Written by Joy S on 19 Sep, 2011
Shanklin and Sandown are close to each other, so we decided to spend a day discovering the 2 seaside towns. It took about an hour to get there from our base in Totland Bay.We went first of all to Shanklin. We parked in…Read More
Shanklin and Sandown are close to each other, so we decided to spend a day discovering the 2 seaside towns. It took about an hour to get there from our base in Totland Bay.We went first of all to Shanklin. We parked in the car park in the old town - it is pay and display. We walked into the centre of Shanklin and were a bit disappointed. There are a few old fashioned shops but not a lot else. The old village area though is very pretty. It has lots of places to eat and drink and most of the buildings are thatched, so very picturesque. The only problem is the traffic whizzes past you here, the pavements are quite narrow and especially if you have children with you, you have to be extremely careful all the time.Shanklin Chine is close to the old village. It is a gorge with rare plants and a waterfall. It has been a tourist attraction since 1817. The word "chine" is apparently only used in the Isle of Wight and Dorset. It means a narrow alley or ravine.It cost £3.90 for adults and £2.00 for children to enter the chine. It is open between 10 am and 10pm and is illuminated after dusk. The ravine is lush and has exotic plants. It is a bit dark and damp though, so make sure you are wearing sturdy shoes. There is a lovely tearoom, and beyond that an exhibition about PLUTO. During World War II, Shanklin Chine was a route to the sea for PLUTO - the Pipeline Under the Ocean. It carried vital fuel under the English Channel to Cherbourg during the Invasion of Normandy in 1944. The exhibition has lots of interesting information all about this, just a short walk away you can actually see some of the original pipeline.In the afternoon we carried on to Sandown and went to Dinosaur Isle there. This is a purpose built museum. It opened in 2001 and claims to be the first custom built dinosaur museum in Europe. It is very close to the seafront at Sandown.Admission is £5 for adults and £3 for children. There is a big car park at the back of the museum - it costs £3.40 to park there, but if you go into the museum you have this refunded.The shape of the building is interesting - it is a pterosaur. Inside the museum are numerous fossils, some life sized models of dinosaurs and a couple of animatronics models. There was also an expert working here who was very friendly and very happy to answer questions. Our son was fascinated with what he was told. He also allowed the children to handle different fossils and bones.The dinosaur museum is quite good, but we only stayed in there for about half an hour. It would be somewhere to go if the weather was bad, but if it is sunny, I would find something else to do. Close
Written by Joy S on 14 Sep, 2011
We took the ferry from Southampton which arrives in Cowes, so decided to explore a little. We liked the atmosphere so much here, that we decided to come back again the day we left and spend another couple of hours in this area.Cowes is…Read More
We took the ferry from Southampton which arrives in Cowes, so decided to explore a little. We liked the atmosphere so much here, that we decided to come back again the day we left and spend another couple of hours in this area.Cowes is renowned for its pleasant port. Every year in August, tourists flock here whilst it is filled with yachts from all over the world. Cowes Week Regatta is one of the largest boating events and apparently attracts more extremely rich people per square foot in Cowes, than anywhere else in the world.We are not yachting enthusiasts and inadvertently planned our holiday here at this time - we did not plan for it to coincide with Cowes Week. We did however love watching the yachts, thought the atmosphere was wonderful - carnival like with music, stalls and entertainment and would definitely recommend coming here at this time. A tip though - be sure to book your accommodation a long time in advance during Cowes Week - everywhere gets booked up really quickly.Cowes itself has interesting and elegant narrow winding streets and the architecture is lovely. There is a nautical feel to the whole place. There are not many shops, but those they have are delightful. They sell a lot of craft things, pictures and gorgeous souvenirs. I just loved browsing in them.The waterfront at Cowes though is the place to spend time. During Cowes Week, it was a kaleidoscope of colourful sails. The focal point is the Royal Yacht Squadron. There are yachts everywhere - as far as the eye can see. We enjoyed watching the yacht races from the starting area and every time the cannons fired, we jumped!East Cowes is the terminus of the car and passenger ferry from Southampton. It has its own small shopping centre, marina and seafront promenade. It is however the less interesting half of the town. Cowes is bisected by the River Medina. You can take the chain ferry - or the floating bridge as it is called here, across the river to West Cowes. This is the older and more interesting part of the town. The highstreet meanders up from the waterfront. The chain ferry takes just a couple of minutes and costs £2.00. You may have to queue though. Cars and foot passengers can travel on it. Close
