Isle of Wight | A Travel Guide

The Isle of Wight lies just off the South coast of England and is a picturesque and fun getaway for many tastes. It has miles of beautiful coastline for those wishing to get out and explore and it’s home to the Ventnor Fringe festival every Summer if you’re interested in the arts. With it’s many top restaurants serving delicious local seafood and glorious beaches to capture that quintessential British Summer holiday with an ice cream, it’s an ideal holiday destination close to London.


How to get to the Isle of Wight
Ferries go from Southampton and Portsmouth and there are direct trains to both from London.

From Southampton you can take the Red Funnel ferries that take both foot passengers and cars and takes only 45 minutes. From Portsmouth, Wight Link has a FastCat foot passenger service which takes just 22 minutes


Where to Eat on the Isle of Wight

Woods Kitchen
Previously known as ‘The Essex’ Woods Kitchen was recommended to me by a number of people I chatted to on my first day on the IOW. It’s an atmospheric spot with the main restaurant housed inside a pretty thatched building with a large raised terrace at the rear with a very trendy feel and clearly a popular spot for an afternoon drink in the sun.

The menu is extensive and there are daily specials menus including lots of vegan options. There’s even an afternoon tea menu including themed afternoon tea, prosecco afternoon tea and a savoury tea.

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Opening times -Monday & Tuesday – Closed. Wednesday to Saturday 10:30am till 11pm Last food orders 9pmSunday 10:30am till 4pm

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Afternoon Tea at The Royal Hotel – Belgrave Rd, Ventnor PO38 1JJ

The Royal Hotel is one of the grandest hotels on the island located in charming Ventnor. It’s known for it’s food in all respects and is able to boast the 98% of hotel guests choose to dine in it’s main restaurant, but it also host to some delightful afternoon teas.

Served in your choice of the Colonial-style conservatory, the south-facing garden or Geranium Terrace you can pick from a selection of Afternoon Teas including a champagne tea. First up is a range of finger sandwiches alongside your choice of fragrant teas or alternate hot drinks, followed by the main event, a tiered cake stand with fresh scones and rich sweet treats such as lemon tart and carrot cake.

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Served from 3pm to 5pm from £23/person | Click here to book

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Tramezzini – 14 High Street, Ventnor

For a tasty brunch including some homemade black pudding served with on the vine cherry tomatoes, poached eggs and thick sausages, head to Tramezzini. It’s a friendly spot popular with the locals and has a selection of salads and fish dishes for those wanting something a bit healthier.

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PO41 – St James Court, Quay St, Yarmouth PO41 0PB

The town of Yarmouth is named after the small Western Yar river and makes a nice place to have a wander around and pop into the local boutiques. PO41 is one of the most popular cafes in the town due to it’s famously delicious cakes and big range of coffees. It’s located in the old post office and it’s a friendly spot which will draw you in with all the tasty treats in the window.

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What to do on the Isle of Wight

Visit Appuldurcumbe House

Appuldurcumbe House is the shell of the formally grand Baroque mansion built in the 18th century. During both world wars troops were billeted in the house and in February 1943, a  German plane dropped its final mine very close to the house. The house was never repaired and despite it looking in fine condition from a distance it’s actually just a shell of a building now and is completely without a roof.

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It’s free to visit and the property is managed by English Heritage. The house is open 10am-4pm, Sunday to Friday, from April until October and has car parking on site.

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Explore pretty Godshill

Godshill is a charming village with thatched roof houses, with it’s main street lined with tea shops and quirky pubs. The very first Isle of Wight festival took place near the village in 1968. One of the most popular spots is the model village (Open 10-5pm in Summer), but it’s also home to a local cider shop; Godshill Cider and a fun sweet shop called Candy Cottage.

Godshill will delight those interested in traditionally British things as it’s incredibly picturesque and it’s easy to reach as there are plenty of direct buses to Shanklin, Newport, Ventnor and Sandown.

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Hire a bike and explore the island
The Isle of Wight is a popular destination for cycle enthusiasts and there are numerous cycling trails all over the island. Outside of the towns there is little in the way of traffic making it an enjoyable and safe place to cycle even for those with relatively little experience.

Routefifty7 is a bike hire company based in Shanklin with prices starting at only £13. They offer e-bikes, mountain bikes and even tandems and have free delivery and collection for hires over £47.

