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Getaway: The Isle of Wight off England’s south coast offers a true slice of island life
Set off across the English Channel to this rocky outpost off the naval city of Portsmouth that’s ideal for a slice of island life. Once a traditional bucket-and-spade family holiday location, the Isle of Wight is now a cool destination with alternative accommodation, fresh seafood and a happening vibe. Its towns and villages are appealingly quaint, a nostalgic trip back in time to when a cream tea could sort out any of life’s worries. Friendly locals and a balmy climate are the icing on the cake.
From Calais and Dunkirk, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Kent, where it’s a couple of hours’ drive to Portsmouth (don’t forget to drive on the left!). Frequent ferries link the mainland to Fishbourne in 45 minutes and Ryde in just 22 minutes. Once on dry land, forget the car and try some slow travel options: from panoramic coastal footpaths and rural bike trails – the island was recently voted one of the world’s top cycling destinations by Lonely Planet – to taking the train or hopping on a local bus. A slow travel guide proposes eight routes, each exploring a different part of the island.
SEE & DO
The Isle of Wight is the sailing capital of the south of England, with seafarers from near and far gathering for the annual Cowes Week in August, the oldest sailing regatta in the world. On the heritage front, Osborne House was Queen Victoria’s favourite residence, and the 200th anniversary of her birth is being celebrated with a full programme of events. Named after a steep coastal ravine or ‘chine’, now eroded, Blackgang Chine is the UK’s oldest theme park and has a spectacular location near Ventnor. Its themed ‘lands’ spark kids’ imagination and gentle rides make for good old-fashioned fun. Suitable for children under 10.
SLEEP & EAT
Glamping choices abound: try rural cabins, such as the aptly named Hygge, or cabin stays and trailer camping in original Airstreams and classic caravans, run by Vintage Vacations. More traditional seaside hotels and B&Bs can be found around the coast; swankier options are the Royal Hotel and Hambrough Hotel in Ventnor and Auckland House Hotel in Shanklin. The island is renowned for its indulgent cream teas, while local produce includes crab, Gallybagger cheese, black garlic, honey, strawberries, asparagus and sun-ripened tomatoes. For those in search of traditional ‘British’ fare, there’s no shortage of fish & chips and curry houses.
This article first appeared in ING Expat Time