Written by Joy S on 12 Sep, 2011
* The Isle of Wight is the smallest county in England when it is high tide. This is not the case when the tide goes out - then it actually becomes larger than Rutland.* To see the island at its scenic best,…Read More
* The Isle of Wight is the smallest county in England when it is high tide. This is not the case when the tide goes out - then it actually becomes larger than Rutland.* To see the island at its scenic best, you should walk at least part of the 65 mile trail called The Coastal Path. It links cross country trails with panoramic views of cliffs, the ocean and the downs. The most scenic part of the path is between Shanklin and Ventnor.* We came here during Cowes Week - I would definitely recommend coming at this time as it is a great time to visit the island. This is one of the longest running events in UK sporting history. It first took place in 1826 and has become one of the best known sailing regattas in the world. It lasts for 8 days and more than 1,000 boats take part - there are yachts everywhere. The atmosphere throughout the island is carnival like. There are also lots of open-air activities and great entertainment going on.* Do not be put off by what you see as you get off the ferry on the island at Cowes. We initially were a bit disappointed. Near the ferry ports you can be overwhelmed by coach parties of day trippers. Also some of the resorts are quaint Victorian places, but they have more than their fair share of tatty tourist shops. Head for the western part of the island where it is most unspoilt.* Visiting any island is a fun adventure for children. Our 8 year old loved it, as the holiday started off with a boat journey. The Isle of Wight is probably one of the most accessible islands in the UK.* The best time of year to visit the Isle of Wight is between April and September. The island has a quaint and gentle atmosphere - this is one of its main draws, but also means most attractions are closed mid autumn until Easter.* The ferries dock at Yarmouth (from Lymington), Cowes (Southampton) or Fishbourne Creek (Portsmouth). We travelled from Southampton to Cowes - the trip took 55 minutes and was efficient and comfortable. You get some lovely views of the yachts as you come into Cowes.* Most roads on the island are minor roads, so you cannot go anywhere fast. All attractions are spread throughout the island, but it does not take long (maybe 40 minutes) to drive from one end to the other. The island is compact and the roads are well signposted. If you prefer to use public transport you can buy Rover tickets for the buses. These allow unlimited travel during your stay. I would advise using a car though - it gives you more flexibility.* The island is only about 27 miles long at its widest point. It is easy to explore on foot or by bicycle. You can walk for miles without seeing a car, and over half the island is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - the scenery just never runs out.* This is a great place to bring children. There is lots for them to see and do, plus the hotels and other places provide and cater very well for families. Most restaurants had children's menus and lots of pubs had play areas.* There are miles of beaches - each one has its own character. On some of them you can search for dinosaur fossils, others have rock pools were you can fish for sea creatures and some are sandy and traditional with ice cream shops. Between May and September, dogs are not permitted on a lot of the island's beaches. Close
The Isle of Wight is right at the south of England - 91 miles south west of London and 4 miles south of Southampton. It is perhaps best known for its sandy beaches and ports and it has long been a favourite with the…Read More
The Isle of Wight is right at the south of England - 91 miles south west of London and 4 miles south of Southampton. It is perhaps best known for its sandy beaches and ports and it has long been a favourite with the yachting set. The island is also popular with cyclists, walkers and families coming on holiday - the "bucket and spade brigade." It has been a holiday destination since Victorian times.A visit to the Isle of Wight will bring back a nostalgic childhood holiday feeling. Many guide books describe it as "England in miniature." It is compact - just 23 miles east to west and 13 miles north to south. Despite its size, there is everything here, from golden sandy beaches to rolling hills to really pretty towns and villages.The climate on the Isle of Wight is normally mild and gentle (although we had some very windy and cold weather during our week here). There are lots of outdoor activities on offer as well as 25 miles of clean, unspoilt beaches.The Victorians discovered the island and built resorts here. If you enjoy 19th century architecture, you