Travel Guides

A short break on the Isle of Wight

Why visit the Isle of Wight?

Chosen by Queen Victoria as a holiday retreat and by the Normans for one of their medieval defence forts, the Isle of Wight is an island fit for rulers and royalty. Just two hours from London on England's south coast, the island is rich in history, charm and intrigue. Popular among the sailing community, particularly during Cowes Week in the summer, there's much more to explore if you venture beyond the coast. 

If you're feeling active, why not take a long walk or bike ride through the valleys or simply relax and reflect from various heights around the island. The main attraction is undoubtedly the Isle of Wight's historic underbelly, which is home to ancient forts, medieval lighthouses and glamorous Victorian mansions. Discover why Queen Victoria described the Isle of Wight as her 'paradise' - and perhaps even make it your own.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Where to stay | Getting there and around

Things To Do

 Place(s) To Stay


  • Place

Day 1: Osborne

Give yourself plenty of time to explore Osborne, Queen Victoria's holiday home. Victoria and Albert built their palace from scratch in 1845 to create a sanctuary away from public scrutiny. Walk through the grand rooms to discover personal family artefacts, including portraits of the couple and their nine children and see the bedroom Victoria died in in 1901 at the age of 81.

Though Osborne was originally designed in Italianate fashion, in her later life Victoria became fascinated with Indian culture. Admire this influence in the flamboyant Durbar Room and wing and learn about the unlikely friendship between Victoria and her servant Abdul Karim.

Outside, wander around the recently upgraded lower terrace, which opened to the public for the first time this year. Imagine Victoria painting landscapes and the family taking tea as they enjoyed seaviews to the Solent. Then follow Victoria's royal footsteps to her private beach where the family played in the summer.

It is possible to walk to Osborne from East Cowes, but there's also a bus that stops outside the estate and inside you'll find plenty of space for parking.

Visit Osborne

Day 2: Yarmouth Castle and Carisbrooke Castle

Start your day at Yarmouth Castle, just a half-hour drive from Osborne on the north-western shore. The 16th-century Yarmouth Castle was the last and most sophisticated of Henry VIII's coastal defences, with the first new-style 'arrowhead' artillery bastion built in England. See how the rooms were used and explore an exhibition about the many nearby wrecks before heading off to another historical must-see.

Drive about 20 minutes south into the heart of the island to Carisbrooke Castle. This well-loved castle spans almost 1000 years of history. Learn about the castle's beginnings as a Saxon fortress through to its transition to a Norman castle with the arrival of William the Conqueror, and its later status as the home of Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice. Most famously, Charles I was imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle before his execution in London in 1649. Visit the room where he slept and see the bowling green where he played during his stay.

A favourite for families, kids love climbing Carisbrooke Castle's ruins and scaling the ancient fort. The kids will enjoy getting to know the donkeys, too. Jigsaw, Jill, Jack and Jimbob demonstrate a 17th century castle tradition at scheduled times throughout the day.

There's a bus service that pulls in close to Carisbrooke, but a car would be an easier option.

Visit Carisbrooke Castle

Day 3: Appuldurcombe House and St Catherine's Oratory

Spend a day exploring two little-known gems on the south of the Isle of Wight, starting with the imposing shell of Appuldurcombe House. Appledurcombe was the most spectacular house on the island back in the early 18th century and today you can admire its ornate English Baroque architecture and detailing. In spite of its striking beauty, Appuldurcombe is famous for the notoriety it attracted in 1782 with the Wolsey scandal, when it was revealed that the wife of the owner had taken 27 lovers.

Green-fingered visitors will also enjoy a walk around Appuldurcombe's 11 acres of rolling grounds which were designed in the 1780s by celebrated landscape designer Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.

In the afternoon drive about 20 minutes to St Catherine's Oratory, a tall octagonal tower that remains from a medieval oratory. Check out the ruin, affectionately known as the Pepperpot, and admire the views beyond the coast. It was built in 1328 by a local landowner and is believed to have been used as a light house as it stands on one of the highest points of the Isle of Wight. Bring the sandwiches and take in the views - just don't forget your camera.

Visit St Catherine's Oratory

Where to stay

Whether you want to sleep like royalty, or indulge in luxury beside a Norman keep, you're spoilt for choice on the Isle of Wight. Osborne offers three places to stay: two within Sovereign's Gate and one in the Pavillion in the centre of the grand estate. Carisbrooke welcomes you to its Bowling Green Apartment, with the keep next door and the tearoom courtyard by your front door. Osborne is a short walk to the coast, while Carisbrooke will set you up in the centre of the island, with close access to Appuldurcombe and St Catherine's Oratory.

Getting there and getting around

You'll need to arrive on the Isle of Wight by ferry, and with up to 200 crossings a day from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington this will be no problem. The main ports on the island are Ryde, Cowes, East Cowes, Fishbourne and Yarmouth (the latter three with the ability to carry vehicles). 

BY TRAIN - Travel time from London stations to most ports is less than two hours and many ferry services coincide with train arrival times. There are limited train routes on the island.

BY BUS - Bus services are provided by Southern Vectis with 20 standard routes serving the majority of the island.

BY CAR - All major towns are connected by a network of A-roads.

BY BIKE - With quiet countryside roads, avid cyclists can consider taking their bikes. Why not take the 'Round the Island' road route to enjoy even more of the island. 

BY FOOT - Keen walkers of all abilities can choose from a range of walking routes throughout the island.

More to explore

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  • More Travel Guides

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