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.
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