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Isle of Wight

As the largest island in England, and a county in its own right, the Isle of Wight has long been famous as a popular destination for holidaymakers and day-trippers alike. Just a short ferry or hovercraft ride across the Solent from the Hampshire mainland, the Isle of Wight – affectionately known as the ‘Garden Isle’ – is a small, yet perfectly formed home from home, offering plenty for everyone of all ages.

Days out on the Isle of Wight

With attractions, places to visit, and things to do, the Isle of Wight is ideal for family days out. And at just 23 miles wide, there’s plenty you can pack into any one day. Many of the island’s attractions are spread outside the county town of Newport, among the glorious surrounding countryside and seaside resorts.

Not to be missed is a visit to the amazing Godshill Model Village in Ventnor. This classic 1/10th scale version of Godshill and surrounding tourist areas of Shanklin and Chine features miniature, authentic replicas of all the local buildings as well as beautifully landscaped gardens to enjoy.

Just up the coast in Sandown, you’ll find Dinosaur Isle – the UK’s first purpose-built dinosaur museum with interactive exhibitions and plenty of fossils from the island’s prolific dinosaur history – even the building is shaped like a giant pterodactyl. And right next door is the Isle of Wight Zoo - famous for its lions and tigers, there’s also a host of animals, birds, and reptiles from all around the world.

Over on the western tip of the island, a trip to The Needles Landmark Attraction is a superb family day out. Alongside adventure golf, open-top bus rides, carousel, and boat trips around the lighthouse and headland, take an unmissable trip on the iconic Needles chairlift to see the island’s most famous landmark from a unique vantage point.

Just outside Newport is the Robin Hill Country Park. A wild day of outdoor action, activities, and exploring set in 88 acres of countryside, Robin Hill offers everything from treetop trails, activity courses, and toboggan slides to disc golf and colossus swinging galleon.

For something altogether more relaxing, you can enjoy the Isle of Wight’s stunning Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Covering almost half the island, the AONB is made up of the glorious countryside of the south, south-west, central, and east downs, together with the north and south coasts. Giving you plenty of landscapes and views at every turn, it’s a wonderful county to explore by walking or cycling along its many paths and trails.

Topography, geology, and climate

Despite its location in the English Channel, the Isle of Wight is predominantly a rural county. But while rich in fields and countryside, its 57 miles of coastline and cretaceous bedrock offer up a mix of land qualities and soil types.

Covering almost the entire north of the county, its fairly fertile mix of slow-draining, loam and clay soils are slightly acidic and base-rich. There are also smaller patches of freely draining loamy soils across the northeast.

It’s these soils that also make up almost the whole southern half of the county, with just a few areas near the coast having shallow, lime-rich soils above the chalk and limestone rock. Through the centre of the county, a mix of the same fertile, lime-rich soils together with heavier loam and clay soils stretches from east to west.

As with many of its southern county neighbours, the Isle of Wight’s weather has a familiar temperate and mild climate, often seeing sunnier weather and warmer temperatures of around an average of 20ºC (68ºF) in the height of summer. The county’s position also helps deliver milder temperatures in the winter averaging around 4ºC (39ºF) while its annual rainfall averages out at around 800mm (31”) across the county.

The Isle of Wight’s parks and gardens

Together with its attractions and generous open countryside, the Isle of Wight gives you 147 square miles to discover. Among them, there are plenty of formal and informal gardens to visit too, providing a relaxed day out for families, horticulturalists, and garden enthusiasts alike.

North and West Isle of Wight

Home to Alfred, Lord Tennyson for almost 40 years, Farringford Estate in Freshwater is a treat for any literature and garden admirer. With extensive views overlooking Freshwater Bay, Farringford’s RHS Partner garden and grounds provide the perfect surroundings to the Grade I Listed house. The restored Walled Garden is the highlight – full of seasonal colour from the likes of oriental poppies, laurel, lilies, delphinium, and tobacco plants. And packed with specialist plants and vegetables, the Greenhouse provides shelter for seasonal crops.

Just along the coast near Brighstone, National Trust property, Mottistone Gardens and Estate are surrounded by the island’s AONB countryside. In the grounds of an Elizabethan manor, these stunning gardens are filled with shrub-filled banks and pathways, with lively colour from beautiful herbaceous borders, and an organic kitchen garden. Exotic plants are plentiful in this Mediterranean-styled garden, including a young olive grove. Take advantage of Mottistone’s wider estate by following the footpaths to the nearby Mottistone Downs and also down to the sea.

Perhaps the jewel in the Isle of Wight’s crown is Osborne House and Gardens, near East Cowes. This 19th-century, Italianate-style ‘royal palace by the sea’, was a beloved country retreat for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. With gardens developed by Thomas Cubitt – ably assisted by Prince Albert – they follow the Italianate theme with formal terraces, filled with a beautiful display of tulips and delightful beds and borders. The Victorian walled garden also presents a selection of ornamental shrubs and fruit trees, while the parklands beyond feature a diverse range of historic trees.

South and East Isle of Wight

Appldurcombe House in Wroxall, near Ventnor, is a grand 18th-century, stately home now owned by English Heritage. Though partly restored, the majority of the house is a ruined shell, though that hasn’t stopped it from being a popular Isle of Wight wedding venue. To suit the Baroque architecture of the house, Capability Brown was commissioned to design the 11-acres of ornamental gardens that now provide wonderful, relaxed surroundings and open space to explore and enjoy.

Just down the road, Ventnor Botanic Garden provides something a little different. With its own microclimate, the 22-acre gardens are, on average, 5ºC warmer than any other and are home to an impressive collection of over 30,000 rare and sub-tropical plants, including an abundance of echium, agapanthus, and the all-year flowering kniphofia. There’s also a Champion Tree trail, detailing Ventnor’s rare trees, and a gorgeous collection of mature magnolia. And keep your eyes peeled for the garden’s Wall Lizards, basking in the sun.