Best things about living on the Isle of Wight
PUBLISHED: 10:31 10 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:47 02 May 2018
If you’re looking for value for money and a gentler pace of life, then the Isle of Wight calls, says Emma Caulton
The Isle of Wight attracts the rich and famous. The latest is Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch who married theatre director and actor Sophie Hunter at St Peter and St Paul’s, Mottistone, followed by a reception at Elizabethan Mottistone Manor. It is now rumoured that they have bought a home here having been spotted at the Sun Inn, Hulverstone, a couple of times. They are following a tradition of those with high profile lives finding a retreat on the Island. Queen Victoria is credited with kick-starting the vogue for holidaying here - Osborne House encouraged a spate of less palatial holiday homes, particularly in the eastern part of the island.
It’s easy to see the Island’s attraction. Relaxed and relaxing, time starts to slow on the short crossing (we took the Red Funnel car ferry from Southampton to Cowes accompanied by white horses and scudding cloud), and you quickly feel as though you’re on holiday.
Foodies can enjoy excellent local produce (smoked garlic from The Garlic Farm, sweet tomatoes from The Tomato Stall, delicious dressings from Wild Island and fresh crab cakes from Catch, to list but a few). Families can reach for their buckets and spades. Walkers can pull on their boots and follow in Tennyson’s footsteps on the fresh western side of the Island. Festival goers rejoice – take your pick from Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival, Isle of Wight Festival, Bestival and more.
While if you’re looking to retire, invest or escape to a second home then prepare to be delighted. Compared to the mainland the Isle of Wight is unspoiled and under-developed, and so are its properties. Gorgeous Georgian townhouse for £300,000? Take your pick. Chapel to convert for a few thousand less? Of course. Stone farmhouses preened to perfection? Here’s half a dozen to view. Whatever your home-owning dream you can probably find it on the Isle of Wight.
The eastern and northern sides are more sheltered than the exposed southern and western sides, yet each has its charms. The north is dominated by Cowes, popular with the sailing fraternity and world renown for the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world. Shabby chic Ryde on the eastern coast is the island’s largest town with long sandy beaches, fabulous views across to the Spinnaker Tower and an array of fine classical buildings along its waterfront.
Neighbouring Seaview is an elegant enclave with boutiques, art gallery and smart eateries. St Helen’s is a favourite with those decamping from the mainland lured by its picturesque cottages spread around a village green. Bembridge is inviting with beach, harbour, sailing clubs and houseboats, a stylish village centre and tree-lined avenues of big, family houses.
South-facing Ventnor’s ice-cream coloured villas are steeply raked down the hillside and enjoy stupendous views over the harbour and beach. To the east of Ventnor, Bonchurch has more ancient origins and is considered the best Victorian village on the Island.
Newport, in the centre, is regarded as the capital and has the usual high street names as well as bakers, fishmongers, greengrocers, an arts centre and a theatre. Here you can pick up a three-bedroom Victorian semi-detached for less than £150,000. Otherwise the Island’s heartland is a landscape of field and copse crossed by country lanes winding through villages of trimmed thatch and medieval farmhouses to a western landscape of sweeping downland and wide horizons. Here Yarmouth claims to be the oldest town on the island with its bijou shops along what remains of a Norman street pattern.
Schooling is in flux. Although 40 plus primaries run the gamut from ‘outstanding’ to ‘requires improvement’, among the secondaries only Christ the King College in Newport achieves ‘good’, the rest are being overhauled with new secondaries opening such as Island Free School and Isle of Wight Studio School with an emphasis on innovation and extra-curricular activities.
Overall the Island has much to explore with delights at every turn: an inspiration and a retreat.
Sam Biles - Biles & Co
“The Isle of Wight has some of the longest annual sunshine hours in the UK, and is known for its spectacular countryside and coast as well as its slower pace of life.
Made popular by the Victorians, the Island’s property stock includes Victorian villas, Jacobean mansions, thatched cottages, beach huts and just about everything in between. High value areas tend to be coastal and with sea views, where second homes are popular in Bonchurch, Bembridge, Cowes, Seaview and Yarmouth.
The Isle of Wight is known for its sailing, particularly Cowes Week in August, but walking is a popular pastime too. A walk on Mottistone Down clears the head on a windy day with amazing views to the sea over Compton Bay.
I was born on the island and have lived here most of my life, as have my family since 1780. I don’t think I would be happy anywhere else. On a summer’s evening it is a joy to be having a family barbecue on Compton beach within half an hour of finishing work. We also enjoy the many great restaurants, including The Shed in Bembridge and Amabi Basque tapas bar in Cowes - and there are numerous country pubs with great beer and food such as The Sun at Hulverstone and Bonchurch Inn.”