I hired an electric bike and decided to follow the Red Squirrel Trail which is listed as one of “150 Great Days Out’’ by Sustrans,. At full length it is 32.23 miles but one can leave and join with ease, stopping at a variety of sights along the way. I started in Ventnor and followed it up to Godshill circling back towards Sandown and it’s a pleasant and fairly easy cycle route named after the endangered Red Squirrel that is found in some numbers on the Isle of Wight.

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For bike hire on the Isle of Wight  please ring 07491 00 00 57 or email info@routefifty7.com
Open everyday 9am – 6pm

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Take a RIB ride to the Needles
The Needles are one of the most famous landmarks on the Isle of Wight. These stone columns reaching up to 30m high out of the sea are a well known sight, and it’s possible to hire a boat with captain to take you around this great landmark.

The Royal Hotel has a private RIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) which can take customers on private day trips or shorter journeys from Yarmouth.  It’s a high speed exhilarating ride, but a very comfortable one too as the Royal RIB is somewhat a luxury RIB and you’ll stay dry but get as close to the Needles as possible.  To book, call 0198385218620190726_1048068536164555151957023.jpgDSC_5393DSC_5372

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Visit Ventnor Beach

Ventnor Beach is  the southernmost  beach on the Isle of Wight and is always a popular destination on the island. Complete with it’s stylish vintage beach huts used by families on hot days it’s a red shingle and golden sand beach.

With nearby ice cream shops, a lobster restaurant and a pretty promenade it’s a lovely place to come and rent a deckchair to relax, even if you’re not planning on going in the sea.

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For more information please visit;

https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk

Thames Rockets | What you need to know?

To be rated as Trip Advisor’s number one outdoor activity in London is something of an accolade. London has a never ending and ever changing number of things to do so reaching the top spot is surely a difficult feat.

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Thames Rocket gives customers the chance to zoom down the Thames River taking in the sights whilst enjoying the thrill of 30 knots onboard the red RIB. RIB stands for Rigid-hulled inflatable boat which should give you some indication of what the boats are like. You’ll be riding in a heavy duty inflatable similar to what the SAS Elite UK forces use and don’t underestimate how fast these boats can go!

The Thames Rockets tick a lot of boxes as a London activity; it has a centrally located launch point so you won’t have to travel far to get to on board, it’s suitable for all ages, it takes in a lot of the key sights along the Thames, and it’s also a hit with thrill seekers!

My parents were visiting London and I decided to take them on the Thames Rockets to get a different perspective of the city. Judging by the joyful whooping, the whole boat greatly enjoyed the ride and interestingly perhaps for different reasons. A few visitors from the USA were on the boat with us, and for them the opportunity to see so many of London’s top sights for the first time was a dream come true, the guide was informative throughout as well as rather funny and it helped our overseas visitors understand a little bit more about what we were going past. Equally for my parents it wasn’t the first time in London but definitely gave them a completely unique view of many of the familiar sights on the Thames including seeing Canary Wharf, St Catherine’s Dock and even the police boats!

It’s easy to see why it’s so highly rated and will continue to be a top activity in the capital and so I’ve put together a list of some ‘need to know’ Q&A before you jump on board.

How to book tickets
Whilst it’s essential to book in advance it’s always worth seeing if there are last minute tickets available as the Thames Rocket operates around 10 times a day. You can book online here or via the phone operator by calling the booking hotline on 020 7928 8933.

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Who can/can’t ride?
The experience is suitable for all ages but unfortunately not for lades at any stage of pregnancy. Equally it’s not recommended for anyone with past or current back, neck or heart condition.

Will I get wet?
The quick answer is ‘not really.’ Before we boarded we were all offered waterproof jackets which most people declined as it was lovely weather. On the way out of London I didn’t even feel a drop of water on me, but as we headed back towards the pier then the wind did catch the water resulted in a little spray. Whilst you’re definitely not going to get actually wet, for anyone particularly precious about their hair it’s maybe advisable to at least tie it back.

Is it scary?
I would use the word thrilling rather than scary. Sure enough the RIB can get up to some great speeds but it’s incredibly enjoyable in the same way a roller coaster is. There’s always somewhere to hold onto and there were people of all ages on board my trip proving that it was enjoyed cross generationally.

