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Incredible scenery, beautiful beaches and 1,001 things to do

On the edge of Fort Victoria Country Park, looking out to sea over Lymington and the New Forest, just minutes from Yarmouth and meters from the scenic IOW Coastal Path


Over half of the Isle of Wight is designated as 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' much of it in the West Wight. The Isle of Wight Coastal Path (pictured left) runs through the Country Park and right past the cottages. There are some fantastic beaches all over the West Wight, including one right on the doorstep.


The historical harbour town of Yarmouth, the destination point for ferries from Lymington, is a short walk away or just three minutes by car. Yarmouth has plenty to offer in the way of pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and delis. The shopping is just as tempting as the nature. It also has it's own castle..


There are so many places to visit nearby: the castle where Charles I was imprisoned, the summer residence of Queen Victoria, and the home of one of the pioneers of photography, as well as adventure parks, zoos, children's farms and a steam railway.

Fort Victoria

Country Park

The cottages were built 160 years ago to house officers from Fort Victoria, once part of the island's coastal defences and now home to a tea shop and attractions such as a planetariuman, an underwater archaeology museum, an aquarium and a model railway.


The country park is a mixed woodland and beach nature reserve, with an extensive network of paths, viewpoints and wood carvings. There's plenty of discoveries to be made by beach combers, wildlife enthusiasts, fossil hunters and generally anyone with a sense of adventure.

From the woods there's wonderful views over the Solent to Hurst Castle, one of the forts built by Henry VIII to defend himself against his first wife's angry relatives. Hurst Castle can also be seen down on Fort Victoria Beach, next to the cottages.



Right next to the cottages, Fort Victoria Beach (below) is a great place to take an early morning or twilight stroll. The sunsets here are often spectacular.


Through the woods and past the Hurst Castle viewpoint is Colwell Bay, a traditional bucket and spade beach with rockpools, ice cream and naughty postcards.


Our favourite beach is Compton Beach (above and left) the rugged stretch of partly black sand next to the soaring chalk cliffs of Freshwater Bay. Dinosaur footprints can be seen here at low tide.

A short walk towards Yarmouth takes you to Sandhard Beach, where there are public barbeques, and a pontoon for catching the water taxi across the harbour into town.


Past Colwell Bay is Totland Bay, and further still Alum Bay (below), nestled in the shadow of the famous Needles. Alum Bay is home to the bizarre multicoloured sands in the cliff, and the even more bizarre ski chairlift.

Carisbrooke Castle

King Charles I and his head were imprisoned here before their separation in 1649, and also (wake up kids) there’ve got donkeys! The donkeys walk round and round in a medieval contraption for pumping water, and all have names beginning with a J for some spurious reason connected with the king. Check the website for special events here, and especially look out for jousting tournaments. A jousting tournament on a sunny summer’s day, with this 1000-year-old castle as a backdrop is an experience you will never forget.

Isle of Wight Steam Railway

Run by volunteers, the railway is so charming it actually physically hurts. Trips in these lovingly restored Victorian and Edwardian-era carriages run every hour or so in the summer. It’s a wonderful trip down memory lane for anyone over the age of about 110, and at the other end of the age spectrum, possibly the most exciting thing that ever happened not involving a PlayStation. Don't tell the staff you used to have a Hornby. You’ll never get away.

Coasteering and sea kayaking

Adrenaline junkies can get thier fix on every corner of the island, but for sea kayaking and coasteering, there's no better place than just 10 minutes down the road in Freshwater Bay. A local company called Adventure Activities Isle of Wight run trips for an hour, two hours or a full day, as well as a range of other slightly.... drier family adventure activities.

Blackgang Chine

A theme-park in the quaint Victorian mould, rather than the adrenaline-fuelled, eyeball-popping version of today. There are some roller-coaster rides, but they are definitely at the ‘tame’ end of the spectrum. Most attractions are about imagination and role-play, so if your son is too cool to cowboy in the Wild West, then Blackgang Chine might be a bit of a bore. Kids under the age of about 10 or 11 love it though.

Horse riding through the local countryside

Book a hack through the local scenic countryside with Hill Farm Stables, just around the corner from the cottages This riding school has been running for 50 years, and the stables used to be the Queen Victoria's coaching stables. An hour of hacking in a group costs £25 for children and adults, and a private hack will cost £20 more. Sally's Riding over at Bembridge will do riding trips on the beach.

Osbourne House

At the same time as our holiday cottages were under construction, Queen Victoria was also building her holiday home on the Isle of Wight. Since she ultimately owned a quarter of the world's land surface, one can imagine she had a few bob to spend on the place. Famously, it was her favourite of all the royal residences, and the tour includes the bedroom (and bed) where she passed away. It's worth taking a horse-drawn carriage down to Swiss Cottage, the children's "play cottage" next to the beach.

Mountain biking

There’s over 200 miles of mountain bike routes on the island. A good trip is the Yarmouth, Totland, Alum Bay, Freshwater circular route; there’s also great routes up on the Tennyson Trail and through Brighstone Forest, and for the serious, the Round the Island Off-Road Randonee. Bikes can be hired in from Wight Cycle Hire in Yarmouth.

The Needles and Needles Battery

At the western point of the island, The Needles is one of the most iconographic sights of coastal Britain. Perched on top of the cliff is the National Trust-run Needles Battery, which formed part of the Victorian coastal defence network and was used most recently in World War II. After the war, the battery was used as a secret testing site for the British space rocket programme. It's a beautiful walk along the cliffs from the car park, and even from the cottage (90 mins). The nearby amusement park is quite missable though.

The Roman Villa at Brading

It may just sound like boring old history, but persevere. The curators have cleverly supplied a wardrobe of Roman clothing so the kids can feel like centurions and senators as they charge around these very well preserved remains of a posh person’s house. Even Dad can pretend he’s Cicero. With any luck, the kids will refrain from bashing each other with plastic swords for a few moments, and actually learn something.


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