How to spend a weekend on the Isle of Wight*
Although I love my UK staycations, I’d never actually had the chance to visit the Isle of Wight before and so I was really excited when Visit Isle of Wight asked me to explore the island using only sustainable travel. The environment is something I’m really passionate about, however, I am attached to my car (I love road trips) so I was interested to see how a UK trip would work without having a car. I invited one of my besties, SJ, to come with me and here’s how we got on…
How to get to the Isle of Wight
As this weekend was all about sustainable travel, we took the train to the Isle of Wight, setting off from near where I live in Chesterfield with London St Pancras being our first stop. From here, we got the tube to Waterloo Station and then another train to Portsmouth Harbour.
Just fifteen minutes after our train got in here, we were on the Wightlink Fastcat ferry to Ryde, which takes just 20 minutes. The terminal is really well signposted and so it’s easy to find where you need to be to board.
I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a mission to get the train all the way from the midlands. However, the train journey went quite quickly and was super smooth and easy to do. It also gave me a chance to do some work, read some of my book and for us to have a prosecco each with our breakfast – something I wouldn’t recommend while driving! All of our trains and connections were on time so there were no issues at all.
If you live in London, the Isle of Wight would be a really easy place to come for the weekend as you just need to get a train from Waterloo Station to Portsmouth Harbour and then jump on the Wightlink ferry.
Once you get to the Isle of Wight, there is a train service, the Island Line, which runs from Ryde Pier (where the ferry arrives) to the seaside town of Shanklin every half an hour or so. The trains are old London tube carriages so they’re really cute and the service is super easy to use as it’s only seven stops so you can hop on and hop off to explore the island.
We were based for the weekend in the seaside resort of Sandown which was just a 14 minute train journey from Ryde.
Things to do on the Isle of Wight
Ryde is a lovely little seaside town, it reminds me a bit of a smaller version of Brighton with its quirkiness. It’s full of independent shops – there’s one that makes thing out of recycled plastics – and lovely cafes and restaurants.
One of my favourite things to do at any seaside resort is a walk on the beach. I love breathing the sea air into my lungs, feeling the sand between my toes (or in this case, under my boots!) and maybe even dipping my toes into the sea.
From Sandown, you can walk along the beach or the esplanade to Shanklin – it’s about two miles. Along the way, you can marvel at the pretty beach huts, stop for a coffee at one of the clifftop cafes and watch the waves breaking on the shore. We did this on the evening we arrived in Sandown and it’s a really well lit walk with street lights along the promenade, so perfect for dusk.
There is a longer coastal path from Sandown to Ryde which climbs to the top of the cliffs and takes in some spectacular coastline views but unfortunately we didn’t get time to do this on this trip.
Bike ride with Route Fifty 7
I haven’t ridden a bike for about 10 years and so I was slightly apprehensive before my bike ride! We decided to do the circular Red Squirrel Trail which is 20 miles of cycle paths of varying difficulty and we were lent bikes by Route Fifty 7 for the day.
Route Fifty 7 is based in Shanklin, which is on the Red Squirrel Trail so you can pick up your bikes and be on your way. As we had our bikes ready for us at our guesthouse, we decided to do the trail backwards, starting at Sandown, going through Godshill, Wroxall and Shanklin before arriving back in Sandown. You can also do a longer route of 32 miles, but we thought that might be a much for us.
I did find the ride quite challenging, there were quite a lot of climbs and different terrain and there was one tiny bit where we took a wrong turning and had to go back, but the trail was generally easy to follow. Unfortunately we didn’t see one of the red squirrels after which the trail is named.
We stopped off in Godshill which is a really pretty village full of buildings with thatched cottages and little tearooms and is probably about halfway round the trail. We stopped in The Griffin here for a carby pub lunch of baguettes and chips which were really good value for money and gave us .