will see lots of it here. The island has a lot of variety - the scenery is ever changing, and each town or village offers something different. Queen Victoria loved it here and used to come with her family. It was at Osbourne House near Cowes on the Isle of Wight that she died. It was also a favourite place of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens and other literary figures.Cowes is the premier port for yachting in Britain. Henry VIII ordered the castle here to be built and now it is the headquarters of the Royal Yacht Squadron. The sea front and high cliff road have scenic views. Cowes is divided into North and East Cowes, separated by the Medina River and linked by a chain ferry called the floating bridge.Shanklin has a lovely old village and Shanklin Chine - a fissure in the cliff where you can walk up to see a waterfall, is pretty. Ventnor is often referred to as "the Madeira of England" as it rises from the sea in a series of steep hills. It has a unique micro-climate which means that tropical plants can grow here. You can see all sorts of amazing things in the botanical gardens.The West coast of the island was our real highlight. This was where we stayed - it is very unspoiled and has the most lovely scenery. A must see here is the many coloured sand cliffs of Alum Bay and the Needles - 3 giant chalk rocks. Close
Written by dkm1981 on 03 Dec, 2009
I've already written about the seven wonders of the Isle of Wight, but there are many other towns that don't make it onto that list, but that are very much worth the visit anyway.SandownOne of the island's most popular towns, it attracts visitors from all…Read More
I've already written about the seven wonders of the Isle of Wight, but there are many other towns that don't make it onto that list, but that are very much worth the visit anyway.SandownOne of the island's most popular towns, it attracts visitors from all over the world. The reason for this is probably its many attractions including the Culver Pier, the Isle of Wight Zoo and the seafront arcades. Another reason for its popularity is its many, many facilities. Here in Sandown, you'll find plenty of hotels suiting all budgets as well as a busy high street and as many restaurants, cafes and bars as you can shake a stick at. Sandown offers the quintessential English beach holiday for many tourists and this is why they (both young and old) return year after year.ShanklinShanklin is right 'next door' to Sandown and whilst Sandown is very much a modern beach town, Shanklin offers a more traditional English beach holiday. It still offers all the attractions, facilities and amenities that you would expect from a beach resort, but in a much more traditional and (in my opinion) a much less gaudy way than its sister resort. Shanklin is more about appreciating the area for what it is and has been than creating new and up-to-date attractions. Here you will find the simple pleasures of a crazy golf course, children's play area and picturesque promenade.Shanklin used to have a pier, but that was unfortunately destroyed in the 'Great Storm of 1987', however its remnants can still be seen just at the edge of the coastline, where it drifted to.GurnardThis is a very small town next to Cowes. I'll be honest, there is very little to see and do here, but I couldn't resist adding it to my list solely for the many fond childhood memories I have of Gurnard.There is a beach of sorts (it's a pebble beach and very small) and there's also a large expanse of grass that is surrounded by little beach huts that are available for long term hire.There's also a little cafe right down on the front and a nice pub set back from the beach that offers a good menu for fairly reasonable prices and very good views of the Solent.Gurnard is the home of a sailing school and, as a result, you can spend many an-hour watching the students on their little boats learning to sail. VentnorIs another beach town right at the base of the island and its main feature is its steep roads and rock faces down to the front. The ground here is extremely unstable, resulting in the loss of many buildings to subsidence over the years. This has lead to the locals coining phrase; 'we live near the sea and are getting nearer every day'. Like most of the Isle of Wight, Ventnor is another picturesque town that is home to one or two quaint attractions including the popular botanical gardens. It also has many other parks and gardens as well as a brewery.Ventnor is also home to many popular events throughout the year, not least the annual Isle of Wight International Jazz Festival, held in February and attracting many of the genre's top names.Blackgang ChineBlackgang Chine is most notably the home of a popular children's amusement park featuring a selection of rides, attractions and heritage attractions.Unfortuately the ground here is extremely unstable as well, resulting in the vastly and continually changing make-up of the park - many attractions have been lost to subsidence over the years, whilst others are regularly moved to prevent them slipping over the edge.The park is definitely worth a visit for those with children as it offers fun, frolics and a certain amount of learning and is presented in a unusual and entertaining way. Entry is £9.50 per person or you can get a saver ticket for 4 people for £35. Full details can be found on their website - www.blackgangchine.comSo, as you can see there are many attractions and places to visit on the Isle of Wight, making it a fun destination for everybody that will guarantee you many fond memories. Close
