The Isle of Wight is only 20 minutes on a catamaran from Portsmouth, which is only two hours from London.
The Isle of Wight is a diamond in the channel. Characterised by its beaches, coast line and rolling countryside and hills, it’s also rich with fossils.
These full and frank independent Isle of Wight accommodation reviews are from travellers who have booked directly through our-land.co.uk. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travellers below.
You can trust our-land.co.uk reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays. In addition, we don't run these holidays ourselves - our only interest is giving you the best independent advice.
Local expert for the Isle of Wight AONB Mark Buckett tells us about a summer-like weekend on the Island with places to stay and things to see as weather warms up.
While spending my Saturday on Wroxall Down doing some conservation work as a volunteer with the National Trust, it actually started to feel like summer on the Isle of Wight. It might have been swinging a sledgehammer to remove old fencing that caused me to strip down to a t-shirt, but for the first time this year, my forearms were out on show. The sun was shining and the little fluffy white clouds drifted lazily across a blue sky, over the rolling green pasture of fields with hedgerows that covered the hillside, up to the Heathland on the chalk downs, while a Greater Spotted Woodpecker could be heard tapping away in the wooded copse below. I wondered how long it would last…
I then thought that I should write about walking on the Isle of Wight- across the ridgeline of Wroxhall Down, Bonchurch Down and Luccombe Down, that make up this long curved chalk ridgeline that looks over towards Appuldurcombe Park for my next blog. I then realised that most of my blogs talk and pubs and tea rooms. There are two important reasons for this: 1) I like pubs and 2) I like cake. So I thought I had better diversify and talk about something other than pubs and tea rooms. The trouble is that as a Caulkhead, I tend to take things for granted. The Island’s landscape and coastline is… well it just is and it always has been. It is not until I go to a city that I fully appreciate how lucky I am to live on my Island.
But there are some places I had not been to previously and one of them is Mottistone Manor Garden, run by the National Trust. So my fiancee and I decided to go. Spending the morning looking around a manor house garden is not normally my type of thing, they garden with a trowel, I landscape with a JCB, but it was surprisingly enjoyable. This was mainly because there is a tea shop that sells cake, sorry, old habits die hard. But it was very quiet, tranquil and still, the type of place where you can just sit and empty your mind onto one of the benches as you walk around the gardens.
Just up the road from Mottistone is Tapnell Down, the site of the 1970 pop festival that had 600,000 people attend and was the last gig Jimi Hendrix played out before he died and where other acts like The Who, The Doors, and Jethro Tull played. Around Tapnell the ramblers have mapped out The Tapnell Trail that across East Afton Down, Tapnell Down, Wellow Down and down to follow the foothpaths across Tapnell Farm and around Afton Manor. This is a lovely walk for the spring and autumn as it’s not too cold, or not too hot to walk up and down the chalk down land, and to enjoy the wonderful and unique landscape of the Isle of Wight.
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Our Land’s local expert for the Isle of Wight AONB, Mark Buckett, tells us about happenings in the Isle of Wight around the Easter holidays and Spring time.
As cars drive around the Island with their ferry pass still hanging off the rear view mirror, it is a reminder that the Easter holidays are upon us, all eyes turn to the barometer with the hope of seeing the arm move to… Dry. The temperature struggling to reach 3 degrees, the hat and scarf remain and essential wardrobe item. All hope is on low winds, dry skies and clear visibility. It was this time last year that I was catching the bus to Freshwater Bay and walking over the chalk downs back home to practice for the Walk the Wight event.
The 26 mile walk across the Island is an opportunity to raise money for the Islands hospice, enjoy the different landscapes across the Island and spend time with family and friends. But be prepared, last year I spent 2 months practicing, taking 10, then 12, and finally 16 mile walks up and down the chalk downs. Alone the wind whipping across the short grass, with only the occasional cow for company, it was a time for tranquility and contemplation. If you plan on doing it, prepare yourself! The last few miles are up Tennyson Down, the long slow shuffle, and by that point it is a shuffle, to the monument on the cliff top 147 above sea level is completed only to see the hill drop and rise again to the needles lighthouse. It is testing of mind more than body for the 12,000 people who take part every year. The medal hangs proudly over the 1862 Ordnance Survey map of the Island hanging on the wall in the hallway.
