Having visited the area surrounding Bournemouth on many occasions we decided to use the Isle of Wight ferry to spend a day exploring the island.
We discovered via the Internet that there were special "Days Out" options at very reasonable costs. We paid £35 for four adults, our car, and a visit to a local attraction. Officially we could not travel before 9.30am but as there was space on the 9am sailing we were able to leave earlier, which meant we were in Yarmouth by 9.30am. Anyone travelling to Lymington for the morning ferry just needs to be aware of the rush hour traffic as people travel to work and give plenty of time to reach Lymington.
We disembarked at Yarmouth where there is a Tourist Information Centre at the dock. Having set out our priorities for the day prior to departing, we set off for our first "port of call" which was Cowes. Crowes has two parts, East and West. West Cowes is the rendevous for sailors everywhere and is the focus of the famous Cowes Week Yachting Event. East Cowes is the site of Osborne House, which was the home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and is open to visitors to the island. We strolled to view the harbour with its many beautiful yachts, and meandered around the quaint streets. Like most places on the island it is only small but well worth a visit.
From here we took the short trip to Sandown. This is a typical British seaside town with its long promenade, sandy beach, and shops selling rock souvenirs, sun hats and buckets and spades. There is also a Leisure Complex and its pier is lively and noisy with slot machines and a funfair. This would be the place for families with small children to take their holiday. Plenty of cafes were available with "Specials" for lunch, so we took the opportunity to sample Fish & Chips Isle of Wight style. Apparently past well known visitors were Lewis Carroll, John Keats, and Charles Darwin.
The beautiful Village of Godshill was our next priority stop. It is a very busy stop with a large, free car park behind the Old Smithy, but be prepared to queue for a space. The Smithy first opened 50 years ago but has grown into a large shopping Complex, two of the gift shops being housed in the Old Forge. The village has beautifully thatched cottages, and the Church of All Saints can be seen splendidly above the village. It is the ideal spot for photographs for the memory album. Had we had more time we would certainly have spent longer here.
Our ticket included a visit to Appledurcombe Manor and Falconry Centre. We arrived just in time to catch the last "performance" of the birds of prey. This was interesting, but we had seen other more extensive displays. We then strolled to view the ruins of the manor, which is now managed by English Heritage. It is the shell of an 18th-century stately home which began in 1100 as a Priory and was greatly extended in the 1770's by Sir Richard Worsley. Having been badly damaged in World War II it is now mainly a shell, but the front section has been re-roofed and glazed.
Shanklin was our next stop. This is a much quainter and quieter area than Sandown. Like Godshill it has pretty thatched cottages, many offering pleasant tea gardens. We were fortunate enough to arrive late afternoon with the sun still shining and were able to have our afternoon "cuppa" sat in the open air. There is a theatre in the town where many celebrated performers started their careers. It is a good base for walkers as it has coastal paths leading to Sandown, with which it shares the longest bay on the island, and other areas.
It was now late afternoon and places were beginning to close, so we decided to attempt seeing one more place before making our way back to the ferry for the "homeward" trip. We chose to take the coastal road to Ventnor, knowing that we could stroll along the seafront if shops were closed. As we arrived, and took the hilly road to the seafront, it appeared that the houses were built on rocky ledges and the town was clearly far more hilly than anywhere else we had visited on the island. We arrived too late for exploring the town, but enjoyed a seafront stroll before taking the hairpin bends that led us out of Ventnor.
As we drove back to Yarmouth for the ferry we passed Freshwater Bay, a semi circular bay cut into the chalk cliffs. This would be a beautiful area to visit with plenty of daylight hours remaining, but with little daylight left we carried on to Yarmouth to join the queue of cars waiting to make the return journey to Lymington.
The day was a great success and well worth the £35 we paid. It also gave us the opportunity to explore some of the island and realise that it would be worth returning for a longer visit in the future.