Enough of the hubbub of England’s busy districts. Head out to a place cozily perched on the vast expanse of the English Channeland experience absolute serenity at every turn– the Isle of Wight. While it is less popular compared to the Big Ben and royal residences, the IOW never disappoints. It is teeming with attractions that showcase a perfect amalgamation of rich cultural heritage and unrivaled natural beauty, and adventures that can very well transform even the sternest of introverts.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Isle of Wight is during the summer season, from July to September. The comfy climate gives you the chance to enjoy the warm waters of Wight’s most famous beaches. Spring and Autumn are ideal for visits as well. They are considered the shoulder seasons since they bring good weather and lesser crowds. These times are best for tourists who would like to take advantage of low room rates and crowd-free attractions.
Getting There and Around
Access options to the island abound. However, you need to ride a ferry (serviced by Wightlink or Red Funnel) or a hovercraft in order to traverse the stretch of sea separating the Isle from the mainland, the Solent. Before this though, you have to–
- Take a train from London. Travel time is 2 ½ hours.
- Take a connecting bus at the Portsmouth or Southampton station.
- Drive your way to the Portsmouth, Southampton or Lymington station and park your car there.
Once you are in the lovely Isle of Wight, you do not have to worry about the hassle of getting to its top sites because of the many buses and trains that roam around the island.
If you plan on visiting Isle of Wight’s major towns, you can take the Southern Vectis buses that offer daily (USD 2.30 to USD 8.40) and seven-day freedom passes (USD 37).
If you are up for a train ride, then better head to the station of the Island Trains. It stops at the Isle’s most famous destinations, including the heritage-rich town of Ryde and the beautiful resorts of Shanklin or Sandown. Single fares range from USD 1.80 to USD 6; standard day returns cost USD 2.60 to USD 8.20. Weekly passes, on the other hand, cost USD 9 to USD 27. If you are in the mood for a classical tour though, your best choice is a ride on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, which is well-known for its 1940’s feel. Hop on the train terminal at the Smallbrook Junction and enjoy the panoramic vistas of the Isle as you head to the towns of Wootton or Havenstreet. Third class tickets cost USD 16. For a truly first-class experience, pay USD 23.
Events and Celebrations
Apart from its lovely attractions, the Isle of Wight attracts visitors with its eventful affairs. Plan your trip in time for these events.
1) Cowes Week
Take part in the UK’s oldest-running sport event by visiting the Isle of Wight during Cowes Week. Held every August, this long-standing tradition attracts the best sailing regattas from all areas of the globe to compete in 40 sailing events. From dinghys to yachts, all types of sailing vessels can be seen traversing the Solent during this famed event.
They do not call this “Bestival” for nothing. This award-winning 3-day event is one for the books, and definitely the ‘best’ activity to cap your summer vacation in Wight. Held every September at the Robin Hill Country Park, the 2013 leg of this exciting event is set to be graced by Elton John, Snoop Dogg, Franz Ferdinand and the Wu-Tang Clan, among numerous others.
3) Walking Festival
Convened annually every October, the Walking Festival is a 14-year-old tradition that features 39 walks of the Isle’s best locations. As one of the most famous walking festivals in Europe, Isle of Wight’s version provides tourists with a bird’s eye view of the UK’s looming “Dinosaur Capital.”
4) Santa Specials
Dreaming of a magical Christmas? You can have the best yuletide celebration in your life by attending the Isle of Wight’s Santa Specials, hosted annually every December. Participants are treated to a 50-minute stream train ride before they are transported to a Christmas wonderland where kids get treats and adults receive fun drinks.
Things to Do
Whether you’re a thrill seeker who wants to try your hand at watersports, a mountain biker keen to explore some of the best trails in the British Isles, or a walker who wants to scale the challenging coastal footpaths – you’ll find an activity to satiate your hunger for adventure in the IOW.
1) Go Karting
The Duke go-karting circuit at Jurby boasts excellent facilities with modern go-karts, a fully floodlit 425 metre track, transponder timing and big screen readout. Choose from a range of challenges including the simple arrive and drive package where the emphasis is on fun rather than competition or the Mini Manx Grand Prix, Super Grand Prix or Iron Man challenges for those visitors who want to ignite their competitive nature.
Enjoy an evening paddle and watch the sun set on the secluded bay of Niarbyl, in the west of the Island, or take part in a heart stopping adventure as you ride the tidal waves and overfalls around the Calf of Man, in the south, where you’re bound to spot some inquisitive seals. If you have a strong sense of adventure why not try a kayaking expedition? You’ll paddle all day before stopping to light a campfire on a secluded beach and then settle down to sleep under the stars.
3) Bond with Sharks
Most basking shark sightings are reported within less than a mile of land, which means visitors stand an excellent chance of seeing these magnificent creatures up close and personal. Why not pay a visit to Port Erin, Niarbyl or Peel? The sheltered south coast and south western shores of the Island offer a perfect vantage point to view the basking sharks as they feed on the plankton which floats on the water’s surface when the sea is calm.
Put your best foot forward and experience the beautiful Isle of Man on foot. Whether you are a keen rambler or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll you’ll find a range of footpaths to suit your walking desires. Walking trails are Island wide and range from those that take just a few hours to complete, to more challenging trails that can be split into sections including the 100 mile Raad Ny Foillan – Road of the Gull – which weaves its way around the Island’s coastline.
5) Travel in Style on a Steam Railway
Getting around the Island is relatively easy – why not travel in style on the unique heritage railways? Try going south by steam, north by electric, or take the Snaefell Mountain Railway to the summit of the Island’s only mountain. You’re bound to have lots and lots of fun!
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