Else where on the Island the attractions open their doors fully for the first time this year. The Steam Railway brings a summer sound track of tooting whistles, puffing stream and rhythm to the landscape from Smallbrook to Wootton, Osborne House, former home of Queen Victoria opens its doors and also its private beach for those interested in history. Its not quite the weather for picnics or BBQ’s and at this time of year one of the most important, quaint and stereotypical of English activities emerges from its winter hibernation…..the lesser spotted, slightly currenty cream tea can be spotted around the Island, like a grumpy bear awoken from its slumber .
I don’t like to recommend places, for fear of insulting others and at the end of the day, everyone’s taste is different, but Gossips on Yarmouth Pier offers fantastic views of the pier, ferry and Solent; while Chessell pottery tea rooms provides a hearty serving and you can even paint you own cup or tea pot at the same time.
So who cares if spring has not realised the equinox has come and gone, put on your hat and step out the doors…
You can book your Spring and Summer holidays to the Isle of Wight on Our Land by visiting the website here: our-land.co.uk/holidays/the-isle-of-wight
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As the shadows of winter give way to the silver light of damp spring mornings, backdrop for the silhouette of naked native trees, the bare branches give the keen eye a sign that spring has arrived on the Isle of Wight.
Take to the coastal paths to witness the transition of Winter to Spring on the Isle of Wight
The snowdrops are joined by buds and shoots on the trees and rose bushes in our garden. The spring equinox guarding the gateway to the summer, like tall trees abreast the gates of a fine manor house, is creeping over the horizon ever earlier in the morning. As the spring brings a little light and warmth, now is a good time to check the coastal paths on the Island, what has changed over the winter, how has the Isle of Wight southern coastal path and cliffs along the Tennyson Heritage Coast stood up to the ravages of the English Channel in the winter.
Don your walking boots – Explore the chalk downs and woodlands
With the wind still chilling the chalk downs, now is a good time to test how water proof your walking boots are, with a walk through the sheltered hidden woodlands. Is that puddle deeper than your wellington is high? As an Islander, it is easy to overlook some of the sheltered woodlands I see every day. Popular with local dog walkers (Don’t worry, they are friendly, both dog and walker) places like firestone copse at Wootton on the Island provide a sheltered hideaway from a days troubles, the winding paths twist and turn to hidden places, while only the locals and more adventurous mainlanders find the quiet, sheltered and tranquil tree line that kisses the banks of the estuary of Wootton Creek.
Other places include the short flat walk through the AONB from the Church of the Holy Cross in Binstead, past Quarr Abby to the shore at Fishbourne Lane.
Leaving behind the winter stodge and bringing out the BBQ – Spring is a great time in the Isle of Wight
Mill Copse at Yarmouth, with a circular walk among the trees and a bird hide to sit in silent stillness to see what birds are visiting the Isle of Wight estuary. Having kept out the winds, with suitably muddy boots and hopefully dry socks, there is nothing like warming the soul with one last steak and ale pie before pastry gives way to summer salad leaves. Out with the days of winter stodge and nights on the sofa in front of the fire, in with the BBQ and the garden furniture, revelled like the prize on a game show for summers shared time.
The best of the Isle of Wight – places to stay with Our Land
I take it that everyone on the mainland is a 10 minute drive from an estuary teaming with wildlife and hidden woodland walks? No? Shame. Well why not make the most of the last days of winter and early days of spring with a visit to the Isle of Wight and stay with one of our wonderful Our Land members, who will give the warmest welcome of exiting winter and early spring welcomes, muddy boots and all.
