Isle of Wight and the Victorian Love Affair
“It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot” is what Queen Victoria said of Isle of Wight and she subsequently built a summer vacation getaway for her family. The island was Victoria’s favourite and along with Prince Albert and her family, relished their summers in the spectacular scenery, peace and tranquility of the island. The Victorian love affair on the Isle of Wight is denoted by several landmarks and places which meant so much to the royal family. Some of these locations were regularly visited and loved by Queen Victoria.
Today, you can follow Queen Victoria’s footsteps and visit the key locations, attractions and beauty spots across Isle of Wight which Victoria loved. This article aims to bring to you these highlights of Isle of Wight along with the experiences and places which were part of the Victorian love affair with this beautiful island in England.
Isle of Wight and the Victorian Love Affair
Isle of Wight became a fashionable vacation destination in the 18th Century and famously reflect Queen Victoria’s love affair with the island and Osborne House, which was the Royals getaway. Her love for the island goes beyond Osborne House. The are key locations across the island that were special to her throughout her reign as monarch. There was the hotel which Victoria endorsed following her afternoon tea, the yacht club that was built specially for her, the church where her youngest daughter married and the best view points in the island which Victoria loved.
Initially, the island was a getaway for summer vacations and later, during Queen Victoria’s later years, it became her permanent home until her death in 1901. The island is also popular for its castle, Carisbrooke Castle, where her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice lived.
Queen Victoria’s reign as monarch and the strong loving relationship between her and her husband, Prince Albert is fascinating. Their love so strong that Queen Victoria went into a long period of mourning and devoted herself to wearing only black after Prince Albert died.
Her later years on the island is beautifully captured in a recent movie, Victoria and Abdul, which depicts a story of friendship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant. It was filmed on location here and in Osborne House. You can watch the trailer here.
Isle of Wight and the Victorian love affair | What did Victoria love about IOW
Isle of Wight’s natural environment brings together many experiences that may have been part of Queen Victoria’s love for the island. Here are the key locations where her presence were frequent and denotes the Victorian love affair of Isle of Wight.
1 | Osborne House Isle of Wight
Without a doubt, Osborne House in Isle of Wight was the Queen’s favourite and most cherished of palaces. You will find that what Queen Victoria once said “it would be impossible to imagine a prettier spot” – to be absolutely correct when visiting here.
The Royal couple cherished the peace and tranquillity of the island and it made a perfect getaway for their summer vacation. The Osborne House was built by the sea to make the most of the views afforded by the island. A private beach for her family, views of the beautiful cliffs and a direct view to mainland, England.
Prince Albert designed the building with the architect, embedding inspirations of their time in the Bay of Naples. The terraces and towers of Osborne House were Italian inspired and the House was built in 1845.
Today, you can walk in Victoria’s footsteps and enjoy the splendour and opulence of her home in her beloved island. As well, ensure you experience the captivating views across the Solent from the terraces of Osborne House. Afterwards, wander the extensive grounds. Take a moment and enjoy the “charming beach” which Queen Victoria passionately referred to in 1845.
Osborne House really is a beautiful place to explore and you can stroll easily for hours.
Good to Know before visiting Osborne House
Address: York Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6JT
Best time to visit: Perfect all year round;
Facilities: Cafes, picnic areas shop, play-area and toilets are available. Dogs on leads are allowed in the grounds but not in the house or beach.
Membership: Osborne House is managed by the English Heritage and an annual membership allows unlimited visits to this landmark, Queen Victoria’s palatial holiday home.
Non English Heritage member visitors: Buy Admission ticket to Osborne House
For Overseas Visitors >> Plan your trip and Buy English Heritage Attraction Pass for Overseas Visitors
2 | St Mildred’s Church, Whippingham Isle of Wight
A key favourite of Queen Victoria was the island’s church, St Mildred’s which was a short carriage ride from Osborne House.
St Mildred’s Church is located in the heart of Whippingham, East Cowes and is said to be a place of worship since Norman times. Rich in royal history and heritage, St Mildred’s is a beautiful example of personal attention and loving care devoted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert that became a centre point of their Sunday family worships.
The royal family worshiped in St Mildred’s when they were in residence at Osborne House. Prince Albert even re-designed the church incorporating many beautiful features so it was more suitable for the royal family. Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice was married here. Beatrice and her husband are buried here also.
Good to know before visiting St Mildred’s Church
Address: Beatrice Ave, East Cowes PO32 6LW
Best time to visit: The Church is open from Sunday to Thursday, 10:00 – 16:00. Best to confirm before visiting > 01983 299230
Entrance is Free
Facilities: There is a gift shop and a permanent exhibition of the royal memorabilia. Toilets are available.
3 | Egypt Point West Cowes Isle of Wight
The Victorian love affair with Isle of Wight is perfectly captured by the panoramic views over the Solent from Egypt Point in West Cowes. The coastal viewpoint between Cowes and Gurnard was Queen Victoria’s favourite location to capture the sunsets over the Solent. Victoria was irresistibly romantic in nature!
