Had a fantastic two nights on the great Isle of Wight, staying at the lovely Hazelwood in Shanklin, run by Phil and Karl. This was my third visit to the b&b with my partner; a well decorated place to stay that offers beautiful views over Shanklin and the sea.
(view from Hazelwood and bedroom below)
The ferry trip over from Southampton to East Cowes is an experience and great start to an Island break in itself, and you will often see ships passing up and down the Solent. On this Sunday evening we were lucky to follow the Celebrity cruise ship Eclipse as it left Southampton water:
Shanklin itself has a long beach on the English channel, a quaint old village with thatched buildings and Shanklin Chine; a gorge that is well worth a visit in summer evenings as lit up (something we were a week early for this time). There are many places to eat and drink, with the two evenings spent at the Steamer Inn on the seafront and the Crab Inn within the old village. The Steamer offers a great choice of dishes, large portions and gorgeous views, while the Crab offers a great value menu during the week in a quaint thatched pub.
(view back to Shanklin along coast path)
(Fishermans Cottage by the Chine)
(Fish pie and Chicken & Chorizo pasta at the Steamer Inn)
(view from the Steamer)
Both days on the Island we couldn’t have picked better weather, with Monday & Tuesday warm and sunny throughout. Monday was spent walking between Shanklin, Brading Roman Villa, the Garlic farm and a short visit to Arreton Barns craft village before getting a well deserved bus back; after around 11 miles walk. Tuesday we spent at one of the Islands top attractions the Needles Park with a walk up to the headland and the New Battery; offering views over the rocks, lighthouse and back to the mainland.
(view from Forum Cafe at the Roman Villa)
The Roman Villa at Brading is fascinating, and one of the most preserved I know of. We were lucky at having found a voucher online to get half price, and a deal on a hot drink and cake in the Forum Cafe. All the staff were exceptional and offered the best service; we were even lucky enough to get a short personal tour by the very knowledgeable Ann. The mosaics are detailed, and the information panels about the history of the site, and the heating system are worth a read. The views from the villa over the hills, Brading, Sandown and the channel beyond give a great backdrop. I can imagine why they chose this position, with ships able to get to the port on what is now land.
(mosaic including the cock-headed man)
(complete mosaic including Medusa head)
(Garden with hypocaust for the heating on left)
The Garlic farm near the village of Newchurch is worth a visit as being the only one of it’s kind in the country, and started up over 40 years ago. It offers tastings of it’s black garlic, chutneys and olive oils among other products, and a well stocked shop. You have the chance to walk around the farm, relax in the restaurant with garlic dishes, and at busier times there is a tractor trailer ride. The farm has been shown on food related programmes with Mary Berry visiting in the last few years.
By the shop of www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk
A whole day can be spent at the western tip of the Island at the Needles with much to see including shops, amusements, a chair lift or walk down to the beach, boat rides, sweet manufactory and the glass works. There is also a sand shop where you can fill your own souvenirs with sand of the many colours of Alum Bay or buy one ready made. I bought a cat shape but is also a lighthouse, map and others made out of clear glass. The walk or bus up to the headland owned by the National Trust is worth it for the views, and can also visit the Old Battery (small charge or free for NT members) and the New Battery (free) where rocket testing took place.
(view over Alum Bay and coloured sands)
(view over the Old Battery)
(model of Prospero satellite in the New Battery)
The New Battery contains an intriguing exhibition about the secret rocket testing carried out on the site in the 1950s and 60s. There is a model of one of the rockets (Black Arrow) developed here then launched in Australia, and of the Prospero satellite which although no longer in use still orbits twice a day. A wood replica of the control panel in one of the rooms is also being created by a volunteer.
(view of the chairlift and bay)
(view of the Needles)
I would also recommend watching the demonstration in the Alum Bay Glass, as you get to see a whole vase or other item being made from start to finish. As the furnace is on around 1000 degrees you will feel the heat. There is a shop selling a range of glass ware, that is all unique from the glass blowing process.
I have only been back two days and miss the Island already, but i’m sure will return very soon. There is something about the place with so much to do, that keeps you returning again and again for another piece of Pure Island Happiness. I will just leave you with my underground style map of the Island: