Why move to...Cowes, Ryde and Bembridge
PUBLISHED: 10:28 16 September 2007 | UPDATED: 14:51 20 February 2013
The Isle of Wight is a great place to live for quality of life - and it doesn't take long to get to the mainland if you work in Hampshire or London, says Jill Belcher...
More and more people are discovering that the Isle of Wight isn't just for holidays - it's a place they can call home.
With fast links to the mainland and the growing trend, thanks to technology, towards spending at least part of the working week at home, living on the Isle of Wight has become a realistic option for those who want the best of all possible worlds.
Property is also reasonably-priced, so anyone looking for a weekend or holiday home will find they could well snap up a bargain. And, if you choose to settle at Cowes, Ryde or Bembridge, you can choose from all styles and ages of homes.
Sailing enthusiasts understandably love Cowes, home of the Royal Yacht Squadron and Skandia Cowes Week.
Its picturesque, pedestrianised High Street contains a wealth of idiosyncratic shops, excellent pubs and restaurants and everything the yachtie could possibly need.
It still has 18th-century bow-fronted houses from the days when it was the island's main port, although it really developed in the 19th century, when yachting became popular.
The town boasts a huge variety of properties, including imposing Victorian villas, many of them with beautiful grounds and views across the River Medina.
Views of the Solent can be had at Ryde, which was originally two villages - Upper and Lower Ryde - joined by a new development of streets in the late 18th century.
As the fashion for sea-bathing grew, so did the town. The pier, which is the oldest in England and the fourth longest, was built between 1813 and 1814.
And it is a real community, home to the oldest-established carnival in England, and with a thriving social heritage group. There's also an excellent mix of national names and local specialist shops in and around Union Street and High Street.
Bembridge is a gem, with good pubs, shops and galleries and, like Cowes, very popular among yachtsmen. Its harbour is home to Bembridge Sailing Club and another location where you can find some terrific older homes.
Bembridge was a small fishing village until the 1820s, when landowner Edward Wise began building Regency villas close to the church. Once a ferry to St Helen's had been introduced, expansion continued and Bembridge has grown steadily.
The village is also where you'll find the Isle of Wight's only surviving windmill, a favourite with artists, including Turner, while nearby Whitecliff Bay is justly famous for its beautiful sandy beach.
Between Bembridge and Brading lies Bembridge Airport, with the Island's only concrete runway.
These three locations are all convenient for commuting and also have their own communities. Cowes and Bembridge are fewer than 15 miles apart, while the first is just eight miles from Ryde and the second only seven.
The Isle of Wight really is a viable place to make your home if you work in Hampshire or London, as increasing numbers of new residents have discovered. n
Out and about:
Property prices: Land Registry figures for average house prices, January-March 2007:
Cowes - Detached £491,052; semi-detached £176,312; terraced £168,763; flats £167,423.
Ryde - Detached £242,478; semi-detached £176,350; terraced £151,353; flats £118,845.
Bembridge - Detached £285,809; semi-detached £231,100; terraced £234,243; flats £167,112.
Ups: Wonderful countryside, superb coastline.
Downs: If you like going fast, you'll have to get used to smaller roads and slower way of life.
Where are the best areas to buy? Steve Winter, a partner in Hose Rhodes & Dickson says, "In Cowes there are a lot of prestigious apartments and holiday homes along the seafront, while up the hill there are plenty of very good properties. Roads off Spencer Road in Ryde are very highly sought-after. The whole of Bembridge - which is a traditional English village which still has all its shops - is of a very good standard."
l Cowes: Marvins of Cowes have a four-bedroom town house believed to have been designed by John Nash for £895,000, while for the same price Hadland Estate Agents of Cowes have a five-bedroom Victorian home with panoramic views.
l Ryde: Hose Rhodes & Dickson offer a six-bedroom detached Victorian home with a guide price of £650,000; a three-bedroom detached Georgian residence, reported to have been once owned by Queen Victoria's doctor, is being offered by Marvins of Ryde at £365,000.
l Bembridge: A five-bedroom family house with large gardens, a swimming pool and studio, is offered by Hose Rhodes & Dickson of Newport with a guide price of £1m, while a five-bedroom house close to Bembridge Yacht Club is on the market with Creasey Biles & King for £575,000.
What's commuting like? It's a 10-minute journey between Ryde and Southsea for foot passengers using Hover Travel's hovercraft; Wightlink's Fast Cat links Portsmouth and Ryde in 18 minutes for foot passengers only, while their Portsmouth to Fishbourne car ferry takes 40 minutes and their Lymington to Yarmouth car ferry service takes half an hour; Red Funnel has a passenger-only high-speed service between Southampton and Cowes as well as a slower car ferry.
Schools: Ryde School with Upper Chine is an independent mixed school for children from two to 19 years. The other Island independent is Priory School in Shanklin, also mixed and taking children from two years to 18.
Shops/restaurants: Both Cowes and Ryde offer a great mix of individual retailers and national names, while Bembridge has all the facilities you could want in a village.
What to do at the weekend: Enjoy 60 miles of ever-changing coastline, 500 miles of footpaths or sail to your heart's content. Explore beautiful villages, join in the varied community life, go shopping in real, individual shops, put your feet up in terrific historic pubs.
What: Large character property in Bembridge occupying an extensive plot with pool building.
How much: £900,000.
Agent: Fox Property, tel: 01983 811811.
What: Impressive five-bedroom home in Ryde, which includes separate three bedroom cottage.
How much: £895,000.
Agent: Creasey Biles & King, tel: 0845 4027121.
What: Imposing Victorian six-bedroom town house in Ryde, standing in attractive walled gardens.
How much: £699,000.
Agent: Hose, Rhodes and Dickson, tel: 01983 538090.
What: Modern four-bedroom townhouse in Cowes, with views across the Solent.
How much: £535,000.
Agent: Hamptons, tel: 0845 6880515.
What: Four-bedroom seafront apartment with stunning overs over Cowes harbour.
How much: £495,000.
Agent: Christopher Scott, tel: 01983 242121.