Sunday, 27 July 2014
Looking for a stress-free family holiday where nostalgia and all your favourite childhood memories come flooding back?
When it comes to holidays we all have great expectations, but with babies or toddlers in tow there’s extra pressure to make your first mini adventure one to remember for all the right reasons, which is why it makes sense to keep it simple. Ok, so on the face of it a trip to the Isle of Wight doesn’t sound like the hottest ticket of the year, but as a practice run for more exotic holidays it ticks all the right boxes. You’ve got a jaunty little ferry ride, a holiday island looming on the horizon, sailing boats dancing in every bay and architect-designed villas discreetly dotted into the hillside suggesting that things have definitely moved on since the island’s heyday as a tourist destination way back whenever.
It’s this mix of old and new, combined with easy wins such as no language barrier, no vaccinations, no ‘I’m not eating that’ which avoid a whole load of unnecessary complications. And for mum and dad it’s about a dose of nostalgia: a good old-fashioned bucket and spade destination where you can relive your own childhood thrills through the eyes of your little ones.
The island offers slices of English charm from the ancient port town of Yarmouth with its brightly-coloured harbour and the cute thatched cottages of Brading to a clutch of hidden villages and secret coves dotted around its sixty seven mile coastal path. You’ll love the cosmopolitan sailing port of Cowes in the north, with its bustling little streets crammed with funky stores such as Live Like This (fab lifestyle and interior finds). And once the shopping’s done, there’s a mile or so long walk along the shore line to Gunard with its delightful playground and beach just waiting to be explored.
You’ll find tonnes of child-friendly attractions all over, including the Owl and Monkey Haven in Newport, Amazon World Zoo Park in Arreton, Blackgang Chine and the Model Village in Godshill. Ok, so you might not fancy them all, but on a cloudy day child-centric activities may be just the thing to ward off a toddler meltdown.If you want the full-on family holiday extravaganza, the Victorian resort of Shanklin boasts, hotels, pubs and amusements, plus giant cliffs and a huge sandy beach with gently sloping waters perfect for tots. Or for something more genteel and retro-in-a-good-way, the hilly outpost of Ventnor in the south of the island is hard to beat with its small crescent-shaped bay, higgledy piggledy beach huts, tot-friendly cafés, plus that all-important thing – a bucket and spade shop. Below the botanic gardens there’s a paddling pool for the kids, plus the excellent Ventnor Haven Fishery where you can pick up supper.
There are tonnes of places to grab a bite to eat – some it has to be said more convivial than others – but you can rarely go wrong with a pub lunch. The Buddle Inn (thebuddleinn.co.uk) at Niton has outdoor dining with sea views to the front and a children’s play area at the rear. Choose from the chalkboard menu boasting everything from slow roasted belly pork to a Ploughman’s or huge roasts on a Sunday (children’s menu from £5.95). Near the coastal path at Shalfleet, The New Inn (thenewinn.co.uk) serves up some of the finest fish platters on the island and is all ancient beams, flagstone floors and nautical paraphernalia. And for an extra special day out, visit the village of Seaview perched on the east coast for a morning of shrimping among the rock pools before hitting The Seaview hotel (seaviewhotel.co.uk) for a slap up lunch. The hotel boasts its own farm so everything on your plate is deliciously home-grown and local.
Whether you go by car or passenger ferry, it’s a fun but short trip for little ones. Get them to look out for lighthouses and the white cliffs on the way.
Sun, sand and sea air make fresh fish taste even better. Try delicious pots of local brown crab sold at outlets across the island.
To the west of Cowes, you’ll find the seafaring hamlet of Gurnard. With both sand and shingle beaches, a playground and a pub, it offers stunning walks and views across the Solent to the mainland – and is a great place to let the kids let off some steam.
There are gift shops galore. Don’t miss Live Like This in Cowes, and Home Design Cavern in East Cowes.
Despite all the attractions on offer, a holiday on the Isle of Wight is an opportunity to get back to nature. Simply follow the National Trust coastline to enjoy magnificent scenery at every turn.
Written by Scarlett Brady and Rachel Price
Sugar rushLocal shops such as the sweet shop add to the nostalgic appeal of Ventnor.
Hire one of Small Hope Beach’s cute huts for as little as £10 per day
Being on a very small island means that you’re never far from boats. Cowes week itself is in August but youcan enjoy the sight of pretty yachts all year round.
Set in a prime location, spectacularly, right above the water’s edge and packed full of seafaring memorabilia, the Spyglass Inn is a handy pit stop. Relax with a glass of wine or tuck into a tasty snack on the terrace (kids’menu available).
For a stunning beach adventure, it’s hard to beat this hidden gem near Ventnor. Accessible only by foot, and down some very steep steps, this small stretch of sand offers plenty of bohemian charm with its little row of shabby-chic style hangouts. It’s an idyllic settingfor a day of building sandcastles and rock pooling.
Steep Hill Cove’s resident fishermen still land their catch of crab, lobster and mackerel here daily. Make the most of the super fresh seafood on offer with a visit to the very popular Boathouse seafood restaurant (open May-September, lunch only). And if it’s fully booked you can always grab a tastycrab pasty or sandwich from the Crab Shed.
Where to stay
Knowles Farm Cottage is a pristine bolt-holenestling on the southern tip of the island. It boasts everything a small familyneeds in a self-catering property including a snug sitting room with open fire, and a kitchen/diner with high chair and travelcot stashed under the stairs.