Yes, it’s another exotic holiday for the LWAT family…we’ve just returned from a week on the island and it’s my pleasure to show you some of the interesting things we did. As you can tell, we were incredibly lucky with the weather and it was only on the last day that we found ourselves huddling outside Waitrose in the rain, eating a cupcake to try and kill time before we got on the ferry. So, what’s worth doing?
Alum Bay and the Needles
This is as iconic as the IoW gets. If you recognise anything, it’ll be these stacks of rock on the westernmost point of the island. Parking at the top is £5 and there are restaurants and amusements next to the car park (carousel, go karts…those ubiquitous Water Walkerz). I totally wussed out of getting the chairlift down the cliff and we took the 105 steps instead.
But on the way back, faced with the prospect of dragging an over-tired Eva back up those steps, we braved it. It was completely terrifying. I clung onto her tightly in case she slipped through the gap and joined the mass of hats and flip-flops on the cliff face. I’m glad we did it but I still have flashbacks.
The bay at the bottom is gorgeous, by the way. Clear turquoise water and ice-cream colour cliffs, with those 21 different shades of sand. Of course, back at the top we had to do the filling-plastic-pot-with-sand thing. You can’t get more IoW than that.
Sandown is pretty much as archetypal British seaside as you’re likely to get on the island. There’s a sandy beach, deckchairs and a pier which forces you to walk through – or push a wheelchair through – a tacky amusement arcade before you’re allowed out to breathe that fresh sea air. It smelt a bit like an old people’s home. …the arcade, not the fresh sea air.
My brother and his family were with us that day, so he took Roo off to play crazy golf while Eva and her small cousin rinsed us for every coin we had so that they could go on the “teatup ride”. I might have bought sambuca flavoured rock in my panic to make yet more change for yet more noisy neon rides. Nathan doesn’t quite understand how that happened.
Ventnor was a bit of an unexpected hit with the kids. Even before we got down to the shingley beach, there was the excitement of a clifftop playground:
. With its own compass, so that I knew how to get back to everywhere I’ve ever lived. I love how London is an afterthought next to Shanklin.
And then there was a paddling pool with a giant map of the Isle of Wight on it! I take it back about the sand art. ..THIS is the most IoW thing you could ever do.
Roo’s butt fitted nicely between the Coweses:
And the cafe next to it does good coffee. ..it even has soya milk, though I noticed that too late. We planned to go back later for ice cream, but Roo was literally blue with cold after an extended dip in the sea so for once he didn’t fancy it. What to do to warm him up? Nathan knew! Walk the entire length of the solar system! So that’s what we did.
Walking a few minutes along the sea front, back past the cafe you’ll find a plaque which tells you all about Pluto. As you walk on, the planets are spaced out according to their actual distance from each other. It’s about a 2km walk but once you get past Saturn, they start getting closer together. And there’s lots of lovely sea scenery on the way as well:
Sadly there wasn’t a tea room and, after 2km of planet-finding, I was seriously craving a cuppa and a scone. So we decided to walk back along the top of the cliff, to see what was there.
Nothing. There was nothing there. There was an old church and a duck pond and a cafe that was just closing but there was not a cup of tea to be had anywhere in Bonchurch village. We sat on a bench and plumbed the depths of the snack bag for ageing haribo. The children were unimpressed with this bracing walk at the end of the day and they never got ice cream and I never got my scone. Good paddling pool though.
Tapnell Farm Park
There was also a good bouncing opportunity at Ryde on our first day -Roo went on the trampoline by the beach while Eva rode the carousel and did sad-eyes on me because I wouldn’t let her go on the Water Walkerz.
We also found open-air church next to the beach, so we sat and sang along while eating our ice creams. We ate a lot of ice cream last week, but the blackcurrant cheesecake stuff from Ryde might have been the best one. It was this place:
The beach itself was also very lovely – lots of golden sand and warm, shallow water. Eva and I walked all the way out to a buoy and still didn’t go far above my knees. I think it was Reuben’s favourite of the week, which meant that the beaches and ice cream both decreased in quality as the week went on. Ah well.
I also made the kids go to the end of the pier to see what was there but, like Bonchurch, there was nothing. Just a ferry terminal with a Costa that’s only accessible to people with ferry tickets. Luckily, I hadn’t made them walk it – we’d jumped on the train and after discovering we couldn’t get into Costa, we jumped on the train right back. But how exciting to realise it was a vintage tube train! It was the roundels on the window that gave it away:
Exciting for me. Clearly not for Roo here…
So, what to do when the weather actually breaks and it rains non-stop all day? Well, that happened on our very last day when we had an awkward 6-hour gap between leaving the apartment and getting our ferry back. The answer was – cinema and Pizza Hut in Newport, followed by a trip to the Garlic Farm. Once again, Roo was unimpressed. It had a funny smell, apparently. Oh and don’t bother getting to Cowes an hour early unless you really like traffic jams and eating soggy gingerbread outside Waitrose…