Written by dkm1981 on 21 Nov, 2009
The people of the Isle of Wight are quite proud of their 'wonders' - that is if you are to believe the countless postcards, tea towels and other souvenirs with them emblazoned accross! There is some debate though as to how many there are, some…Read More
The people of the Isle of Wight are quite proud of their 'wonders' - that is if you are to believe the countless postcards, tea towels and other souvenirs with them emblazoned accross! There is some debate though as to how many there are, some say six, some say seven and some say eight. However, in accordance with the wonders of the world, I've always believed there were seven and here they are:1. Cowes - you cannot milkIs a small town at the top of the island where the famous Red Funnel passenger and car ferries dock. It is split into two parts (Cowes and East Cowes) by the River Medina. It's a lovely, sleepy little town with a big focus on the sailing community. It absolutely comes alive though during Cowes Week - the world famous sailing meeting that brings in enthusiasts and celebrities in their droves. It's a fabulous time to be there, but book early and don't be surprised by significant price hikes.2. Needles - you cannot threadThe needles are a series of three brilliant white rocks on the Western-most point of the Island. An unlikely tourist attraction, they have become very popular and as a result have become the basis for the Needles theme park. Here you'll find all manner of tourist traps including a fairground, a glass blowing exhibit, a sweet making factory, crazy golf, arcades and the sand art shop. The sand art shop is a popular place where you pick a glass container (available in every shape you can imagine) and you fill it withthe different coloured sands. It makes a very popular, if not a little tacky, souvenir. Also, you'll find a rather decrepit-looking cable car that will take you down to the beach for even better views of the needles away from the chaos of the theme park.3. Newport - you cannot bottleNewport is the Isle of Wight's county town and is located at the end of the River Medina, at the centre of the Island. Here you'll find all the usual things you'd expect to see a typical city centre - shops, restaurants, businesses and clubs. There's also a fairly new cinema and entertainment complex.Parkhurst (a suburb of Newport) is home to three prisons: Parkhurst Prison (the most famous), Camp Hill, and Albany. Parkhurst and Albany were once amongst the few top-security prisons in the United Kingdom.4. Freshwater - you cannot drinkOnce home to the Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson, Freshwater is a small village formed around Freshwater Bay, near the needles. There are a few things of interest in the village. These include the Old Battery - a Victorian port and rocket testing site during WW2. There is an interesting little museum here that is free to enter. Also, at low tide you can actually see dinosaur footprints at Compton Bay. Finally, nearby Afton Down, was the location for the 1970 Isle of Wight festival.5. Ryde - where you walkRyde is the Isle of Wight's equivalent to Blackpool, in my opinion. It's the most populous are in the Isle of Wight and is home to a one of the oldest and longest piers in Britain.You can connect to the mainland via hoverraft from Ryde to Portsmouth.Entertainment wise, there is plenty on offer in Ryde; there are five street carnivals each year; the ice rink is home to the Island's hockey team; and there are also theatres, restaurants, arcades and nightlife-a-plenty.6. Lake - where you walk and stay dryUnfortunately, there isn't much to say about this tiny village near Sandown Bay at the bottom of the Island. In fact, it's probably only on the list thanks to its name!7. Newtown - that is very oldAnother very small place (a hamlet in fact) that was probably founded around the time of the Norman Conquest. There is a legend about a piper, very similar to the Pied Piper of Hamlin who had to lure the village rats into sea. When he wasn't paid by the villagers, he lured all the children away, resulting in a loss of a generation and the demise of Newtown!Some of them, as you can see are very tenuous to say the least, but it is all meant as a little bit of fun for the tourist market. All joking aside though, this list isn't a bad place to start if you're considering where to visit during a visit to the Island. All of them have their own quirks and attractions and all make great destinations. Close
Written by 80 Ways Tim on 15 Jun, 2005
"Okay, the race starts in five minutes..."
