September the 8 th marks the beginning of this year’s Bestival festival on the Isle of Wight, just off the south coast of England. Curator of events and Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank says that this year’s festival is going to be as exciting as ever thanks to the site at Robin Hill Country Park being “beautiful eccentric and very welcoming. As usual this year will be a costume affair with the theme being ‘Rock Stars, Pop Stars and Divas’ so this year’s headliners, The Cure and Bjork should feel right at home!
Of course festivals aren’t every-one’s cup of tea, the mere thought of camping for three days is enough to put most people over the age of 35 off the idea! Notwithstanding Bestival offering Glamping to those whose who enjoy a bit of refinement, and a proper shower, when they attend festivals.
So, if you’re not going across the Solent for the festival fun this year, what else could you be doing?
Being a tiny island with a mere 60 odd miles of coastline Wight is surprisingly packed with attractions and features which will keep children and adults entertained for days, no matter what the weather.
Being an island there is, of course sailing and power boating. The Isle of Wight is famous for Cowes Week, the largest sailing regatta in the world with more than 40 separate races for over 1,000 boats. Then there’s the Round The Island Race, a race for over 16,000 competitors aboard 1,800 yachts all plying for the best position through the Needles Channel, past St Catherine’s Point then back around the island to The Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes for the final finish.
If you love the sea but aren’t much of a sailor then there are plenty of Blue Flag beaches where you can bathe, work on your tan or even take lessons in paragliding and kitesurfing, classes range from tasters for beginners right through to advanced courses for the more experienced.
For those who like to explore country houses the Isle of Wight has a disproportionate number of attractions for an island of its size. These include
Osborne House, the seaside residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, visitors can tour the meticulously tended gardens and beautiful interiors, the house and Swiss Cottage give a revealing insight into the daily lives of the Victorian royal household.
Carisbrooke Castle, The only mediaeval castle on the island, Carisbrooke was the building chosen to hold King Charles before his removal to Whitehall on treachery charges. Being a military stronghold it naturally has beautiful views over the island and out to sea. The castle also has gardens, activities and a museum charting the history of the building since it was built 800 years ago right through to its use as royal residence to Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter.
Appuldurcombe House, Once the most exotic house on the island Appuldurcombe House is now a visitor attraction not only in its own right, but also for the 11 acres of gardens were designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and the falconry centre. The grounds offer a haven not only for wildlife, there are also 300 acres which hold a range of picturesque holiday villas which are available to let.
As well as these, and many more, there are also attractions for those who get more excited by creatures than history, because of the fine weather the island experiences it has become a haven for animals both domestic and foreign.
Butterfly and Fountain World has hundreds of exotic butterflies from all over the world who are all able to fly freely throughout a tropical indoor garden. The fountain area has Italian and Japanese inspired ponds and fountains stocked with beautiful fish and flora.
The Isle of Wight Zoo and Tiger Sanctuary plays host to as many as 20 tigers of all varieties as well as lemurs and other endangered animals and has done for over 25 years. The zoo also cares for a variety of less endangered big cats including lions, leopards and jaguars. Along with these, other residents of the zoo include monkeys, snakes, lizards and spiders. All the creatures are homed in as naturalistic an environment as possible and are encouraged, through enrichment, to display their most natural behaviours.
Lions and tigers are lovely but if you want a more ‘hands on’ wildlife encounter them the Seaview Wildlife Encounter is for you. The parkland in which it resides is a beautiful setting on its own, with waterfalls, lakes and views across the Solent. As well as these, visitors are also able to walk freely among rare animals and birds, even feeding them and finding out about them, their natural environment and the factors which affect their natural habitat.
Shanklin Chine is the oldest tourist attraction on the island, first having opened in 1817. This gorge has been an inspiration to poets, artists and writers ever since. The steep sides of the gorge and the winding paths through woodland make for an enchanting refuge for wildlife among the trees and waterfalls.
A more down-to-earth visitor attraction is the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary. It’s open from Easter to October and was opened in 1987 to home distressed or otherwise needy donkey s who needed care and attention along with a safe, permanent home. You’ll find donkeys to be intelligent and friendly creatures and should you wish to make a donation to their upkeep or even adopt one, the sanctuary will be more than happy to make it happen.
Sailing over to the Isle of Wight with a car or as a foot passenger is simplicity itself and booking accommodation is a simple affair too. There are hotels on the Isle of Wight to suit all budgets and tastes from rooms in inns to self catering, green or luxury accommodation. Be sure to book early as the best accommodation gets booked up very quickly, particularly around the time of regattas and other yachting events.
@DanCash is a features writer living on the south coast of England. On a clear day you can see the Isle of Wight from hi house but it’s still far enough away to really feel like a holiday destination once you get there. Remember to book ferries and holiday accommodation on the Isle of Wight well in advance and enjoy your stay!