Cowes Harbour by Colin Woodcock

Sitting in the English Channel, around three miles off the UK’s south coast, the Isle of Wight has been a popular holiday destination since Victorian times. Its climate is mild, it’s an Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty, and it’s within easy reach of the mainland.

Self-catering accommodation on the island is varied, including cosy cottages and modern apartments, and you can choose between more remote rural locations and being based in a town centre.

 

The Needles, Way out West

The Needles Chairlift is one of the images that is always associated with the Isle of Wight, taking people from the top of the cliffs at Alum Bay down to the beach. The Needles Park is located on the southwestern tip of the island, and there’s a stunning, panoramic view of the cliffs and the sea from the chairlift.

Here you’ll also find the Needles Rocks and the Trinity Lighthouse. The Needles Battery is also well worth a visit. This military site was built in the 1860s to guard the Solent – the stretch of water separating the Isle of Wight from the UK mainland. The National Trust restored the Old Battery in 1982 and it’s now a vibrant museum piece that also offers fantastic views across the Solent.

The Needles Park is also home to Alum Bay Glass, where you can watch traditional glassmaking, and the Sweet Manufactory, for those with a sweet tooth. There’s also a 4D cinema, offering a unique cinematic experience.

 

Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle

Osborne House is nearby the town of East Cowes and was Queen Victoria’s seaside palace and is a suitably impressive and immersive experience. There are fabulous sea views from the terraces, and inside you can see how Victoria and Albert, and their children, lived when residing here.

The house has sumptuous drawing rooms and dining rooms, alongside the Dunbar Rooms, which are decorated in a style inspired by the Indian subcontinent, at the time known as the jewel in Victoria’s crown.

Situated in Newport, Carisbrooke Castle originally dates from Saxon times before being taken over first by the Normans then later remodelled during the Middle Ages. The castle was a strategic fortress during the reign of Elizabeth I and Charles I was imprisoned here for a time.

You can walk around the castle battlements and experience great panoramic views across the island. There’s film and virtual tour, and the Castle Museum is full of artefacts from the reign of Charles I. Last but not least, the castle’s tea room serves refreshments, light meals and snacks.

 

Cowes and East Cowes

The town of Cowes is famous as hub for sailing, and it has a rich maritime history, which you can explore in the local Maritime Museum. Cowes is also a popular shopping destination, with its many boutique and specialist shops. There are also many small galleries displaying and selling arts and crafts form the Isle of Wight.

The Yacht Haven is the centre of sailing activity and this large marina is where various international yachting events are held.

East Cowes is separated from Cowes by a river and you reach it by crossing the floating bridge – unless, of course, you’re making the journey by boat. In East Cowes you’ll find the Classic Boat Museum and, a short distance from the town, East Cowes Beach, which is a firm family favourite because it’s well sheltered.

These are just some of the many places to visit and things to do on the Isle of Wight. It’s also a home for various events, such as Bestival and the Isle of Wight Festival. It also hosts walking and cycling festivals, and for those into sailing, Cowes Week.