Monday 2 August 2010
Drove from London to Portsmouth and took the car ferry to Fishbourne. The crossing took around 40 minutes and was most comfortable. The ferry was called St Cecilia.
After reaching Fishbourne, in the north of the island, we headed to Carrisbrooke Castle near the town of Newport. The castle was built by the Normans following their conquest of England in 1066. Although parts of the structure have eroded over time much of it is still intact and wonderfully preserved. There are a number of buildings within the walls of the fortress. Going up to the top of the shell keep we got a great view of the surrounding countryside. The castle is a treat for people interested in English history for it has seen over 800 years of service. One of the castle’s most famous residents was King Charles I, who was imprisoned there after his defeat in the English Civil War.
From Carisbrooke Castle we headed to Shanklin, a town in the east of the island, and checked into our guesthouse. Shanklin has a sandy beach and is quite touristy. When we visited the beach in the evening there wasn’t much of a crowd. My daughter Anya made a sand castle. In the distance I saw ships crossing the English Channel.
Tuesday 3 August 2010
After breakfast we went to Robin Hill Park in Downend. The park is a great place for children, having lots of rides and other activities. Anya particularly enjoyed the Toboggan Run. I liked the falconry show, which featured a number of birds of prey including the European Eagle Owl, Harris Hawk and Saker Falcon. A ride on Colossus, a swinging galleon boat ride, really shook up the full English breakfast in my stomach. A few more swings on the ride and I could easily have thrown up on the person in front! We spent four hours in the park. It’s possible for children to spend the whole day there.
Our next stop was the Isle of Wight Zoo in Sandown, another seaside town not far from Shanklin. The zoo has a large collection of Indian tigers and African lions. We arrived in time to see the lions being fed. There was a white tiger called Zena and a white lion called Casper – two very rare species. I had never seen a white tiger or lion before, so this was quite exciting. Posters warned about the sad the plight of the tiger whose numbers are continuing to diminish worldwide.
Wednesday 4 August 2010
After breakfast we made our way to Needles Park on Alum Bay at the western extreme of the island. We passed along narrow roads under canopies of tall trees and across the countryside, past fields containing various crops, sheep and cattle. At Needles Park we saw glass being made and took the chairlift ride down to the beach. It is possible to go the edge of Alum Bay and see the Needles, which are a series of chalk stacks that protrude into the sea, but we didn’t do that as the weather was windy and rainy. In the Sand Shop, Anya created her own souvenir by filling in a plastic shape with different shades of Alum Bay sand. Like Robin Hill Park, Needles Park was full of children and their parents.
From Alum Bay we headed east again to Havenstreet Station and boarded the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. This really was a trip back to a bygone era when steam trains were the norm. The hissing of the engine and the smell of steam brought back memories of childhood train journeys in India. The staff, who were mostly volunteers, were friendly and helpful. The train went to Smallbrook Junction and back, and then to Wootton station and back. It was a pleasant ride across unspoiled, beautiful countryside.
Thursday 5 August 2010
After checking out of our guesthouse, we travelled to Osborne House in East Cowes. This 342 acres estate was Queen Victoria’s summer residence, and it certainly was befitting place for her and her family. There were beautiful sculptures, paintings and frescoes that adorned different rooms. I particularly liked the Indian style Durbar Room, which was a celebration of Queen Victoria’s role as
Empress of India. Here there were the finest works of art from India, presented to Victoria by Indian rulers. Complementing the house were lovely gardens, a summer house and the Swiss Cottage, originally built for the royal children for their education. This was a great place for adults with a love for history as well as antiques (like my parents).
In the afternoon we the caught ferry to Portsmouth. This ferry was called St Clare. After a short visit to Portsmouth Roman Catholic Cathedral we headed back home.
What was clearly noticeable was the slower pace of life on the Isle of Wight. The island is heavily dependent on tourism although it does have a strong agricultural heritage. The beaches, the hills, the green countryside and quaint little towns, villages and churches were a joy to see. It was a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of London. Fortunately the weather, always an unpredictable factor in any holiday in the UK, was good during our stay. Only on the third day did we experience some rain. Our guesthouse proprietors – Graham and Sally – did their best to make us feel welcome, for which we are very grateful. Anya so liked the place she wanted to stay longer. Being such a pleasant little island, I’m sure we’ll be visiting the island again sometime in the future.