Thom looked scared. It was Sunday morning, we had barely got ourselves out of bed, and we were on Sandown Beach, about to embark on a sailing-boat race. Or at least, Thom was. I was safe with Thom's dad's…Read More
"Okay, the race starts in five minutes..."
Thom looked scared. It was Sunday morning, we had barely got ourselves out of bed, and we were on Sandown Beach, about to embark on a sailing-boat race. Or at least, Thom was. I was safe with Thom's dad's friend Tony, who was going to take me out for a leisurely cruise.
I know nothing about boats or sailing. My vessel for the morning was a catamaran, which, for those of you with a similar level of knowledge, looks like two kayaks running parallel to one another, with a 5-foot square mesh sheet holding them togeter. My job was to sit at the front of the boat in the middle of the mesh and get hit by waves. I think I did a pretty good job. The boy next to me, Jonny, certainly found it amusing.
I docked back on the beach after half an hour or so, but Thom's race continued for a good 90 minutes. He returned cold and smiling. The wetsuits were a story themselves--if you've never tried putting on a wetsuit, then you may not be aware of the difficulty and frustration involved. My aggravation was only exaggerated by first putting my suit on back-to-front and then realising it had no zipper, forcing me to change a third time. We looked as attractive as anyone ever does in a wetsuit, and Thom had the added amusement factor of a seeming inability to bend any of his limbs. Before we had time to remove our wetsuits, we were hoisted onto the back of a jetski and hurtled around the bay at high speeds.
Showered and lunched, we set about wrangling our way onto some of the island's other attractions. Our first port of call was the local gliding club. The man in charge was not the most cooperative person we had met on our trip and repeatedly asked, "What's in it for me?" Short of a full-page spread advertising his company in the local paper, a feat somewhat above our meagre abilities, he was not going to help us. We did manage a quick ride in his tractor, though.
More luck came at the local pleasure-flight centre. We had quite an entourage by this point. Thom and I in our matching t-shirts, our cameraman (Thom's sister) and our photographer (Thom's dad). We were, I thought, looking quite professional. Evidently our latest targets agreed: No sooner had the Cessna pilot touched down than he was taking us for a ride in the sky. So wrapped up was I with filming the flight and getting photos for our sponsors that it wasn't until we were about to come down that I actually realised we were shooting through the air in a light aircraft and that it was actually quite exciting.
Thom's sister had arranged for us to go for a spin in a Sinclair C5 - a legend in its own right. If you're not familiar with the C5, then take a look at the picture at the top of our website (www.80ways.co.uk) or just type it into Google. It's a miniature white-plastic electric car that was supposed to be the new big thing back when it was invented. It was never a very big thing, but it can certainly kill a couple of hours. Thom hopped into the machine, top hat on head, and proceeded to pull out of the driveway and onto a main road. The hilarity had to be seen to be believed. Tailing a guy in a top hat who is navigating a roundabout at about 8mph in a rickety white toy car really is a sight to behold.
Our day was almost over, and we were about to head for the ferry home when Thom's neighbour offered us a ride first on his sit-on lawnmower and second on his dumper truck. Steering a dumper truck is harder than you might think. I was failing dismally and was completely oblivious to the fact that I was perpendicular to the direction I should be when several cars came hurtling down the road.
We had to get back to the mainland, and we had decided that a hovercraft was the way to go. There was one departure left that evening. The video recording of the event tells it best: first you see me give my speech, the cashier replies, "Not on this one, not tonight," and then you see me walking on board with a big grin.