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Fantastic holidays for bird, nature and wildlife lovers
Our Land’s Project Co-ordinator, Sarah Loftus, recommends places to stay near RSPB reserves - all of which are also great advocates for looking after wildlife and ideal for nature lovers or those looking for birdwatching holidays UK.
Spot birds on the South Downs National Park Amberley wetlands at one of Our Land’s pub near RSPB’s Pulborough Brooks reserve in Sussex, go wild camping on a woodland reserve in the High Weald AONB near the RSPB’s Broadwater warren reserve, get a bird’s eye view on a tree climbing tour near the RSPB’s Brading Marshes reserve on the Isle of Wight or stay the week next to nesting kingfishers near Farnham Heath RSPB reserve in the Surrey Hills AONB. Read on for full details of places to stay near RSPB reserves.
Read more about Our Land’s partnership with the RSPB
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Our Land’s Sarah Loftus chooses her favourite winter Isle of Wight holidays that are steeped in history.
Best of all, each and every one of the holidays have been chosen for their commitment to looking after the landscape of the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty so expect to experience local food and wildlife before you’ve even left the grounds of your B&B.
Have a read of Sarah’s Isle of Wight winter holidays recommendations here
Ho ho ho it’s Christmas time on Our Land
Meet a herd of reindeer in the High Weald, go on a brewery tour in the Chilterns, spot ancient trees or deer in the New Forest, visit a Victorian market in the North Wessex Downs, walk over the wintry white cliffs in the Kent Downs, and stay in a treehouse on the Isle of Wight
Our Land’s local experts in the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty recommend some of their favourite Christmas things to do and places to stay on Our Land - and every recommendation for your Christmas Holidays 2012 will help conserve and enhance the stunning landscapes.
Click here for their: Christmas Holidays 2012 recommendations
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Distinctive features: towering chalk cliffs and downs, beaches and coastal walks, enveloped forests with elusive Red Squirrels and an impressive collection of dinosaur fossils.
Wonderful Walks along rugged coastline
Isle of Wight holidays boast 500 miles of award-winning public footpaths and bridleways. Navigate your way through parts of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path (or walk the whole 4-day route if you feel up to it!) for spectacular views out to sea and across the Island landscape. The crashing blue waves are framed by striking chalk white cliffs and beaches, with defiant lighthouses in west and south. Walk the Tennyson trail across the chalk Downland to enjoy the diverse landscape or take a leisurely stroll along the beach and enjoy the sound and spectacle of the surf. After meandering your way along the hills and coast, take a trip inland on one of the short town trails. Stop off in pretty little towns like Yarmouth, with its Harbour, castle, 17th century church and pier, enjoy a hearty pub lunch and sample local ales in a traditional inn and look around the small shops in the market square.
Inspiring cycle routes next to sparking creeks
Isle of Wight holidays have a wealth of flat country lanes and coastal cliff-side paths. For those looking for a challenge there is the Round the Island Cycle Route, circling the Island and taking in the beautiful coastline, river valleys, sparkling creeks and rolling farmlands. There are also plenty of easier routes which stay on level ground, taking you through ancient forests and tranquil river estuaries. For those who like a good work out, tackle the hills and explore the chalk downlands which are home to wildflowers, butterflies and birds.
Fun Activities for all the Family
There are plenty of things to do on the Isle of Wight. As well as offering kayaking, dinghy and keelboat sailing, power boating, windsurfing and kite surfing courses, Isle of Wight holidays give you an unusual way to view its stunning landscape with a tree climbing tour. Work your way up through the branches and relax in a tree hammock as you appreciate the views of the countryside. You will feel an exhilarating rush as you abseil back down to the ground to enjoy some homemade refreshments. If you have got a taste for life up in the air then soar like a bird with a Butterfly Paragliding tour. Glide over the Isle of Wight and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the diamond-shaped Island and the surrounding sea.
Historic Houses and Fairytale Castles
The climate and geological changes that have taken place over millions of years to create on Isle of Wight was the perfect location for forming the fossils of the plants and dinosaurs who once roamed the land. Try and find the dinosaur footprints at Hanover Point or visit the Dinosaur Isle centre which brings the prehistoric landscape back to life.
