Voy­age of re­dis­cov­ery

ISLE OF WIGHT: The fam­ily wanted to go abroad, but Matt Reeder man­aged to find them more fun in his child­hood haunts.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Travel -

LAND once roamed by di­nosaurs, ruled by Ro­mans and revered by one of our na­tion’s most fa­mous monar­chs was about to wit­ness a dif­fer­ent kind of in­va­sion. The Reeder fam­ily was on the march south from York­shire and head­ing for the Isle of Wight – an is­land rich in his­tory, in­trigue and, I hoped, en­ter­tain­ment.

My wife, Clare, and our chil­dren, Han­nah, 10, Ben­jamin, nine, and Char­lotte, seven, had all re­quested a trip abroad for the fam­ily sum­mer break… Spain, Por­tu­gal, France were sug­gested.

How­ever, for me, as some­one who had grown up in Portsmouth and spent many happy hol­i­days on the Isle of Wight, the op­por­tu­nity to re­turn to what, in my mind was a hol­i­day haven, was too good to miss.

Per­suad­ing the chil­dren was easy… yes, we are go­ing on a ferry, yes we are leav­ing th­ese shores (sort of) and yes, we will be ar­riv­ing on a new is­land. The only way I could en­sure Clare was on­board with the plan was to make sure our week away was as packed with as many ex­cit­ing things to do as pos­si­ble… cue the di­nosaurs, the Ro­mans and Roy­alty.

Draw­ing on count­less fam­ily vis­its, school trips and cub scout camps, I col­lated a list of all the places I had seen as a young­ster and set about plot­ting a week to re­mem­ber for the fam­ily.

My task was made that much eas­ier by the ac­com­mo­da­tion we had se­cured through Blue Chip Hol­i­days, a com­pany which spe­cialises in pro­vid­ing hol­i­day homes and cot­tages in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Som­er­set and, of course, on the is­land. We would be stay­ing in Sun Hill Cot­tage, a charm­ing two-bed­room ter­raced house sit­u­ated in Cowes Old Town, just yards from bou­tiques and eater­ies in the cen­tre, and per­fectly placed for our as­sault on the sur­round­ing area.

It was the per­fect hol­i­day res­i­dence. Com­fort­able, clean and with a fan­tas­tic lo­ca­tion. We felt “at home” through­out our stay, and it en­abled us to really at­tack the is­land with the con­fi­dence that when we got “home”, no mat­ter what time, or in what state af­ter a long day on the tourist trail, we knew it would not take long to re­lax and re­cover… ready for the next day.

The Isle of Wight is only 23 miles long and 13 miles wide, a leisurely drive from the Nee­dles at the west­ern tip across to Bem­bridge on the east will only take an hour at the most, so with care­ful plan­ning it is pos­si­ble to pack your day with more than one fam­ily ex­cur­sion.

We were also armed with the ex­cel­lent Se­cret Wight guide. Pro­vided by Wightlink, the main­land’s pre­mier ferry provider to the is­land, this lit­tle gem of­fered up some of the is­land’s more hid­den lo­ca­tions, known by the lo­cals but rarely vis­ited by the tourists.

The Isle of Wight has been a tourist trap ever since Vic­to­rian times. Queen Vic­to­ria, her­self, loved the is­land so much that she would fre­quently visit with her young fam­ily and even built a hol­i­day home with hus­band Al­bert.

Os­borne House still stands to­day and pro­vides a stun­ning glimpse of what life must have been like for the hol­i­day­ing roy­als. Newly opened for 2012 is the royal beach where Vic­to­ria and her fam­ily would bathe. Hav­ing stud­ied the sub­ject at school, our chil­dren lapped up the his­toric tale of her life on the is­land.

It was a good start to a whirl­wind week which would then take us on a jam­packed tour across ev­ery cor­ner of this mag­i­cal land.

One morn­ing we were in Black­gang Chine en­joy­ing the theme park and mar­vel­ling at the gi­ant di­nosaurs, then it was on to the pretty sea­side re­treats of Vent­nor and Shanklin be­fore tak­ing in the re­mains of a Ro­man villa at Brad­ing and look­ing on in won­der at the stun­ning mo­saics left by vis­i­tors thou­sands of years be­fore us.

A fan­tas­tic day of joust­ing and Me­dieval

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