Ah, the stress of preparing for a holiday. Travel arrangements, getting someone to feed the cats, sitting on the suitcase until you’ve forced it shut.

Worrying you’ve forgotten your passport... realising that this time, the British habit of over-thinking serves you well because indeed, you have forgotten your passport... turning round halfway up the M25 in a huge panic that you’ll miss your flight...

Finally getting to the airport, beads of sweat dripping off your brow, with just a few minutes to spare – only to find said flight has been delayed. ForEVER.

Yes – by the time you’re done preparing for a holiday, you could do with another one just to get over it.

So what if you could take a short drive, hop on a boat and be somewhere that feels miles away literally within the space of a couple of hours?

This, bedraggled, fearsome holidaymaker, could be a reality.

The Isle of Wight was the scene of budget family holidays that usually involved cramped ramshackle caravans in the pouring rain (English summers, what can you do?), and my little sister eating one too many ice creams, resulting in her being very ill in said very small caravan.

But that’s the beauty of childhood. When you’re a kid, you have such enthusiasm for life that you don’t see the peeling paint and run down attractions.

But now I was going back to the Isle of Wight as an adult. And it wasn’t just me who had doubts. I was met with quizzical stares and even one ‘why would you want to do that?’ when I told people where I was going.

Well, ye of little faith – it’s time to re-invent our ideas about the Isle of Wight.

Because one nondescript Monday, I travelled on the Wightlink ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde.

I was surprised how quickly all the cars and lorries were packed on board and we were able to relax with a coffee and watch the mainland become a distant memory within the space of 20 minutes.

And I don’t know if it was the fresh sea air washing away any thought of traffic jams, but suddenly I felt a million miles away.

Yes, they do have traffic jams on the Isle of Wight.

But driving round is simple; thanks to the fact there is basically one long road that will take you right around the island.

If you get lost, it won’t be a minute before you get your bearings again. Everything is well signposted – including our hotel, the Sentry Mead.

It’s situated in Totland Bay, is of Channel 4 programme ‘Four in a Bed’ fame and has beautiful views overlooking the sea. And probably the comfiest bed I’ve ever slept in.

Owners Sarah and Jean-Pierre could not have made us feel more welcome.

Sentry Mead, it’s believed, was designed by Alfred Waterhouse – the man behind London’s Natural History Museum- and was used in the Second World War as accommodation for officers.

Despite its history, Sentry Mead has a very nice feeling about it; warm and inviting.

But if you are in to a bit more of a ghostly atmosphere (and good food) there are some places you must go.

The 16th century Bugle Inn at Yarmouth is one of them. It was quite late when we arrived – well, around 8pm, so apparently late by closing time standards on the island – and I wasn’t expecting much.

The front end is a dark but charming bar, not much changed from how it would have been in the ‘olden days’.

But carry on going and the inn opens up in to a lovely terraced area. I opted for the beef casserole and homemade dumplings; all made with island-grown ingredients where possible. It was delicious and went down nicely with a generous glass of red.

But something that tingled my tastebuds in a more...unusual way, is garlic beer. You know what they say- when in Rome (or the Isle of Wight, which is home to the UK’s largest specialist garlic grower).

Though I wouldn’t recommend the garlic beer, I do recommend visiting the garlic farm. And you have to get some of their sauces and chutneys, like the aptly named ‘Vampire’s Revenge’.

But if cream teas are more of your thing, Godshill is the place to go.

This charming, quintessentially English village is the type of place in which, had I still been five years old, I might have been convinced fairies dwell.

Or perhaps pixies, as the locals believe.

The story goes that in the 15th century, the villagers wanted to build a new church and decided upon a field close to the centre of the village.

They began to lay the foundations and set out the equipment they would need to build the church.

But the next day, they were surprised to find someone had moved all the materials to the very top of the hill.

Convinced someone was playing a prank, they put the materials back in their original spot, only to find the same thing happened again.

The villagers came to believe that pixies were moving the materials and wanted the humans to build their church at the top of the hill.

Visiting it today, it’s not difficult to see why this was the right decision.

From the top of the hill you can see for miles.

And walking back down to a cup of something warm at one of the village’s many tea rooms is a nice reward on a rainy day.

If charming villages are your thing, visit Shanklyn. And if lovely views are what you’re after, a visit to Osborne House is a must.

This year a new ‘Childhood at Osborne’ exhibition has opened at the Swiss Cottage, showing how Queen Victoria’s children would have played on their visits. Queen Victoria is reported to have said ‘It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot.’ Prettiest spot, maybe. But prettiest creature on the Isle of Wight has to be Charlie Brown, the huge lion who lives at Sandown Zoo.

And on a good day he will even let the keepers call him down to the edge of his enclosure and brush him.

Charlie Brown was born in captivity, but a brand new centre is being built for the zoo’s rescue lions and tigers.

The £10 admission fee is well worth it and there are wallabies, monkeys, meerkats and a charming pot-bellied pig to keep you entertained.

Keeping kids entertained is the idea behind The Needles Park at Alum Bay.

The Needles themselves are probably the most well-know attraction on the island and have to be seen. Although a bit of child-like imagination might be needed to help block out the run-down feel of the site.

Nevertheless, we packed so much in to three days it’s hard to believe we were just across a relatively small stretch of water.

And that’s the beauty of a trip to the Isle of Wight. No passport stress, no luggage allowance nightmares. Just a short boat ride and you feel a million miles away.


  • A double room at Sentry Mead in February costs from £105 per night. Visit sentrymead.co.uk
  • A short stay return for one vehicle on Wightlink ferries from Portsmouth to Fishbourne or from Lymington to Yarmouth costs £56 An adult foot passenger return costs £19.50 For more information, visit wightlink.co.uk/iow/