Good to know before visiting Egypt Point West Cowes
Address: Egypt Point, Egypt Esplanade, WEST COWES, Isle Of Wight, PO31 8BT
Best time to visit: Anytime throughout the year.
Nearby attraction: Visit Gurnard Beach (within walking distance) for a quick swim, best views across the Solent and for some timeless sunsets you could ever experience.
Places to stay in West Cowes: Stay at Best Western New Holmwood Hotel >> 1000 yards from West Cowes
4 | Blackgang Chine, Chale Isle of Wight
Opened in 1840, Blackgang Chine is the oldest amusement park in the UK. A land where you step out of the ordinary into a world of imagination, waiting to be explored. It is a world of dinos and cowboys, battleships in Pirate Cove, Underwater Kingdom, high speed rollercoasters and water slides – seamless classic adventure experiences alongside timeless excitement.
Blackgang Chine comes with its sister park, Robin Hill. Robin Hill offers eighty-eight acres of parkland and rolling countryside for great outdoors.
Queen Victoria gave her seal of approval to Blackgang Chine in 1853 when she visited the skeleton of the whale that was washed up near the Needles.
The whale’s skeleton was the very first attraction at Blackgang Chine and it is on view today.
Good to know before visiting Blackgang Chine Chale
Address: Blackgang Chine Theme Park, Blackgang, CHALE, Isle of Wight, PO38 2HN
Tel: Tel:+44 01983 730330
Best time to visit: All weather attraction. Use suitable footwear
Facilities: Cafes, outdoor eating area, picnic areas, baby changing facilities, highchairs for children are available. There is a gift shop as well. Dogs on lead are welcome. Guided tours available by prior arrangement.
5 | Shanklin Chine Shanklin Isle of Wight
Shanklin Chine is a fascinating geological feature and is a top tourist attraction in Isle of Wight, attracting millions each year. It boasts a tranquil and picturesque setting that one can only, but marvel at its natural beauty. It first opened its doors in 1817 and has since attracted not just visitors but renowned artists, photographers and royalties. You will be in total awe when you visit here and appreciate why this wonder is one of the Victorian love affair experience.
Queen Victoria first visited Shanklin Chine when she was Princess Victoria at the age of fourteen in 1833 with her mother. Legend has it that Princess Victoria helped herself to a prawn on her way in!
Shanklin Chine was one of Victoria’s favourite places to visit in her beloved island when she returned as Queen Victoria in the summers. She continued to visit with Prince Albert and is known to bring her guests as well, notably King Leopold and Queen Louise of Belgium.
Good to know before visiting Shanklin Chine
Address: Esplanade, SHANKLIN, Isle of Wight, PO37 6BW
Tel: 01983 866432
Best time to visit: Seasonal opening – April to early November
Facilities: Cafe, restaurant and outdoor eating area available. Guide dogs are welcome.
6 | The Royal, Ventnor Isle of Wight
The Royal Hotel in Ventnor is one of Britain’s finest. It was known as Ventnor Hotel but was renamed The Royal Hotel after Queen Victoria endorsed it for afternoon tea following her visit in 1855. The Royal Hotel became a fashionable holiday and health retreat in Victorian times after receiving a firm recommendation of the health-giving properties of Ventnor’s climate from Queen Victoria’s surgeon.
Today, it is regarded as the ultimate in island experience. Surrounded by cliffs and nestled in a remarkable south facing garden, overlooking Ventnor’s magnificent coastline. Afternoon tea is still served here.
Good to know before visiting The Royal, Ventnor
Address: The Royal Hotel
Isle of Wight
Best time to visit: Open all year round including Christmas and New Year.
Facilities: Family friendly. Accessible via lift. Wheelchair user accessible.
Free parking available. Bus stop within walking distance. Railway station is within 5 miles.
7 | Ventnor Botanic Garden, St Lawrence Isle of Wight
Ventnor Botanic Garden lies in the southcoast of the island and has a unique microclimate of an average of 5 degrees warmer than the rest of UK. Surrounded by the chalk downs of Ventnor Undercliff, Ventnor Botanic Garden was and still is, a perfect base to grow rare plants and trees.
Once known as Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest during the Victorian era where patients were “taking the cure” at the seaside, the Ventnor Botanic Garden is home to several notable Victorian specimens.
The “Chusan Palm” Trachycarpus fortune are the oldest palms in the British Isles. These were collected in the 19th Century for Veitches Nursery and were presented to Queen Victoria who wanted them planted in the grounds of the hospital. These palms remain in the same spot today.
Good to know before visiting Ventnor Botanic Garden, St Lawrence
Address: Undercliff Drive, St Lawrence, Isle of Wight, PO38 1UL
Tel: 01983 855397
Best time to visit: All year round
Facilities: Cafe, restaurant and picnic area. Baby changing facilities, highchairs and outdoor children’s play area. Guide dogs permitted. All areas are accessible to disabled visitors.
