiting with kids, so there is no reason to rush.
4. Coastal Walk
Although I did not complete the whole 64 miles of the designated coastal footpath, I did some, and left some to be continued on another visit. I was totally distracted with the breath-taking views of the English Channel and watching the ships across the Solent which is quite mesmerising while the sun sets.
The White Cliffs were another beautiful sight and it is one that you should not miss if you are planning on a coastal walk.
5. Osborne House
Queen Victoria once said “it would be impossible to imagine a prettier spot” – and when visiting here, you will find that she was correct.
The Royal couple cherished the peace and tranquillity of the island and it made a perfect getaway for their summer vacation. The House was built to make the most of the views afforded by the island, with a private beach for her family, the beautiful cliffs and a direct view to mainland, England. Prince Albert designed the building with the architect and the couple were inspired of their time in the Bay of Naples – the terraces and towers here were Italian inspired.
The House is surrounded by beautiful gardens with lovely pretty flowers. There is a garden patch, a huge pumpkin and some kid size wheel-burrows – just to give an idea of what the Royal kids got up to during their summer vacation. It really is a beautiful sight.
Victoria’s Island Trail
You can follow Queen Victoria’s footsteps – the Victoria’s Island Trail and visit the places around the island that were important to the Royal family. A key favourite is Victoria’s church, St Mildred’s, where she worshipped and the yacht club which was specifically built for Queen Victoria.
[Other attractions: Cowes; Isle of Wight Pearl]
Wherever you are on the island, you know that you are never too far from the sea. The island has 57 miles of coastline and offers great opportunity to explore at every turn. The sights are unique with different soaring cliffs, secluded coves for rock-pooling and nature trails and hikes. Over half of the island has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
For me, though, after spending almost a week here, I did not do everything the island offered. As for my highlights of the visits, where shall I begin…The Needles, the Coastal Walk, Osborne House, Whitecliff Bay, Cowes, the Pearl factory, watching fishermen come in with their catch of lobsters and crab…[I have left some adventures out so that I can write another blog.]
If you considering an island to explore, I would highly recommend Isle of Wight.
Travel tips and Useful information:
There are regular services to the island from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington in the New Forest. You can check for schedules on the links below, which I hope you will find useful. Wightlink and Red Funnel ferries for pricing.
Getting around the Island:
For further information, click Southern Vectis
Island Line – The Island Line train service connects the towns of Ryde, Brading Sandown and Shanklin. You can pick up the service from Ryde Pier.
For further information, visit Island Line
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July 2019 Update