I am just back from 3 nights in the Isle of Wight, I've not been since I was a child, and I absolutely loved it! I was invited by Red Funnel, the original Isle of Wight ferry service that operates from Southampton to East Cowes, and I was also gifted accommodation at Nettlecombe Farm, near Ventnor. When I originally booked, I thought that 3 nights wouldn't be long enough but for a first trip back, it was just right! Read on to find out more about my Isle of Wight trip and the perfect 'couples break' itinerary!
We set off from home about 9.30 am on Friday morning, my husband and our two dogs, Katy and Bonnie, it was a super easy drive down to Southampton from our home in Buckinghamshire, less than an hour and a half and access to the ferry terminal is easy and very clearly signposted. We were booked on the 12 Noon ferry crossing and arrived about 45 minutes before departure, we had priority boarding organised and the whole experience was smooth and easy. The ferry only takes an hour and so we had the whole of Friday afternoon to explore the Isle of Wight and get our bearings!
This is a gifted blog post.
Red Funnel ferry from Southampton
Super easy, we travelled on the Red Funnel vehicle ferry from Southampton T1 to East Cowes, the whole experience was flawless and efficient. On board we had been given access to the Signature Lounge which is Red Funnel's exclusive lounge providing a relaxing and quiet space with free WiFi and complimentary tea, coffee, soft drinks and snacks. We had decided to take the dogs with us and the Signature Lounge is not dog-friendly unfortunately so on the crossing to the Isle of Wight, I got to relax whilst my husband waited in the dog-friendly lounge! Which is very noisy and full of ... dogs! It is fantastic that this space is provided but I was glad not to have to be in there. On the return journey we took the decision to let Katy and Bonnie stay in the car, while we enjoyed the Signature Lounge together. We were able to do this as both girls are very easy going (they'd have been very good in the Signature Lounge too, but rules are rules). Honestly we often don't know we have them, they sit under the table and don't move!
If you don't book the Signature Lounge in advance you can still upgrade on the day, in case you find the other lounges a bit busy. You will also get 20% off food and drink on board with your Priority Ticket!
The weather forecast originally wasn't great for our weekend away but we did still manage a bit of time on deck enjoying the breathtaking views of the Solent and watching the other ferries and boats go past. The dogs enjoyed their little walk on deck too!
When we arrived in East Cowes, we were off the ferry in minutes and starting our. journey across the island towards Ventnor.
Red Funnel also operate their Red Jet, passenger ferry which is even faster, you can cross the Solent to the Isle of Wight in 30 minutes.
With regular cruises from Southampton, this was a busy terminus but we loved watching the boats and excited passengers!
Nettlecombe Farm, Isle of Wight
Nettlecombe Farm is a working farm that has been welcoming families, couples and groups for over 40 years. Although situated in the middle of rolling countryside, the sea is only a very short distance away. The drive from Cowes to Ventnor took us 30 minutes and check-in is easy, the owners provide a key-safe and a telephone number for you to call with any questions.
We were staying in Robin, a two-bedroom barn conversion. It is a quirky layout with two staircases (children will love it) and it is ideally set up for families and dogs. I loved how each of the cottages has a private, fully fenced, patio garden area front and back to keep dogs or toddlers safe. Robin was immaculately clean and had everything that we needed for a comfortable stay including tea bags, coffee and a pint of milk in the fridge.
Nettlecombe Farm offer a farm feeding tour and you can meet their animals - goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep, reindeer, an emu, two alpacas, a pony and donkeys as well as geese, chickens and peacocks!
The children's play areas are fantastic, and very safe, with football goals, a climbing frame, plenty of ride-on toys, a wendy house and a tractor plus an abundance of green space to run around and let off steam!
There are three fishing lakes and a wellbeing studio for yoga and personal training. They also offer a private chef service and host events and retreats!
It really is a fantastic place to stay! And despite all that it offers, it feels remote, away from the rush of daily life, quiet and peaceful.
On Friday afternoon, we quickly unpacked and decided to find out where we were located, so we took the short drive from Whitwell village to Ventnor. Ventnor is a pretty seaside town with a small selection of shops on the High Street, the beach is sand and shingle and is known for being a suntrap. We certainly didn't expect such good weather and we enjoyed a glass of wine at The Spyglass Inn and fish and chips sitting outside at The Mill Bay - we also walked the dogs along the beach and browsed in the windows of the few shops along the seafront, I reminisced about buying different colour sand in glass bottles as a souvenir when I was a child!
Below: I took the opportunity to try out my Changing Robe from Regatta Outdoors - I've never had one before and it really did make me laugh as it's so big but I can see how useful it would be for regular beach goers, sea swimmers and surfers! You could easily get changed inside it and it would be so cosy and warm for a chillier day on a British beach, it felt like a sleeping bag!
Godshill, Shanklin, Bembridge and Ryde
The next day we decided to explore the Island more fully, nothing on the Isle of Wight is very far and the roads are quiet and the views are stunning.
First stop was the village of Godshill which has an excellent model village but is also famous for All Saints Church and is often used as one of the iconic views to represent a quaint village, it is full of traditional thatched cottages and tea shops. We chatted to a resident who had retired there and he gave us lots of tips and ideas of where to visit. We also watched a Spitfire flying overhead and I loved finally seeing spring flowers and bluebells appearing.