Carisbrooke Castle was once the site of a roman settlement, then Jute and Anglo Saxon stronghold which turned into a castle in the 11th century. The strong walls and moat defeated a French siege in the 14th Century during a time of repeated raids by the French and a fear of invasion was real. Later King Charles I was imprisoned at the castle for 14 months and failed to escape when he got stuck in the window bars. Today you can visit the castle and walk its walls and keep. The castle’s resident donkeys have kept tradition alive over the years and for 150 years all the donkeys born on site have been given names starting with ‘J’, as that are how Charles signed all his letters when trying to escape from his prison.
No visit to the Island is complete without a trip to Osborne House: Queen Victoria’s seaside escape. You will get an intimate picture into royal family life as you tour the nurseries and private rooms of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
What wildlife can I expect to see?
The separation of the Island from the mainland has not only benefited the local human residents, but has created a safe haven for wildlife. The Solent has provided a barrier to the American gray squirrel which has driven out the native red squirrel from mainland England. Isle of Wight holidays offer the chance spot these beautiful but elusive squirrels in the wild. The best places to spot these bushy-tailed squirrels are Alverstone Mead local nature reserve, but you have to be very quiet and patient as they are shy and nervous creatures who are experts at hiding. You might also see water voles, dragonflies and a wide variety of birds.
You can get up close and personal with chickens, cows and other farm animals by spending time on a working farm in a self-catering farmstay. At night you could spot birds of prey looking for mice and voles while badgers and foxes roam around the fields scouting for food.
Best Breakfast in the Isle of Wight AONB
An Our Land favorite for breakfast is at Godshill Park Farm. You are served in an impressive oak-panelled hall with an intimate homely feel. The sumptuous meal is made up of the farm’s own free-range eggs, jams made with the fruit from their garden and bacon and sausages from a neighbouring farm. Wash it all down with a chilled glass of freshly pressed local apple juice.
Scenic Picnic Spots
Packing a picnic is essential when you are exploring the Island. There are plenty of local food shops dotted around the towns and villages, where you can pick up the ingredients to make your own ‘Nammet’ – the traditional Island lunch of bread, cheese and beer. Here are a few of the best spots to stop off for a picnic:
Traditional Pubs and Restaurants
When you want some traditional British grub and seasonal drinks, stopping off in an Isle of Wight pub or restaurant allows you to recharge your batteries after a day spent exploring the countryside. One favorite is The Garlic Farm Restaurant. The selection of freshly prepared meals are accompanied by delicious homemade garlic pickles, chutneys, pestos and relishes. Sandwiches are made with scrumptious freshly-baked garlic bread and you can even try a locally brewed Garlic Beer!
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We’re busy squirreling away behind the scenes to bring you some great content from the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on top tips, things to see and do to really experience the special features of the landcape, what to eat and drink that’s specifically local and – you’ve got it – basically, all the information you need for your super duper Isle of Wight Holidays.
If you’d like to become an Our Land Local Expert and contribute content to the Our Land site, please contact:
Our Land member from the Isle of Wight Dorothy Boswell tells us about a frosty encounter that resulted in a renewed desire for green energy at Manor Bottom.
This was the week the oil ran out.
I thought I had a pretty good idea of how vulnerable our dependence on the black stuff makes us. I’m an active member of several environmental groups and I’ve been exploring the possibility of making Manor Bottom, my self-catering barn on the Isle of Wight, more self-sufficient in energy for years.
I’ve had quotes for solar panels, investigated ground and air heat source pumps and bio-mass boilers, even planted hundreds of trees, coppicing some of which will feed the wood-burning stove one day. However, I’ve always put off further action, not just because of the cost but because the technology is constantly developing. I also had a sneaking concern that greener technology might not be able to fulfil the expectations of guests wanting a relaxing, hassle-free holiday.
But this week I had a deafening wake-up call that I can’t ignore.