What safety precautions are taken?
Lifejackets are provided and must be worn at all times. It’s a self inflating one and is very lightweight so you wouldn’t really notice you’ve got it on. Equally there are children’s lifejackets and facilities for toddlers too. Thames Rocket is fully insured and also has ‘full Public Liability Insurance to four times the legal requirement level is in place as standard.’

Where does it go from?
The rides take place from two locations. I went from London Eye Pier which is just to the left of the London Eye when facing the river, but they also have a departure point for certain trips from the Tower of London .

thames rockets london

What will I see?

Many of London’s most iconic landmarks are along the Thames and it’s definitely a great way to see many of them from a completely different perspective. Even the launching point for the boat is right next to the London Eye and opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

Some of the top sights along the route are;

  • The Tower of London- Home of the  crown jewels, where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and the home to various exotic animals over the years incoming a polar bear!
  • HMS Belfast  – WWII ship and the first ship to fire shots on D Day. Decommissioned in the 70s, it’s now a museum.
  • The Shard – The tallest building in western Europe.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe – Replica building and one of the most popular theatres in London.
  • Blackfriars Bridge – Attractive bridge featuring decoration only seen from the water such as columns decorated on one side with seabirds and on the other with fresh water birds as it’s the divide between fresh water and salt water in the river
  • Tower Bridge – The most famous bridge in London and one of the most famous sights with it’s beautiful twin towers.

 

tower bridge by boat

tower bridge by boat

Canary Wharf by boat

shard through tower bridge by boat

What are the guides like?
Our guide was very friendly from start to finish, not only was he making every laugh and creating a great atmosphere but he was also very knowledgable about the sights along the river.

As we went past a variety of spots he would give us a brief guide to each of the locations and made personal recommendations. For the Americans on board who hadn’t visited London before he was a good source of knowledge and even for us Brits then he had some lesser known facts that I actually had to Google when I got home as I didn’t know how I hadn’t learnt them previously. (I’ll let you find out for yourself what they were.) thames rocket guide

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For more information visit –

https://www.thamesrockets.com
https://daysoutnow.co.uk.

 

The Ventnor Fringe | A visitor’s guide

Now in it’s tenth year, the week long Ventnor Fringe takes place in July in Ventnor, a town in the south of the Isle of Wight. It’s a celebration of culture, and hosts some rising stars of comedy, arts, music, theatre and performance at a number of venues around the town.

The headquarters of the fringe are at the Ventnor Exchange which is somewhat a creative hub in itself. Featuring inspiration for the events and a small record store it’s also a top spot for craft beer.

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Ventnor Fringe has become one of the UK’s most popular fringe festivals and is inclusive in that as well as the ticketed events there are also many free acts to see as well as a number operating on ‘donation requested’ entry.

There are over 100 shows in quite diverse venues including the harbour, a laundrette, a horse box pop up, Ventnor Park and even a bus! It has a much more laid back feel that Edinburgh Fringe and attracts a mix of locals and visitors which gives it a friendly and fun atmosphere.

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What you need to know

Tickets

Tickets are available for purchase;

  1. Online –  at http://www.vfringe.co.uk
  2. In person at Ventnor Exchange – 11 Church Street, PO38 1SW Open 9am – Midnight
  3. On the door – Tickets will be available on the door for many events but do check before going as some shows may be sold out. Cash only.
  4. By phone – 01983 716767

Venues

Almost every conceivable place and many you wouldn’t expect have been turned into venues for the fringe. Some are permanent spots with others just being pop ups for the week.

The comedy & cabaret tent as well as the Magpie are both housed in the Parkside area. Complete with giant connect four, table tennis and table football, it’s a fun and pretty area with a bar serving cider, wine, beer and a few spirits. The park itself is full of colourful flowers and for the fringe the area is decorated with colourful flags and bunting making it a very pleasant area to relax before & after a show. There are a couple of food vendors serving cream tea and crab sandwiches. Toilets are in the form of portaloos.

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Another lovely venue is the Ventnor Arts Club. It was an old Art Deco bank which has been converted into a cinema and events venue with a cool bar and luxurious arm chairs to watch the performances.

Just oppose the Ventnor Exchange is the pretty St Catherine’s Church is a delightful venue for smaller more intimate shows.

