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10 September 2018

five reasons to take a road trip across the isle of wight

my first time on the isle of wight was on foot - a big mistake; even though the island isn't that big (someone joked to jasmin that you can "run around it in three hours!"), getting across it on foot isn't easy - especially if you have as busy an itinerary as i tend to do when i take a staycation in the uk. the public transport is great, but to go from a to d to n to z in a day means spending a loooooot of time switching at bus stops dotted around the island, so this time around, i made sure to take a car. and with the car, came jasmin. mainly because it's her car, and she was driving. but this time around, getting across the island was easier than pie, and left us loads of new places to check out. here are the best bits from our weekend on the isle of wight:

ferry crossing to east cowes

i was super excited to be making the crossing with the car, because i hadn't been on a car ferry since i was a kid, and couldn't really remember what to expect - do we sit in the car while we get shipped across the water? do the cars go into a metal box like the container ships you see? how do the trucks get on via the teeny tiny ramps?! thankfully, the red funnel guys make crossing from southampton to the isle of wight so damn easy, and are super helpful from the minute you check in, to when you set off on your merry way.

i know it's sort of expected that staff would know what they were doing, but it was more than that; they were like, specialists in their specific jobs. whether it was the way they had us wait in a certain place for easy boarding, or where they directed us to park up while on the boat for the smoothest exit, the direction was clear and precise, and we never once had to worry about how or where were going to park on the enormous ferry. crossing with red funnel had us land on the isle of wight with no hassle, no pain, and super excited for the weekend ahead!

return: same-day from southampton for as little as £46

farringford house, west wight

from east cowes we drove about twenty minutes to west wight, to farringford house and gardens. the home is most well known for the time it belonged to alfred and emily tennyson, and then their sons after them, before falling into disrepair and later being passed from hotelier to hotelier; until the last few years when it was rescued by an islander, who has gone to great lengths to restore it to its original beauty. the home is open to visitors who can walk from room to room, admiring emily's carefully curated home, and getting a feel for exactly why alfred, lord tennyson was the sought after poet laureate he was. the guides are incredibly kind and patient, and took the time to answer all of our silly questions, too. couldn't recommend a visit to the refurbished home enough.

the total refurbishment of the grade 1 listen house took the best part of two years, and has only been open for the last year or so - the amazing walled garden as well, and it was wonderful to wander around before and after the house tour and take in the sprawling nature that surround the home. private cottages are dotted around, too, for overnight rental and private use - something i can absolutely see myself staying in the next time i visit!

open: wednesday - saturday, 10am - 5pm
cost: £11 adult, child £6, children under five: free

shanklin and the chine

from west wight we drove across the island, east, to shanklin. the drive was just under an hour, and we drove through some incredible landscapes and scenery, stopping to take pictures as and when we felt like it. a bonus, when you're on a road trip! we left the car at the hotel on the cliff, and walked into the town. shanklin is like.. the town that time forgot. amazing pastel facades and ancient type faces greet you on every corner, the fairy tale streets are narrow, and the pub roofs are thatched. it's absolutely great.

then there's the chine. i didn't know what a chine was until we went, but it's an island word for a geological feature - a kind of wooded ravine - that snakes its way from high atop the shanklin cliffs, down to the beach below. there are waterfalls and lush vegetation, and footpaths and walkways allowing access to a closer look. and by night, the ravine is lit up by neon lights - or, the "illuminations", which are pretty to look at, but pretty hard to photograph, so.. you'll have to take my word for that.

open: daily from 10am to 10pm
cost: £5.60 adults, £4 child, £4.50 concession

bike ride at ryde

from shanklin we drove around twenty minutes north, to ryde. it's the biggest town on the island, and with the best view, too. on a clear day, when the tide is out, it looks like you could literally walk across the sand all the way to portsmouth. i could stare at that view for hours.. which is an excellent segue to one of the reasons we were in ryde: to join in a boro beach group cycle along the seafront!

group activities are never fun, we all know this, but when it comes to a seventeen-seater bike-table contraption thing, that you have to legit pedal for it to move, well i suppose in theory that kind of sucks, too... but it wasn't! it was so much fun! and for about an hour we pedalled our hearts out from ryde marina, past appley tower, out to puckpool park - where jasmin and i decided we'd had enough, and walked our way back. still, it was two miles of cycling i wouldn't normally have done, and we had a right laugh (and were centre of attention, too, which is always fun!).

cost: £12.50 adult (private hire prices tbc)

the garlic farm

from ryde we headed south, to sandown, to visit the island's most well known attraction: the garlic farm. i didn't really know what to expect, despite having had friends tell me how amazing it is, so we both knew we hadddd to get there before we headed back to get the ferry back across to the mainland. we arrived at around 3pm, and it didn't seem like it was very busy at all, so we parked up and went for a wander.

inside the visitor's centre we had the opportunity to try a bunch samples, from sweet sauces and tangy condiments, to tasty jams and spicy conserves, and even garlic oils and such - all made from the garlic grown on the farm. we took note of what we wanted to buy, and headed to the shop! it was a treasure trove of garlic flavoured, and themed, goods; there was literally something for everyone, and between us we came away with garlic farm coffee, garlic puree, tiny garlic gin, and chocolates. so.

there's also somewhat of an animal farm on the garlic farm, though when we tried to find it, we couldn't. so, we assume they were being tended to elsewhere, but there are supposedly pigs and cows, as well as the ponies and chickens we saw on the run in one of the many wildflower fields. it was great there, truly. and best of all, it's freeeeee!

from there, it was time to head north back to cowes, to get the ferry home. there were so many other things we would have loved to have fit in while we were on the island, but as it was, we were preeeeetty busy with what we had already planned! at least i know there's a ton of stuff to head back a third time for - namely: i want to visit the rescued tigers at the isle of wight zoo, i want to see the needles lighthouse, i want to find some penguins or turtles. i wanted to check out the cow in tapnell farm, too, as well as check out the west side of the island a little more, buuuut - i'm saving all that for the next trip. and one thing's for sure, i will always be visiting with a car - it just made getting around so much easier, and meant we could take everything at our own speed. which is, the best.

*this trip was arranged by visit isle of wight, with thanks to red funnel for our trips across!