Isle of Wight

The Island is large enough to lose yourself on, but small enough for this not to matter: just keep walking and that creek you amble along will eventually wind its way to a village pub or, failing that, another slice of a part of the world that is easy on the eye.

Mark Rowe author of Slow Travel: Isle of Wight

At the narrowest point of the Solent, between Hurst Castle in Hampshire and Fort Albert on the Island’s northwest edge, the Isle of Wight floats barely a mile off the coast of the British mainland. Yet with no commercial airport or tunnel you must take to the sea to reach it: that requirement alone demands that, in a literal sense, you must slow down and begin to shed the hurried pace of everyday life before you have even arrived. Then, when on dry land, you will find little reason to quicken your pace.

The Island is large enough to lose yourself on, but small enough for this not to matter: just keep walking and that creek you amble along will eventually wind its way to a village pub or, failing that, another slice of a part of the world that is easy on the eye.

There are so many wonderful reasons to visit the Isle of Wight. From the haunting coastline around Newtown and Shalfleet where woodland edges dip their roots in the ebbing shallows and mudflats, to the Norman town of Yarmouth with its fine cafés and delis. The red squirrels pretty much anywhere you look, the extraordinary jumble of geology that makes up the Undercliff or dawn flooding the Solent, viewed from the shingle spit that keeps Seaview dry. Then there’s the spectacle of a peregrine falcon darting along the guillotined edges of Tennyson Down, the mournful call of a nightjar in Brighstone Forest, or stumbling across dinosaur fossils. Each one has a strong claim on the heart strings of visitors.

The cheek by jowl nature of seaside paraphernalia and natural drama on the Island often borders on the surreal. Just a few minutes’ cycle from the archetypical resort of Sandown you can lean your bike against a hedge and watch an egret hunting for fish in a serene mire; you might catch a red squirrel out of the corner of your eye, furiously clambering upside down along an overhanging branch. Elsewhere, you might heave yourself up the vertiginous slopes of Ventnor Downs, taking in a sweeping coastline that pulls away to the middle distance. But while one moment you may get carried away with the ‘being at one with nature’ ethos, the next you may encounter a Victorian seaside amusement park. Some visitors can find such a combination intrusive; others have certainly been known to sneer. To me – and for most Islanders – they seem to rub along perfectly well. Far from being mutually exclusive, they are all part of the Island DNA.

Bradt on Britain – our Slow Travel approach

Bradt’s coverage of Britain’s regions makes ‘Slow Travel’ its focus. To us, Slow Travel means ditching the tourist ticklists – deciding not to try to see ‘too much’ – and instead taking time to get properly under the skin of a special region. You don’t have to travel at a snail’s pace: you just have to allow yourself to savour the moment, appreciate the local differences that create a sense of place, and celebrate its food, people and traditions.

Related books

Where to visit

Related articles

Denbies Winery Surrey by Jools Hart Photography Shutterstock

Never stop wining: the best of England’s vineyards

These are some of the more unlikely locations for vineyards in England… hicc!

Favourite family days out on the Isle of Wight

From farm parks to old-fashioned railways.

England’s best historic houses

A selection of our favourite historic houses in England, from medieval castles to Edwardian Arts-and-Crafts architecture.

The best hotels on the Isle of Wight

From boutique accommodation to beachside pubs.

The best camping and glamping on the Isle of Wight

From luxurious yurts to family-run holiday parks.

The best B&Bs on the Isle of Wight

From Victorian town houses to Elizabethan manors.

The best self-catering on the Isle of Wight

From working farms to converted salesrooms.

Museum of Brands London by Museum of Brands Wikimedia Commons

The quirkier the better: England’s most eccentric museums

From a lawnmower shrine to walls lined with cuckoo clocks – and everything in between.

England’s most beautiful gardens

These are some of our favourite green spaces to wander in England.

Booking.com