Places to Stay in or near Ventnor: The Royal Hotel
8 | Prince Consort building formerly the Royal Victoria Yacht Club
The Yacht Club was built by Prince Albert specially for Queen Victoria as a private place because the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes did not allow female visitors, not even the Queen! It was built at the western end of Ryde, overlooking the Solent. The building is now called the Prince Consort building and is a private residence.
Good to know before visiting Prince Consort Building
Address: St Thomas Street, RYDE, Isle Of Wight, PO33 2DL
9 | Carisbrooke Castle, Newport Isle of Wight
Carisbrooke Castle has a long history going back a thousand years. Carisbrooke was pivotal both as a place of power and defence. It was a Saxon fortress, a Norman conquest and a royal prison during the Civil War of 1642-1651. The most famous royal prisoner was Charles I.
Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria was appointed Governor of Isle of Wight succeeding her husband’s passing in 1896. She lived with Queen Victoria at Osborne. She was her mother’s lifelong companion and loyal assistant. In 1913, Princess Beatrice adapted and modernised the hall range and the Constable’s Lodgings. Carisbrooke became her residence until her death in 1944.
Princess Beatrice made many changes to the Castle and one significant change was the creation of a museum of local history as a memorial to her husband.
Today, Carisbrooke Castle is a tourist attraction – home to the Museum of Isle of Wight, incredible views across the land, a wealth of fun-packed activities for family days out throughout the year such as jousting. Above all, the famous and friendly Carisbrooke donkeys who operate the treadwheel in the Elizabethan wheelhouse.
Good to know before visiting Carisbrooke Castle, Newport Isle of Wight
Address: Castle Hill, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 1XY
Best time to visit: Throughout the year but best explored on a clear day. There are indoor areas you can escape to should it rain
Facilities: Cafe, restaurant and outdoor eating as well as a picnic area. Family friendly. Guide dogs permitted. Disabled parking and wheelchair user accessible.
Carisbrooke Castle is managed by English Heritage. An annual membership gives you unlimited access to hundreds of historic places, for yourself and up to 6 children.
Non English Heritage Members: Buy Carisbrooke Castle entry ticket
Overseas Visitors >> Plan your trip and Buy English Heritage Attraction Pass for Overseas Visitors
10 | The Needles Alum Bay
The Needles Park and more precisely the Marconi Monument marks the location where Guglielmo Marconi undertook his pioneering efforts to successfully establish radio and telecommunications. In August 1898, Marconi was summoned to Osborne House to establish radio communication between Queen Victoria and Prince of Wales, her eldest son who was onboard the royal yacht. Queen Victoria is said to have been “delighted” of Marconi’s achievement
Good to know before visiting The Needles Alum Bay
Address: Heritage Great Britain, The Needles Landmark Attraction, ALUM BAY, Isle of Wight, PO39 0JD
Tel: 01983 752401
Best time to visit: Throughout the year except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day when it is closed
Facilities: Cafe, restaurants, outdoor eating and picnic areas. Family friendly, baby changing facilities and highchairs available. Disabled parking available. Wheelchair user accessible.
Places to Stay near the Needles Landmark: Beachside Apartments
Practical information for when planning a trip to experience the Victorian Love Affair locations
1 | Map
All of the above key locations that encompasses the Victorian Love Affair are colour marked on the map below to give you an idea of where these are on the island to support your visit and to book your place to stay.
2 | How to get to Isle of Wight from mainland Britain
Visiting the Isle of Wight couldn’t be any easier. The island can be accessed in 45 minutes via a short sea crossing from southern England, across the Solent. There are regular services to the island from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington in the New Forest. You can check for schedules on the links below, which I hope you will find useful. Wightlink and Red Funnel ferries for pricing.
How to get around Isle of Wight
There are various options and convenient ways to get around the island:
1 | By foot
Perhaps not the fastest way to get around the island but it undoubtedly is the best way to explore one of England’s stunning coastal paths, seascapes, rolling hills and enchanting villages.
Following are the recommended walks by Visit Isle of Wight which you could explore:
2 | Public transport
The Isle of Wight Southern Vectis and the Island Line trains offer good transportations services which are convenient and regular. The services cover around the island and most of the villages.
2.1 Southern Vectis
The buses run a regular service to and from all major towns on the island. During the peak season (summer: Jun – Aug) they run 3 open-top bus tours which takes you on an amazing journey round the Island’s most spectacular sceneries. For further information and to plan your journey, learn more from Southern Vectis.
2.2 | Island Line
The Island Line service connects the towns of Ryde, Brading Sandown and Shanklin. You can pick up the service from Ryde Pier.
Learn more and plan your journey by navigating to Island Line by South Western Railway.
On a final note…
The Isle of Wight and Victorian love affair highlights the key places loved by Queen Victoria and her family. This list is by no means an exhaustive one. There are certain to be more places frequented by Victoria and the ten places suggested in this article makes a good start to exploring Queen Victoria’s beloved island.
To learn more about Queen Victoria, head to:
Happy discovering England’s best island!
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