Cycling around the Isle of Wight
This August Bank Holiday I decided to escape to the countryside and head down to Hampshire (where I’m from) for a weekend of barbeques, lie ins and tennis, and on the Monday my mother and I took advantage of the good weather forecast and popped over to the Isle of Wight, an island on the south coast of England. Red Funnel kindly offered us tickets to look round the island and they offer a ferry service from Southampton to East Cowes for cars and a hover craft service from Southampton to West Cowes for passengers on foot. We loaded up the car with bicycles and set off.
After spending the morning wandering around Osborne House and fantasising about living there (check out the gorgeous views in my photos, in my Postcard of the Week: Osborne House) we headed over to Yarmouth on the north-west coast of the island for lunch. There’s not a huge amount in Yarmouth besides the harbour and Yarmouth Castle, but there are a whole host of good old traditional English pubs in the village, which is exactly what I fancied. After a ploughman’s lunch in the beer garden at the Bugle Coaching Inn, we mounted our bikes and headed south along the car-free Causeway to Freshwater Bay.
I actually know the Isle of Wight rather well. For about 4 years we came again and again to the Isle of Wight, staying each time at Tennyson’s house, Farringford. It’s a stately home that used to be used as a rather luxurious hotel, but it’s now being restored to its original state. They also have holiday cottages, a pool tennis court, golf course and, importantly, a croquet court! One of the best English summer sports! Having spent the odd week in the Isle of Wight on numerous occasions, I recognised many of the places we cycled past, and we strolled along the small beach at Freshwater Bay. I was last there when I was about 14, and it’s amazing how much bigger everything seemed back then!
From there we headed west to see what is possibly the Isle of Wight’s most famous sight: the Needles. They are stunning jagged white chalk and flint rocks that jut out of the sea, so thin that they resemble needles (using a bit of imagination of course). My favourite way to see them used to be from the Old Battery, which you can walk to along the coast. Leaving our bikes near Alum Bay we set off to see these stunning Needles, and to get a fantastic view over the mainland, looking over towards Calshot Castle and the New Forest. Although it was only a 1-hour trip by ferry, and despite the fact that we could see over to England both from Osborne House and from Alum Bay, the extremely good weather and the stunning scenery gave us the impression we’d jumped over the Channel into France or somewhere much more exotic than England!
We sadly ran out of time on our walk towards the Needles and had to turn back to make sure we didn’t end up proverbially shipwrecked on the island by missing our return ferry. We cycled back along country lanes and hedgerows, back along the scenic Causeway that runs alongside the River Yar, and headed back to Cowes at the end of our mini 1-day holiday. It was idyllic. We didn’t have anywhere near enough time to revisit all the places I remember from my childhood, including some lovely seafront restaurants on the south-east coast… They’ll have to wait for another day!
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