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British Isles Slow Travel

The best self-catering on the Isle of Wight

From working farms to converted salesrooms.

Calbourne Water Mill

Newport Rd, Calbourne

Home to a creative ensemble of eco-lodges and cottages as well as offering space for camper vans and caravans. Constructed from cedar and larch with wooden floors, the eco-lodges are superbly located overlooking woodland, a stream and countryside where wildlife abounds, including badgers, various birds and red squirrels. They offer geothermal underground heating, and bio-bubble treatment for waste, which then gets converted to organic matter and fed back to the earth. The three stone cottages are idyllically positioned in secluded parts of the grounds.

Castlehaven Retreat

Castlehaven Ln, Niton Undercliff

Small collection of superbly located static caravans, hunkered beneath Niton Undercliff and overlooking Reeth Bay. All the statics are four-berth, modern and offer wide-angle, unimpeded views across the sea. Five caravans are suitable for families; a sixth features a double bed with decking and is perfect for couples seeking a special break. Everything is well run and it’s hard to think of many better situated caravan sites in the UK.

Farringford Cottages

Farringford House, Bedbury Ln, Freshwater

Delightfully restored cottages – ten in all – accommodating two to eight people, with a mixture of communal and private gardens. Five of the cottages are located in a courtyard to the rear of the main house, while the other five have been converted from the stables. Some are tailored to families; all are furnished to a high standard.

Godshill Park Farm & Cottages

Godshill

You’ll find two four-star self-catering cottages here, plus the quirky Hut (a back to nature experience with neither plumbing nor electricity, though there is a wood-burning stove). Both cottages feature modern kitchens and either bay or floor-to-ceiling windows with views across a millpond. They’re all located on a working livestock farm that features sheep, llamas and miniature ponies along with an apple orchard. Properties sleep five to seven; the Hut sleeps two. 

Heyvon

Embankment Road, Bembridge Harbour

The sister houseboat to Harbourside View, this moored vessel is offered on a self-catering basis. With its wide-framed square living quarters Heyvon has something of a 1940s air about it: this is your chance to role play African Queen (though Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn never had things so comfortable). There’s an open-plan lounge area with patio doors opening to a decking area with seating and views right across the harbour. Modern facilities throughout include a fully equipped kitchen and a natty rain shower. Sleeps up to four.

Nettlecombe Farm

Whitwell

A working sheep farm, engaging Nettlecombe Farm offering a range of self-catering options ranging from cosy one-beds to properties accommodating larger groups. Most of the accommodation rings a courtyard and converted from old milk parlours and stables (the visitor car park used to be where slurry was kept). They’re all neatly furnished and meticulously updated. Deservedly, 

this is popular choice with young families – children can feed farm animals, from llamas to rabbits, on morning tours. The farm is owned by the Morris family, who have had an agricultural presence locally for more than 100 years.

Pavilion Cottage

Osborne House, York Ave, East Cowes

Located in the grounds of Osborne House, the home from home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this gem of a cottage looks like – indeed is – an upmarket cricket pavilion. Once used by players from the nearby naval cadet school, its purpose changed once the cricket wicket was exchanged for a livestock grazing field. The interiors are smart and the building light, and the veranda is a fine place to watch birdlife flutter by and to let time slip by. Once the house closes to the public at the end of the day, you have exclusive use of the grounds and the beach pretty much to yourself. 

St Catherine’s Lighthouse Cottages

Near Niton

Furnished to the high and tasteful standards associated with Trinity House, the seafaring charity which runs cottages in and around lighthouses, these three former keepers’ cottages are thrillingly located in one of the island’s ends-of-the-earth locations. Modern kitchens and high-end furnishings throughout, from snazzy sofas to colourful, heavy curtains and king-sized beds. Each cottage has its own enclosed courtyard.

The Auction House

1 Ways Mews, Garfield Rd, Ryde

A stylish conversion of Ryde’s Victorian salerooms, set in a quiet courtyard. Boutique style furnishings with Laura Ashley sofa, four-poster bed and French windows and patio. Set back from the Esplanade in the higher part of town, it sleeps four in two rooms. 

The Garlic Farm

Mersley Farm, Mersely Lane, Newchurch

The Garlic Farm has seven self-catering holiday cottages and four luxury yurts in its grounds, sleeping between two and ten people. All are distinctive and range from updated farmhouses to converted threshing barns. Paddock Cottage, for example, features exposed beams, a modern kitchen and French windows that open on to a patio; the Milking Parlour has high ceilings and, like all the properties, is immaculately furnished.

The Mission

Blythe Shute, Chale

One of a handful of stylishly converted properties developed under the branding of The Shacks, a retro accommodation company run by Frazer and Helen Cunningham. The striking former mission house and Sunday school, built from corrugated iron in the 1800s, has been refurbished in a mix of traditional and modern styles with a sleek, dramatic Mezzanine floor dominating the middle of the house. The effect is completed by wooden panels and vintage items such as an original wall-hanging, a rotary dial (and working) telephone, and cinema seats. Sleeps up to eight.

The Scout Hall

Church Place, Chale

Located across the road from The Mission, the Scout Hall is unmissable, painted in a green livery with a red and white trim. The building has been converted from its former, eponymous purpose by the Cunninghams, on similar principles to the Mission, with mismatched furniture and fittings, ranging from exposed beams to black-and-white chequered tiles and wood flooring. The house is ‘upside down’ – that is, the bedrooms are on the ground floor and the dining room and lounge on the first floor, opening to a decking area with views across to the Needles and Ternnyson Down. Sleeps eight in four rooms. 

Tiny Homes Holidays

Hillis Gate Stables, Hillis Gate Road, Cowes

Set in a meadow near Parkhurst Forest, Tiny Homes comprises four off-grid eco-homes that combine the quirkiness and ethics of a glamping break with stylish cabins. Cabins are luxurious and sleep up to four people and feature galley kitchens and pallet-wood beds while mezzanine levels, hatches to upstairs bedrooms and triangular windows make clever use of space and light. Green credentials are embellished by solar-panelled roofs that tilt at a rakish angle and reed beds to filter waste water. The site is linked to walking trails, along which you might catch sight of red squirrels. The owners organise writer’s talks, cooking classes and artists’ workshops on-site. 

Tom’s Eco Lodges

Tapnell Farm Park, near Yarmouth

Safari tents, modulogs (log-shaped, fully insulated pods), ecopods and log cabins. Particularly eye-catching are the new geodesic domes, resembling oversized molecules rather than tents.

Ventnor Botanic Garden

Undercliff Dr, Ventnor

Several lovely sleeping options here, all of which include free admission to the Botanic Garden and the options of ordering meals from the restaurant chefs or having breakfast and barista coffee in the Plantation Room Café. Accommodation is dotted around the garden and ranges from Signal Point Cottage, which can accommodate six, to a pair of cabins tucked away in the upper nursery, each sleeping two; each is distinctive in style. Camping and glamping (in a tipi) also available. 

Weirside Cottage

Main Road, Tennyson Down

A Grade II-listed property dating to the early 17th century, featuring a snug lounge, a wood burner, exposed stonework, beams and a brick-arched fireplace. Two bedrooms upstairs ooze similar character. The grounds grounds extend across a small footbridge over a stream to a lawned garden. 


More information

For more information, check out Mark Rowe’s guide:

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