So in this year of Jubilee-esque Olympic mania – its all about the Best of British and so when asked to find the perfect UK holiday – ALIX ROBINSON asked herself where to go to experience the maximum ‘Britishness’ possible in one location?
The rolling South Downs? The Jurassic coastline of Dorset? The fabulous beaches of Cornwall? Or the historic castles and palaces of England, Scotland and Wales?
Well that would take me a while – so instead I decided on a staycation on the Isle of Wight. Located off the south coast of the UK, under 2 hours from London, this little Island is often referred to as Britain in Miniature – boasting all of the above in abundance within a space of 13 miles by 23 miles.
It has 60 miles of heritage coastline and over half the Island is classed as An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Beaches & Dinosaurs
A bit of a beach lover, with over 60 miles of beautiful coastline, the Island beaches evolve from stretches of endless sand to dramatic rugged cliffs – the perfect spot for me to discover my own bit of Jurassic England. Renowned as a Mecca for dinosaur hunters from across the globe many new species of dinosaur have been discovered in the cliff falls on the Island – with new fossils being uncovered on a daily basis.
Fossil Hunting walks are a must when visiting the Island – and led by a resident palaeontologist guarantee you will leave with a prehistoric treasure in your pocket.
The rugged coastline of the south of the Island is the perfect spot to catch a few waves or try out kitesurfing, or for those who prefer a more sedate pace, the Island has over 500 miles of public footpaths and cycleways, which mean that the whole Island can be explored easily without the car.
See our YouTube video, here!
The Royal Choice
The Island first rose to fame in the 19th Century when Queen Victoria set up residence here in 1845 building her beautiful Italianate palace, Osborne House, (as seen in Mrs Brown).
After her death Osborne House was presented to the nation by King Edward VII and is now open to the public, remaining today exactly as it was – full of beautiful treasures from around the world. Queen Victoria made the Isle of Wight extremely fashionable as a holiday destination – and it has stayed that way ever since, welcoming over 2.5 million visitors every year.
The Island Afloat
For all the sailing enthusiast out there, the Isle of Wight is the home of world yachting with the first ever Americas Cup taking place here in 1851. It is also home to the world famous annual sailing regatta, Cowes Week every August.
This year to tie in with the Olympics, the Superyacht Cup will be held in Cowes in July, filling the waters between the Island and mainland England with some of the worlds most beautiful superyachts.
Click here for our YouTube video!
Away from the water, the Island is a patchwork of small towns, tiny villages and even smaller hamlets dotted across unspoilt rolling countryside, nestled under forest and downland, with stunning views all the way along the south coast of England into Dorset and beyond.
The Island has more pubs per square mile than any other English county, all serving traditional ales, many with thatched roofs and log fires. The Island capital town is Newport located in the centre of the Island – built in the valley below Carisbrooke Castle.
Now run by English Heritage and open to the public, this historic 10th century motte and bailey castle was where king Charles 1st was kept imprisoned for 14 months leading up to his execution by the Parliamentarians in 1649.
Royalty aside, the Island has been home to many famous figures from Alfred Lord Tennyson at his home Farringford in Freshwater, to Charles Dickens sojourn in Bonchurch at The Winterbourne while writing David Copperfield. Many beautiful manor houses across the Island are now available as holiday rentals or offer B&B accommodation.
A Green & Verdant Isle
The Island of today is following a greener path – and the hottest accommodation can be found ‘glamping’ – in the form of Tree houses, Yurts, Eco Lodges or original US Airstream trailers.
But for the traditionalists, still in search of the quintessential English experience, there are great hotels on the Isle of Wight such as The Royal in Ventnor (with the best High Tea), The George in Yarmouth and The Priory Bay in St Helens all offer stunning accommodation in classic settings.
Or checkout the National Trust holiday cottages hidden in secret valleys or perched on remote clifftops.
Described as Britain’s equivalent to Martha’s Vineyard, the Isle of Wight has it all – but in an area that can be truly explored during your visit.
And just to make it feel extra special, you have to get a ferry to get here. Red Funnel ferries run up to 49 ferry crossing to the Island per day and have been for over 150 years, so your journey into Miniature England of past, present and future starts the minute you set foot on the ferry…