Osborne House, the royal seaside palace on the Isle of Wight, is the main reason why I wanted to visit this island. I came across some details about this place many years ago while reading the book Queen Victoria: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert.
This island is easy to get to from London, less than 2 hours by car, bus or train and then via ferry from Southampton docks. The diamond-shaped island is situated just off England’s south coast and is referred to as the Diamond of the South. It has been one of Europe’s most fashionable holiday destination since the 18th Century when it became a favourite weekend retreat for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
My friend Kristine and I got to visit the island about a month ago. We were hoping to explore Osborne House but sadly, we didn’t get to do it.
Upon arrival, our first destination was the western tip of the island called The Needles. The place is pretty much like a leisure park but the highlight was the chairlift (ski lift) to the beach to see Alum Bay’s brightly coloured sands. We got a quick glimpse of the stunning scenery especially on our way up but because I am acrophobic (that is, fear of heights), the very high & steep ride down was quite frightening for me. I had to tightly close my eyes and hold on to the bar for dear life as I felt the significant huge drop to the ground haha!
We had lunch at one of the restaurants here then we drove around Tennyson Down through the villages of Freshwater and Freshwater Bay.
The quintessential English thatched roof cottages can be seen all over the island.
There were also some very modern ‘East Hampton style’ cottages.
I asked our tour guide what’s the population of the island and her only response was, “Nobody really knows the exact population because a lot of homeowners are only here for the summer or the weekend.” Then we drove along the military road towards the southern tip of the island. The stunning scenery made the half an hour drive a little bit more enjoyable.
There were hikers, cyclists and campers all over the island.
Camp sites abound with loads of caravans and tents.
We stopped to enjoy the views at St. Catherine’s Point, the island’s southernmost tip.
It was a gorgeous day but quite windy.
FYI, Kristine and I didn’t talk about twinning, we just happened to wear the same Breton stripe T-shirts. St. Catherine’s Point was our last stop instead of Osborne House. We were 5 minutes away from Queen Victoria’s seaside palace when the tour guide asked the driver to turn around because of the little traffic on the way there. Only to be told, as soon as we got to East Cowes docks, that the ferry was delayed for half an hour. For some reason, the 30-min delay turned out to be a long two hour wait. It was too late to turn around as loads of vehicles were already on a queue behind us.
The tour guide should have made a phone call before she made the decision to cancel the Osborne House tour but she didn’t. So for two hours we sat on the bus, got up to stretch, walked a bit, had snacks, and sat down again bored out of our wits haha!
Nevertheless, we had a great time. The island has its own unique charm and is worth visiting. It would be nice to visit again in the spring/summer of next year and stay for a night or two. Joining a tour group wasn’t too bad. It was a tour company recommended by a Japanese friend of mine and her experience was significantly different from ours. Her group was able to visit Osborne House and an old village in East Cowes — both places were in our itinerary but they changed it at the last minute. There were only a dozen of us in the group excluding the tour guide and the driver. For anyone interested to visit the island, I’d suggest you either drive, take the train or bus (don’t join a day-tour) and stay on the island for a night or two. (I gotta drag Jared to do this with me next summer. )
I look forward to visiting Isle of Wight again. Hopefully, to do some camping and hiking. And of course, to explore Osborne House so I can finally tick it off of my bucket list.