Then onto Shanklin, I didn't love the seafront here as much as Ventnor, but we still enjoyed a cup of tea and piece of cake overlooking the beach! We drove to Bembridge next, which claims to be the largest village in England and has three gorgeous beaches. I stayed near here as a child, I remember how me and my sister, my parents and my grandparents would pile into one car and set off for what felt like a holiday abroad, we stayed in small chalets at the holiday camp, I have such happy memories of those times.
Our final stop of the day was Ryde, which boasts long sandy beaches, it was one of Queen Victoria's favourite destinations. We parked at the very far end by Appley Beach and Appley Tower then walked along to the end where we had lunch at The Dell, a beachside bistro! This was my favourite lunch spot of our few days in the Isle of Wight and the food was delicious! It was warm enough to take my coat then my cardigan off and I could hear the waves lapping onto the beach and rocks below, the panoramic views of the beach and the Solent are to die for, it was a joy to watch the boats, the people enjoying the beach and the dogs playing. And it was super dog friendly, Katy and Bonnie were very happy under our table with their water bowl and snacks. We had lunch but they also have an excellent brunch menu, I can recommend the shredded lamb wrap!
Above: the button through stripe cardigan and wrinkle free scoop neck vest are both from Cotton Traders, the cardigan felt warm but not too heavy, ideal for the changeable spring weather, the vest top is part of the Cotton Traders wrinkle-free collection, great for packing!
Osborne House was the highlight of the trip for me! I love history and especially the love story between Victoria and Albert, I was a big fan of ITV's 'Victoria'. I remember visiting Osborne House as a child but only part of it was open then so our visit was probably very limited, now being run by English Heritage and fully open to the public, you can explore the private apartments and the grand reception rooms.
Outside the formal gardens were full of spring tulips and spring flowers, it was a riot of stunning colour. The views from the terraces and windows are spectacular and it is easy to see why Queen Victoria loved it so much. She died aged 81 in January 1901 at her beloved Osborne House and you can see the room where she was cared for in her final days and hours.
We both loved visiting the Swiss Cottage. It was built by Prince Albert for his 9 children, he wanted them to experience the same outdoor, active and free childhood he had himself. It is an alpine-style chalet hidden away in the woodland below the main house and giving more privacy, the royal children were able to learn important lessons like housekeeping, cookery and gardening as well as spend time with their parents. Victoria would often escape there to write her journal or work on official documents.
We then walked down to Osborne's private beach and saw Queen Victoria's bathing machine! It is a beautiful walk through the woods, past rhododendrons and opens up to a spectacular view. There is also a bus service if walking isn't an option.
Osborne House was built specifically for Victoria and Albert and they used it as their private, away from it all, family escape. The English Heritage guides are keen to share their knowledge and snippets of information to bring the history alive.
Above: my lightweight insulated quilted jacket in dusky rose is from Regatta Outdoors, I had several changes of jacket over the weekend due to the very much 'not spring' weather but I love the colour of this one and being lightweight it is easy to pack!
Another memory from childhood, seeing the donkeys at Carisbrooke Castle! I wasn't sure we were going to fit this visit it but I am so pleased we did! We checkout out of our accommodation Monday morning and as Carisbrooke is on the way back to East Cowes, the timing was perfect before our 3pm ferry!
Carisbrooke Castle sits 'high and proud at the hear of the Isle of Wight' and has been an artillery fortress, a king's prison and a royal summer residence! Now it is a fairytale castle, part ruin, but delightful nonetheless. And I admit I was going simply to see the donkeys but I discovered so much more!
We loved walking the castle walls and climbing the Norman Keep to see the panoramic views. We were blessed with another blue sky day! The Princess Beatrice Garden is very pretty and peaceful and St Nicolas Chapel is also the islands war memorial.
The well house was originally the main supply of water to the castle and the huge oak wheel had to be turned to draw a bucket down to the water and back up again! Originally this job was performed by prisoners but later on it became the job of a team of donkeys and this tradition has carried on to the present day.
All the donkeys at Carisbrooke have names beginning with J, this was started when King Charles I was a prisoner at Carisbrooke as he always signed his letters with a J - on the day of our visit, it was Juno who turned the wheel for the demonstration, we also met Jack and Jill! There are very strict animal care protocols in place now and each donkey works in shifts and for a maximum of 6 minutes on the wheel in any one day. But it was a delight to witness Juno turn the wheel for us!
A holiday to the Isle of Wight
We managed to do so much and yet it was so relaxing and peaceful. Travelling to the Isle of Wight really does feel like going to a foreign country but it is so close and easy to get to. I can't wait to go back! The locals are friendly, the views are spectacular, the sun shined and the food and restaurants are excellent.
If you've not been to the Isle of Wight recently, go! It's beautiful, the beaches are amazing, it is quiet, welcoming and yet offers so many options for things to do. It is also a very reasonably priced destination!
Love Michelle xx
Disclaimer: this was a PR invite, we travelled to the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel, and we were gifted our ferry crossing, 3 nights accomodation at Nettlecombe Farm and tickets to Osborne House in exchange for sharing our experience on my blog and social media. This blog post contains some affiliate links.
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Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about health, menopause, fitness, beauty and style with a focus on the over 50's.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my 50s. I started this blog in 2016 with the purpose of helping other women at this stage of life. I’m delighted that my blog has grown to over 13k visitors per month. Visit my Work with Me page and request my Media Kit for details of product reviews, blogging services and social media content creation.
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