My friend Lianne and her boyfriend, Scott, were our new hosts for the evening. After taking us out for a nice pub meal and a relaxing pint before bedtime, we kicked Lianne out of her room and then made her get up at the crack of dawn the next morning to drive us to the port (where Scott let us have a go on his unicycle!). Our hosts went above and beyond. In fact, Lianne even made us some nice cheese sandwiches for the journey...
Written by 80 Ways Tim on 17 Jun, 2005
Not only did we miss our ferry, but we had to pay to get across the channel. Yet neither of these eventualities turned out to be particularly bad things.
We had thought our well-honed blagging skills would get us another free ride and had run into…Read More
Not only did we miss our ferry, but we had to pay to get across the channel. Yet neither of these eventualities turned out to be particularly bad things.
We had thought our well-honed blagging skills would get us another free ride and had run into the ticketing office suitably excited. Our contact in the PR department was not in the office for another hour (a good half-hour after the ferry left), and no one else was willing to let us on for free. We moved onto another ferry company, but the receptionist was not receptive. She asked us not to film her and then refused to let us speak to a manager. She insisted that we pay.
Two pounds. Two pounds is what she insisted we pay. After sapping our enthusiasm with her cold reception, she then revealed that she was actually giving us a special discount rate that would cost us a pound each, that the ferry left in five minutes' time, and that it would actually be going to Le Havre, which is probably the closest major port to Paris!
Our next goal--to get a Tannoy announcement asking for a lift to Paris--was ruined quickly when we were told that it was against company policy. So we found ourselves sitting in the Freight Drivers' Restaurant, hassling truckers to give us a free ride. We soon realised that Le Havre was not the wonder-port that we had hoped for. Lorry drivers whose destination was Paris went to Calais. Those at Le Havre were bound for Normandy. However, there was an upside to our situation: the Freight Drivers' Restaurant came with free food.
And so it was that I then found myself walking through the "tickets-only" Club-Class section of the boat in a top hat, with a sign on my back saying "Give me a lift to Paris for charity" in big black marker. The ferry was filled with schoolchildren who found the spectacle of a guy in a hat with a paper note celo-taped to his back quite amusing and gave helpful comments like "Yeah right, mate!". They did respond well to our colourful 80 Ways stickers, though (we managed to get some money out of them... for charity!!).
I met with little success, but Thom fared better: "I've found some guys going towards Paris in a van."
Brilliant, I thought. Not only are they going in the right direction, but they are using a method of transport other than a car. Why wasn't Thom excited?
"Well, they're the scariest-looking people on the whole ferry. I wasn't even going to speak to them at first... and they're drunk."
As we filed into the loading bay and piled into the back of the van, I was a little concerned about what we were getting ourselves into. But our new friends were great. The driver was sober, and our less-sober company in the back had some great tales to tell, the best of which involved being stuck in a van between Bulgaria and Romania without enough money to get into either country. They were actually driving to Portugal, not Paris, but we had persuaded them to take the A13 in the direction of Paris, where they dropped us off at a service station before heading off south.
So now we were halfway between Le Havre and Paris. It was mid-afternoon, and we needed to get into Paris by hitchhiking, but without using a car or a van. Oh, and without speaking French, because neither of us could.
Thankfully, a kindly young freight driver had translated a sign for us, so we ran around all the big trucks saying, "Vous allez a Paris?" and holding up a sign that explained the rest. The umpteenth person to turn us down mumbled a word I recognised in his reply: "avant" - before. Aha! We ascertained that he was in fact going half the distance to Paris and that he was more than willing to have us sit in.
Minutes later, the two of us were sitting in the surprisingly large booth of a truck, cruising along the A13 to Paris. We were doing it. Whenever people had asked how we were getting across Europe, our reply tended to vary between "hitching" and "dunno". The reality of hitchhiking was not something we were fully aware of, and doing it in a foreign country, without speaking the language, and wanting to be picky about the vehicles we took, made it sound more than a little unfeasible. But we were doing it.