The Isle of Wight is a magnificent Island separated from mainland England by as little as 3 miles of water and is accessible only by Ferry. The Island has retained its unique charm enchanting 2.7 million visitors each year. From the Southdowns road the white cliffs of Portsdown hill and the city of Portsmouth can be seen and yet one can feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of mainland England.
The Town of Cowes is internationally famed for the Cowes Week sailing regatta held annually in August. The terraced streets of the town come alive with the Global sailing set and the Solent becomes a shimmering sea of sails. Cowes is divided by the River Medina into East Cowes and West Cowes. The two are joined by a floating bridge which transports cars and foot passengers. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert loved East Cowes so much that they built a royal palace there. Osborne House which is open to the public, lies just south of Cowes.
To the East of Cowes, lies Ryde, a largely Victorian and Edwardian town with an 800 meter long pier from which runs a light electric railway running ex-London underground rolling stock. This railway, the only public transport railway on the Island, takes passengers from Ryde to the East coast resort of Shanklin. Ryde is a typical seaside resort with amusement arcades and gardens and a sand beach. Foot passenger ferries run from here to Portsmouth from which the largely Victorian houses can be seen rising to the top of the hill.
At the very easterly point of the Island lies Bembridge, once the mouth of the harbour entrance to Brading where Nelson's fleet of ships used to shelter during the 18th Century. Bembridge is more famed now for its air sports such as gliding and light aircraft.
Going on round the east coast, we have Sandown and Shanklin, the most popular seaside resorts on the Island, made popular by the Victorians. They still maintain there Victorian charm despite being extremely popular during the holiday season. Sandown appeals to people of all ages with its cosy tea rooms and sandy beaches, giving way to a lively night life with its bars and clubs. Shanklin further benefits from a railway system linking it with Ryde and the Mainland, as well as having good shopping. Shanklin old village with it's thatched buildings and gardens combined with the Chine, makes it a romantic and peaceful setting.
Further down lies Ventnor an idyllic Victorian resort almost locked in time, with its large houses built into terraces on the hillside overlooking the bay below. Wander around the many unusual antique shops to glimpse at a town time seems to slow. Ventnor is overlooked by densely wooded St. Boniface Down, which at 240 feet, is the tallest point on the Island.
Down from Ventnor, lies the southerly most tip of the Island, St. Catherine's Point, made famous by its lighthouse and its many shipwrecks. Waters around here are very treacherous and not suitable for casual sailing or bathing! From St Catherine's Point, the road follows along the edge of the chalky cliffs from which outstanding views of the English Channel can be seen. Blackgang Chine amusement park is very popular with tourists and is not far away.
At the western end of the Island lies Freshwater Bay with its little cove and quaint shops. It makes for a perfect place to set off for a hike which takes you along Tennyson Down, past the Tennyson Monument and ends up at the furthest point west, the Needles. The Needles, one of the most famous landmarks of the Island, are a series of three chalk towers that rise out of the sea, the farthest having a lighthouse that was manned until 1997.
Northeast of the Needles lies the largest harbour of West Wight, Yarmouth. Built on the mouth of the River Yar, Yarmouth boasts a small castle built by Henry VIII. Yarmouth also has a ferry connection to the Mainland at Lymington.
Finally, we have Newport, the Island's capital. Newport lies at the foot of the Medina River and benefits from having a wide range of High Street stores and amenities including the new CineWorld, a large multiplex cinema complex. One of Newport's most famous guests was King Charles I who in 1647 was imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle which lies on the south western outskirts of the town. The central square and Guildhall were the design and work of John Nash (1752 - 1835) who also designed Regent Street in London.
Despite its small, diamond-shaped size, the Isle of Wight has a wide variety of features. It's spine of chalk runs through the Island from the Needles to Bembridge. The slopes of which house the many picturesque villages such as Godshill and Newchurch and the many small towns, each with its own distinctive traits, make the Isle of Wight a unique island.