I’ve had a formal arrangement with the oil company for several years; they monitored our oil usage remotely with a little gizmo that plugged into the mains socket, topped up the tank when necessary and I paid by monthly direct debit.
Then the company brought in a new system. In January 2012 I signed a contract for a new Sonic Signalman, scanned it and emailed it off to the company’s office. When I didn’t hear back I emailed to check the new service was up and running and was assured that my levels were being ‘taken care of.’ In the course of last year I sent several more emails and was always reassured that they had everything in hand.
When the mercury dropped to zero last Wednesday evening, I had a call from the family who were staying at Manor Bottom; they had arrived home to find there was no heating or hot water. I knew at once what had happened. The tank was empty.
I apologized profusely, told them where to find more logs for the woodburner and the switch for the emersion heater and spent a sleepless night worrying. At least they only had to endure one more day and night and there were plenty of logs for the woodburner.
The next day was the last working day before the long Easter bank holiday. After a several fruitless phones and emails – the local depot on the island were apologetic but their deliveries were already allocated – I had to email the families who were due to arrive next day to tell them what had happened.
As luck would have it, not only did they have four children under five, they were also coming without a car, and had been asked to review it for a child-friendly holiday website.
After an exchange of texts and emails, during which I tried to persuade them not to come and they insisted they still wanted to, they arrived at an unheated stone barn for what turned out to be the coldest Easter since records began.
Fortunately the Easter guests were a hardy lot. My wonderful neighbours did a sterling job of keeping getting the immersion heater going when it gave up the ghost, splitting more firewood and even trying to siphon oil from their own tank. The local walks, woods, birds, cattle and horses all entertained as usual, so the holiday was not a complete disaster.
On Tuesday morning an oil delivery arrived, (though I’m still waiting for an apology, explanation and offer of compensation from the oil company).
But the message is clear. Being so dependent on oil (and the companies that provide it) is foolish and short-sighted.
No more excuses. It’s time for action.
Head over to Facebook and like Manor Bottom by clicking here.
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Meet Sarah Loftus, Our Land’s Project Co-ordinator
“A firm believer in tourism being a force for good – as long as we get it right!”
I’m Our Land’s project co-ordinator, working for the nine protected landscapes that make up Our Land. I was previously working for the Kent Downs AONB (and this is where I hale from) but before that spent 20 years in the hotel industry and then business travel sector. Through my work I’ve travelled extensively and seen the detrimental effects tourism can have when we get it totally wrong! What is so great about Our Land is its focus on landscape – putting it right at the heart of the visitor experience – usually the very reason why we are staying in that b&b, hotel or self-catering. The business owners we work with love their place and take great pride in sharing it.
Why you should leave your car behind….
When you are tired after a long day at work - or from chasing the kids around getting them packed and ready to go – you can take the pressure off your journey by letting someone else drive for you. You can sit back and relax – enjoy the scenic journey and spend the time chatting with your loved ones, instead of worrying about rush hour traffic or road closures. You can even have a cheeky drink or two to celebrate the start of your holiday!
Here’s Our Land’s guide for travel to the Isle of Wight:
You can travel to the Isle of Wight by Train and Ferry
Travel to the Isle of Wight AONB by Coach
Going by coach is one of the simplest ways to travel to the Isle of Wight. The National Express connects London Victoria Coach Station to Southampton Coach Station, Portsmouth University and Portsmouth International Port. The journey takes about 2 hours 30 mins and provides you with the time to unwind and let your troubles fall away as you travel to the Island.
Getting around the Isle of Wight …
Once you’ve organised your travel to the Isle of Wight, you’ll need to look at the best ways for you to get around the island and see the sights. It’s easy to explore the Isle of Wight by bus and train. Click on the links below for information on rail and bus timetables in the Isle of Wight.
You can travel around the Isle of Wight easily by cycling. The area is full of quiet countryside roads that will lead you to attractive villages and traditional pubs. Click here for downloadable cycling routes on the Isle of Wight
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