1. Osbourne House
Osbourne House was Queen Victoria’s palace by the sea. Look out for Victorian opulence, extravagant interiors, and jaw-dropping Indian décor in the Durbar Room. As you walk through the Queen’s bedroom, the nursery rooms and even royal bathrooms, you get an intimate glimpse into royal family life. Children will love the Swiss Cottage and can let off steam in the play area. There’s acres of grounds and gardens to relax in, horse and carriage rides, and a restaurant and café.
2. Ventnor Botanical Gardens
Situated in a warm micro-climate on the southern shore of the Isle of Wight, Ventnor Botanic Gardens displays temperate, sub-tropical and exotic plants and shrubs and trees from around the world. Gardens include the Herb Garden which focuses on the medicinal uses of plants, the Palm Garden – a classic Victorian era sub-tropical garden, and the Rock and Scree Garden featuring Prickly Pears, Agaves, Aloes and Puya. The visitor centre contains a gift shop, cafe and plant sales.
3. The Needles by Boat
From Easter through to October, boats leave Alum Bay beach for cruises to the Needles Lighthouse and rocks, motoring under 400 foot high cliffs to view the sea-level Victorian fort and nesting cormorant colonies. At the end of the bay, the boat passes the remains of the original Needles rock and sails close past the 100 foot tall Needles Lighthouse. On the return trip, the boat travels further off-shore to enable passengers to appreciate the breathtaking views of the cliffs and sands.
4. Sandown and Shanklin
Superbly situated beside the sparkling waters of Sandown Bay, the twin resorts of Sandown and Shanklin have delighted generations of holiday-makers for over 150 years. The Victorians laid out the broad seafront promenades and beautiful parks and gardens and built fine town and country villas, many of which have been converted into hotels and apartments. A cliff-top path offers a wonderful walk, with panoramic views of the bay.
5. Cowes Week
Since 1826 Cowes Week has played a key part in the British sporting summer calendar and is one of the UK’s longest running and most successful sporting events. It stages up to 40 daily races for over 1,000 boats and is the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world. The 8,500 competitors range from Olympic and world class professionals to weekend sailors. Over 100,000 spectators come to watch the sailing, enjoy parties and live entertainment, and experience the unique atmosphere.
6. Appuldurcombe House
Once the grandest and most striking house on the Isle of Wight, Appuldurcombe’s 18th century baroque elegance is still notable today in this partly restored building. Admire the delightful east front and stroll through ‘Capability’ Brown’s idyllic ornamental 11 acres of grounds – a perfect place for a picnic – or follow the nature trail. The Historic Exhibition is situated over the gift shop. There is also an Owl and Falconry Centre which offers flying displays with birds from all over the world.
7. Sailing Lessons with UKSA
Take a sailing lesson at UKSA, one of the country’s most renowned sea schools, based in the ideal sailing environment of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The standard of tuition is excellent, catering for all ages and abilities, and a wide range of equipment is available, from small dinghies to lage yachts. Take a taster session with one to one tuition in a Laser or Wayfairer, or even book yourself on a week long ‘Competent Crew’ course, spending time out at sea!
8. The Folly Inn
Legend has it that The Folly Inn originated from a barge that ran aground whilst selling illegal liquor in the 1700s! Perched on the banks of the River Medina, The Folly is easily accessible by road or boat and has its own moorings, which attracts a large number of yachts and boats. “The Folly Waterbus” can transport you up the river from Cowes. Today The Folly Inn is an extremely popular open plan, destination food house with a good selection of wines and real ale. It’s advisable to book at weekends.
9. Nunwell House
This picturesque house has been a family home since 1522 and is of historical and architectural interest. It was here that Sir John Oglander was host to King Charles I on the king’s last night of freedom and you can still see the parlour chamber where they met. The house is beautifully furnished, with many exhibits recalling the Aylmer familiy’s military connections, and an Old Kitchen exhibition. Nunwell is surrounded by 5 acres of tranquil gardens including a walled garden with views across the Solent.
10. Carisbrooke Castle Museum
Carisbrooke Castle Museum was first opened by Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter and Island Governor, in 1898. The displays focus on the history of the island and the castle, with exhibits including objects recovered from excavations, crossbows, cannon, Civil War armour and personal possessions of King Charles I. There is also a chamber organ from 1602, Elizabethan-style furniture and a turret clock from East Cowes Castle.