The Isle of Wight is so much more than a festival – dodge the music and head out in search of sophistication

 
Siobhan Grogan

With Glastonbury taking this year off, the focus falls on the iconic Isle of Wight Festival instead this month, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary and moves to Glasto’s traditional end of June slot.

But unless you fancy sharing a ferry with Liam Gallagher, it’s best to choose another time to explore the rolling hills, dramatic cliffs and windswept beaches on this enchanting, diamond-shaped island. With regular ferries from Portsmouth and Southampton, it has all Cornwall’s charms without the journey from hell to get there.

The Stay: Everywhere on the island is within an hour’s drive so it’s hard to go wrong. I stayed on the eastern tip, with its long sandy beaches and endearing, old-fashioned seaside feel, complete with a steam railway, striped beach huts and the island’s only surviving windmill. Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park has all the traditional trappings of a holiday park (playgrounds, an amusement arcade and – oh yes – a Robbie Williams tribute singer) but makes up for it with a clifftop outdoor pool, private beach and brand new Rock Star Suites.

In tribute to the island’s illustrious rock history, these boast their own hot tub, a stash of concert DVDs, zebra print and Union Jack furnishings, Britpop artwork and a roll top bath with its own TV in the master bedroom. If restrained elegance is your thing, it’s the fast-track to a migraine but it’s still hard not to be charmed by its unashamed flamboyance.


The Hut, Isle of Wight

The food: Three Buoys restaurant in Ryde overlooks the bay of Appley and pairs fresh seafood with a laid-back intimacy and quirky touches like coconut gin and tonics, wild garlic ketchup and vegan cashew butter cheesecake. To see and be seen, head to The Hut on Colwell Bay to dine right on the beach with a well-heeled, sailing crowd and a postcard-perfect sunset view. Try the fish tacos, perfectly seared picanha steak or grilled lobster with garlic butter.


Mussels at the Three Buoys

What to see: No trip to the Isle of Wight is complete without a visit to the cliff-side Blackgang Chine, the UK’s oldest theme park that celebrates its 175th birthday this year. For forest walks, manicured gardens and falconry displays, Robin Hill Country Park is the perfect spot for a picnic on a sunny afternoon and also home to the island’s newest festival, the boutique Eklectica in September.

And after that: Stop for ice cream and one of the best views on the island at Brading Down, a rambling nature reserve on steep, south-facing slopes over the sea with kestrels circling above.

Need to know: A day return ticket on Wightlink Ferries starts at £57.50 in August. Routes include Portsmouth Car Ferry Terminal to Fishbourne (from 45 mins); Lymington Car Ferry Terminal to Yarmouth (from 40 mins) and Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station to Ryde Pier Head (from 22 mins). To book, please visit wightlink.co.uk. Prices for the Rockstar Suite, which can sleep up to 7, start at £243 for a two-night stay from 29 October. To make a booking call 01442 508850 or visit awayresorts.co.uk

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