Of course, the weather wasn’t great when we were in the Isle of Wight (this is one of my trips after all!) and on our last day it was really rainy and so we chose to find some indoor activities instead. We decided to visit Osborne House which was the holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and was given to English Heritage not long after Queen Victoria died. This means that the house is pretty much exactly as they left it and exactly as they stayed in it.
We got the bus to Osborne House from Ryde and it was around a 20 minute bus journey which allowed us to see more of the island from the top deck. The buses here have screens announcing the stops, so they’re really easy to navigate.
Osborne House was really ornate with lots of rooms that are open to the public. The ceilings were painstakingly carved and there were lots of marble statues, as well as lots of paintings of the royal family. We also got to see downstairs in the house where the table decker would plan the table dressing and the menu for the day. We really enjoyed looking round the house and felt that it was fantastic value for money.
The Island Breezer
During the summer season, there is also a bus called the Island Breezer which is an open top bus that takes you around some of the sites on the other side of the island, including the famous Needles. If I were to come back, I’d love to explore a bit more round there.
Where to eat on the Isle of Wight
We were recommended Reef for dinner on our first night on the island and we really enjoyed it. Situated on the sea front in Sandown, the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and the food was absolutely delicious. I opted for a king prawn spaghetti dish and it was beautiful and full of both flavour and prawns. It was here that we discovered Mermaid Gin for the first time.
Mermaid Gin is distilled on the island and is available in most of the bars. It’s slightly more expensive than a house gin but it’s definitely worth it as it’s delicious. It’s refreshing and crisp with a clean flavour – perfect with either lemon or lime and tonic. We opted for this gin everywhere we went after the first night!
We actually ate here twice during our stay – we liked it that much! We ate lunch here when we arrived in Ryde, after a recommendation. I believe it’s quite a new bar and it’s all industrial chic and stylish inside. The salt and pepper comes in mini bowls with tiny spoons which is one of the cutest condiment set-ups I’ve ever seen.
But it’s not all style over substance, the food is delicious too. For our first lunch we had roast beef sandwiches and when we returned for Sunday lunch we had the roast beef again too. The meat was so tender, it just melted in your mouth and both meals were really tasty.
Again, off the back of a recommendation from a couple staying in our guesthouse, we headed to The Bandstand, again just on the seafront in Sandown. Although they were fully booked for the evening, they managed to accommodate us on a little table near the entrance which was absolutely fine for us.
I again opted for a seafood dish, this time king prawns and smoked haddock in a creamy garlic sauce which was absolutely delicious. And, of course, a Mermaid Gin and tonic.
Where to stay on the Isle of Wight
We stayed at the Inglewood Guesthouse in Sandown, which is run by the lovely Jon and Justine. They are such a lovely couple and couldn’t do enough for us from recommending us things to do, to helping us with our bike hire and giving us extra toast and tea at breakfast.
Inglewood Guesthouse is a traditional British seaside B&B and it really feels like a home away from home, especially because of Jon and Justine. Our room was clean and comfortable with one double bed and a single (we had to fight over the double!) and a really hot shower.
The breakfast at Inglewood Guesthouse is also something to write home about with great quality bacon and sausage, beans, mushrooms and delicious scrambled eggs. If you don’t fancy a full English, there were cereals, yogurts and juices as well, plus Justine made SJ scrambled eggs on toast on request.
We really enjoyed our stay and it was really made by Jon and Justine, we’d definitely go back to see them if we were to visit the Isle of Wight again.
Sandown is a traditional bucket and spade holiday town but there are also plenty of opportunities to explore more rural locations from here. We visited just before the season started so it was probably slightly quieter than it would usually be, and not everything was open yet. The beach is miles long so it’s perfect for walks.
There are lots of good reasons to ditch the car and travel by train, bus and ferry this summer – you don’t need to worry about parking, you can have as many gins as you fancy, it’s great exercise as you do a lot more walking, and there isn’t the stress that comes with taking a wrong turn. So, if you’re thinking about visiting the Isle of Wight, why not consider travelling using sustainable transport?
[press trip was organised and paid for by Visit Isle of Wight]