Other venues include; Pier St Playhouse, Hygeia House and the ‘Book Bus’ outside St Catherine’s Church.

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What kind of acts will you able to see at the Ventnor Fringe?

One of the best things about the Ventnor Fringe is the sheer variety of performances. The best bet is to get hold of one of the Fringe Guides from either the Ventnor Exchange or one of the many cafes in town offering them and have a flick through the ‘what’s on’ section.

There’s some great comedy acts on in Ventnor Park. Taking place shortly before Edinburgh Fringe means that some of the top up and coming comedians want to test out their performances so many of the UKs top new talent often appear.

The Book Bus is famous for it’s spoken word, whilst Harbourside holds many musical performances of a variety of genres including DJs and live bands.

There’s also plenty of plays and immersive theatre as well as street performances for free!

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Where to Stay

Budget – East Dene Stop & Stay is a no frills accommodation offering self catering from only £26 per person per night. It’s located in Bonchurch Ventnor and is suitable for groups as well as singles.

Luxury – The Royal Hotel is less than a 5 minute walk to Ventnor Park where many of the shows take place and only a few minutes more into the centre of Ventnor. It’s a charming hotel with an outdoor pool, splendid afternoon tea and classically decorated rooms.

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Camping – Whilst there aren’t any campsites central to Ventnor there are a number a short ride away which make for very pleasant and affordable stays. Click here for a selection.


 

For more information visit;

https://vfringe.co.uk

 

 

The Royal Hotel Ventnor | Isle of Wight

Located in trendy Ventnor, The Royal Hotel is a 4* award winning hotel that has continued to preserve it’s title as the Isle of Wight’s top hotel due to it’s ability to preserve the features of a classic hotel synonymous with British hospitality yet add modern touches like a beautiful swimming pool.

It’s a Victorian style design with a delightful lawn and garden area. I was lucky enough to have glorious weather when I visited and the gardens were popular every day with guests enjoying the flowered gardens and views down to the coast while relaxing with a drink or ordering the popular afternoon tea.

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Dining

The Royal is able to boast that 98% of its staying guests dine at the restaurant and it’s easy to see why. The hotel has achieved 2 AA Rosettes for it’s food for over 20 consecutive years and has appeared in every Michelin Good Food Guide since the guide was created.

The main dining room itself is grand and some guests chose to dress up to dine, but I was in slightly more casual attire and still didn’t feel out of place. The staff were happy to recommend dishes and I chose the garlic butter lobster and a generously sized sticky toffee pudding for my dessert.

Afternoon tea at the Royal is clearly very popular for both residents and visiting guests. Served between 2pm and 5pm you have the choice of tucking into your selection of sandwiches and cakes either in the conservatory or the gardens themselves, surrounded by colourful flowers and a picturesque lawn. There is a choice of afternoon tea including the champagne tea, and the sweet treats themselves were varied and filling. Favourites included a rich lemon tart and the fruit scones, but there was almost too much (which is a rarity with an afternoon tea) and the staff suggested I boxed some up for later on.

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The rooms
There are a number of different levels of rooms at The Royal Hotel. My room was a garden view and as well as the lawns below I could actually see all the way out to the coast which was a lovely surprise. The rooms are classically decorated yet not cluttered and as my window opened all the way up I actually loved sitting on the windowsill and enjoying the sea breeze.

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Each morning the receptionists delivered a copy of the Guardian at my request and I also enjoyed the other small touches such as the postcard picturing the hotel which I found on my dressing table, ready stamped and ideal to send back home.


Facilities 
Having a dip in the swimming pool at The Royal Hotel was actually the first time I’ve been in an outdoor pool at a hotel on the British Isles. It’s at the bottom of the lovely gardens and has comfortable day beds to relax with a G&T when you’re in a need of a rest from exploring the island.

During my stay there were a few artists performing in the lobby area and a number of guests had a coffee or afternoon drink in the comfort of the light & airy space whilst watching the singers and pianist.

