The 'Sun-shine' Isle....apparently!
4 night stay at Shanklin, Isle of Wight

Shanklin Bay & Fisherman's Cottage
The Isle of Wight is one of the places in Britain I've wanted to visit for a very long time.
Over the years I've been told countless times how its one of the sunniest places in England & how the island is literally bursting with thatched cottages.
As such to celebrate my 40th birthday, my daughter & I booked our annual 'girlie' holiday at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. We booked with National Holidays, £179 for 4 nights dinner, bed & breakfast in the Shanklin Beach Hotel (if it was any closer to the beach it'd be in the sea, said one review), sounded like a great value deal....
Our journey to the ferry port at Southampton was very pleasant. The sun was shinning, the roads were clear & the bus driver was jolly, there was the odd annoying passenger, but isn't there always!
I've never never been to Southampton before (hmmm possibly I got the ferry to Cherbourg from here back in 83') but from the limited view I had, it seemed a pleasant enough place. Then without much of a to-do we were on the Red Funnel ferry and crossing  over the Solent to East Cowes. On board the ferry I sipped a bottle of 'Ale of Wight' real-ale like a true tourist and  marveled at Henry the 8th sea defenses against the French which is quirky Calshot Castle,  while the Evil Genius sat in a state of heightened panic at the slightest movement of the boat... But soon East Cowes came into sight, looking lovely in the sunshine there was even a tall ship moored there!
We drove through green countryside and passed the odd thatched cottage (a sign of more to come I thought) before arriving at our final destination. Shanklin seafront looked gorgeous, with its palm trees and sandy beach and the sea glistening in the sunshine....and then we saw the hotel... oh dear...
I don't write negative reviews in my blogs so if you'd like to know my thoughts on the hotel click here for my Tripadvisor report... after our nightmare dining experience, which was the only time we ate at our hotel during this holiday we were a little down-heartened so we sauntered along to Shanklin Chine. Now this wasn't quite what I expected either! Its a strange little park that leads from the Old Village down to the sea and Fisherman's Cottage Inn.
There's a beck flowing through it with a small waterfall & a few cages with birds in. There was a little exhibition about P.L.U.T.O (pipe line under the ocean) and an old Victorian brine bath. The Chine was pretty at night and this is definitely the best time to visit. It's randomly lit with different coloured spotlights so my advice is wait until it's starting to turn dark before you pay to go in.
The rain started to fall so as we headed back to our hotel we popped into The Steamer Inn for a drink & as we sat listening to live music we decided to have our evening meals here each night as the place was fantastic, all decked out with ship themed decorations, right up my street. In fact we had 2 very enjoyable meals here during our holiday.

Lions and Tigers and lemurs...oh my!
The next day the rain was pouring, in fact the rain poured for the rest of our holiday.
So we headed of to Sandown to the Isle of Wight Zoo. This is a very good zoo indeed! The zoo entrance ticket lets you return anytime within a week for just £1, good value I felt. They have lemurs, lions & tigers, everything we love the most! The animal keeper was a friendly lady and she spent time talking to the Evil Genius who is passionate about lemurs herself! The zoo is also home to rescued big cats & rare breeds such as the white lion, I'd never seen one before. All the animals seemed very happy & despite the torrential rain we saw everything ,bar the foxes, and encountered the worlds bravest duck swimming in the pond in the tiger enclosure!  We had an enormous meal in the zoo cafe at a very reasonable price too and returned later in the day for some yummy cake!  I've never been caught in rain like the rain we experienced that day. It was beyond awful. We were literally soaked to the skin and that's not pleasant.  While waiting for the bus ,that was 10 minutes late, there was a moment I really thought I was going to die of hypothermia right there in that bus stop in Sandown...'twas that grim!
We used public transport to get around the island during our holiday. A 24hour ticket for a Southern Vectis bus was £10 and the bus takes you everywhere! We found it very easy getting around & the drivers were very friendly & helpful and gave us a shout out when we arrived at our destinations.

Osborne House
On day two we ventured to wonderful Osborne House. Surely no trip to the Isle of Wight would be complete without a visit to Queen Victoria's most favourite home. It's a massive site, with walled gardens, fabulous statues & the fascinating Swiss Cottage. Personally I felt the house was more impressive from the outside actually. Queen Victoria apparently wanted the children to have a 'normal' life and as such the rooms are quite plain in comparison to other stately homes I've visited. The Queen obviously adored her children and they seemingly lacked nothing and Swiss Cottage is basically their 'play house'. This has its own small house which is a museum of things the children collected over the years. There's also a miniature 'fort' complete with cannons! Osborne is a wonderful place and even in the torrential rain it was very charming. My top tip would be to eat in the cafe at the main entrance as the other is very very expensive!
During our travels on the buses we managed to see quite a bit of the island. But... Now I don't know if it was just the rain making the place seem dreary but my overall impression wasn't particularly favorable and by the end of the third day I felt the whole place was slightly run down. We passed many a deserted building and abandoned hotel and there was no where near the amount of thatched cottages as I'd been expecting. I was a tad disappointed.

the Needles & lighthouse
On our final day we set off into the rainy fog to see 'The Needles' at Alum Bay, one of the main things I'd wanted to see on this holiday. Again we took the 'easy-to-use' service bus and
we passed some very pretty and interesting looking places en-route. I have to say I much preferred this side of the island, not least because we actually saw lots of thatched cottages! Once again the whole 'Needles' experience wasn't as expected. There was some kind of funfair at the top of a steep cliff & then we had to take quite a scarey chairlift ride to apparent certain death down to the shingle bay below...eek!  However we did survive the ride & The Evil Genius has a medal to prove it, and the views were amazing!  Alum Bay has 21 different coloured sands, apparently, although I didn't stop to count them all.  But I can say that the cliffs did look very colourful from the boat I took out to sea so I could see the rock formations & lighthouse at close quaters. The actual 'Needles' weren't as tall or 'needle-ish' as I expected, however I did enjoy the reasonably priced boat ride out there & would recommend the trip. After a spot of lunch & some gift shopping we decided to double back to Freshwater Bay & visit a very pretty thatched church we passed earlier. By chance we ended up on a circular route tour bus complete with commentary! St Agnes church was as pretty inside as out. Its not particularly old, built in 1908 apparently commissioned by Alfred Tennysons son. We didn't stay in Freshwater Bay too long, we were soon back on the bus heading to Yarmouth with the intention of eventually going to Godshill to see the thatched cottages there. Yarmouth seemed nice enough. I was quite taken with the Gribble seat...apparently Gribbles ate Yarmouth pier! Sounds like a headline from the Sunday Sport! By the time we reached Newport the respite from the rain had come to an end and it was once again absolutely pouring down so we decided not to bother going to Godshill & instead we'd visit the thatched cottages in Shanklin. I'm very glad we did!

Shanklin Old Village
By the time we arrived in Shanklin the rain had totally disappeared, the sun was fiercely shining and the sky was blue! I was very impressed by Shanklin Old Village, it was basically what I'd envisioned the whole Island would look like. Picture perfect indeed. We even had our evening meal in a thatched pub, The Crab Inn. So as our holiday drew to an end we were left with mixed feelings and as we enjoyed the late evening sunshine we reflected on the fact that we'd enjoyed everything that we'd done and we would try the Isle of Wight again, maybe in August, we might actually get some sunshine then, and we would stay in a self catering cottage as oppose to a horrid hotel!

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