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The Royal RIB

The hotel has it’s own RIB or Rigid Hulled inflatable boat and for guests staying 5 days or more they offer a free day out on board. I booked a shorter trip from Yarmouth as my dad had been very specific that I couldn’t come to the Isle of Wight without going to see The Needles. Probably the most famous landmark on the IOW The Needles are three chalk white stacks grandly protruding out of the water up to 30m high. They lead up to the Needles lighthouse and the whole area is a beautiful coastal region including multi coloured sand cliffs.

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It was my first time on a RIB and I was surprised as to how comfortable it was. Able to take up to 8 people at once there were a few places to sit including the red sofa-like back area complete with handles to hold when the RIB went up to high speeds, and indeed it can go fast with it’s 300 horsepower engine! We sped out to The Needles themselves and having never been on a RIB before I was pleased to see that we actually stayed completely dry.

To book a ride on the RIB enquire at reception or call 01983852186.


To book a stay at The Royal Hotel | Click Here

A guided walk of Hull Old Town | Walks in Hull

Hull is packed full of hidden gems; it’s definitely one of those cities that without the proper guidance you might miss a lot of what it has to offer. For this reason, the first thing I chose to do as soon as I arrived in the city was to go on a guided walk of Hull old town with one of it’s most highly recommended tour guides, Paul Schofield, who has been doing guided walks in Hull and Beverly for 29 years meaning you’re bound to enjoy the many walks in Hull.

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We met the group in Queen Victoria Square and Paul started the tour by explaining how Hull got it’s name and a little bit about the bombing in WWII. He said that the damage done to the city wasn’t really reported as they didn’t want journalists coming to Hull and seeing how badly hit it was as it would be so bad for moral. Having said that, I was surprised how many stunning old buildings Hull has, both on a grand scale like in the pictures below and also the more low key ones in the Old Town.

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Hull has a very unique trail on it’s pavements ‘The Fish Trail’,  an A- Z of fish which creates a tour of the historic Old Town. The trail is free of charge of course and offers a perfect way to explore Hull without a map, yet still encompassing many of the best sights, meaning it’s one of the most popular and actually easy walks in Hull.

Guided walking tour hull old town, hull walking tour, Paul Schofield

Paul’s tour passes by a lot of pubs, which Hull has many of! Some of the buildings are fantastically British and kooky, the kind of place that Americans go crazy over. On top of the pubs I noticed a large number of cool looking cafes and vintage shops en-route, that would not be out of place in Shoreditch or indeed Brooklyn. That sounds like an exaggeration but it’s true!

Hull’s Capital of Culture status also means that it’s benefited from some wonderful art installations around the city, juxtaposed with old buildings such as Hull Minster with it’s newly elevated status.

Guided walking tour hull old town, hull walking tour, Paul Schofield

Paul’s tour was relaxed and fun. He’s a fountain of knowledge of course, but it’s his passion and humour that make the tour and it really set me up for exploring over the next couple of days. There are a lot of great walks in Hull but a Hull Old Town Walk is definitely a fun one.  @hulltourguide

http://www.visithullandeastyorkshire.com

 

Burger & Shake – Top cheap eats London

London isn’t the easiest place to find a decent meal out without spending half your monthly income on food, so I was very pleased to be introduced to Burger & Shake, a small restaurant a short walk from King’s Cross serving consistently delicious food at reasonable prices.

Burger & Shake does quite literally what it says on the tin, and serves up American style burgers and hot dogs alongside heart attack inducing Bourbon infused milkshakes.

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The menu is fairly concise and ranges from £5.50 for the Fish Finger Sandwich up to £8.95 for the Pulled Pork topped burger served in a brioche bun. Sides such as the perfectly cooked sweet potato fries are also great but the mains on their own are filling enough that you don’t need to rack up the bill by adding lots of extras.

One extra worth noting is the fantastic range of shakes, both non-alcoholic and “hard shakes”. A particular favourite of mine was the “Ovaltini”, an unusual sounding mix of tequila, rum, coconut and malted caramel. You’re not scrimped on size and one shake is large enough and filling enough for two to share, not that you are going to want to!

I’ve been a number of times and tried a range of things on the menu, I’ve never been disappointed and food is always served with a smile. Burger & Shake is a much needed alternative to other quick eat chain restaurants like Nando’s and is one of my favourite spots in central for a well priced tasty meal.

Burger & Shake, 47 Marchmont Street, London WC1N 1AP Tel: 020 7837 7718 info@burgerandshake.co.uk.