Address: Isle of Wight, UK

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Isle of Wight History

Whilst it’s an island today, this hasn’t always been the case. 125 million years ago the area was connected by land to Britain and northern Europe and it was only after the Ice Age, about 9,000 years ago, that it became an island. This was when water levels rose by 30-40 metres. Today, it’s a major area for the discovery of fossil and dinosaur remains and there are certainly plenty of examples of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements.

Whilst the Romans colonised the island, they didn’t build any towns or roads – but they did build a few villas. Remains of these can be seen at Newport and Brading.
 
The Jutes came in 530AD, and when the Mercians arrived in 661, they introduced Christianity. Shortly after, King Wulfhere returned to Mercia and paganism reintroduced itself. Caedwalla of Wessex then stamped out paganism when he invaded in 686.
 
During the Vikings’ period of invasion and warfare, they found it a convenient winter base as opposed to the hostile elements of their home country and other parts of Britain.
 
The Normans invaded England in 1066 and the Domesday Book was written in 1086. This was the ‘Great Survey’ of the land of England and much of Wales, and the island was listed as ‘Wit’. Carisbrooke Castle was built shortly afterwards.
 
William the Conqueror, who had led the Norman invasion, ceded the rights to the island to the FitzOsbern family and this passed in 1100 to the de Redves. In 1263, the island passed on to Countess Isabella de Fortibus who then, in 1293, sold it to Edward I. Around this time Newport was built and was given the name as it was the new port for Carrisbrooke Castle.
 
Due to its proximity to Europe, the island then saw a few excursions from French raiders, these towards the end of the 14th century. And in 1545 the Mary Rose sank in a battle with the French, this in the Solent, off the north coast of the island.
 
Hostilities continued, and at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588, fortifications were extended at Carrisbroke Castle.
 
During the English Civil War, King Charles I attempted to flee to Jersey, but ended up in the Isle of Wight. He was promptly detained by Governor Hammond and imprisoned in Carrisbroke Castle.
 
The 19th century saw further fortifications built on the island. These included the Palmerston Forts, the Needles Battery and Fort Victoria.
 
Towards the end of the 19th century, the island started to become more of a holiday resort and tourism became the major industry. During this time, Queen Victoria had Osborne House built and this can be seen today near East Cowes.
 
Nowadays, with the introduction of an efficient ferry service, the island functions very much as though it were part of the mainland. Cowes is a main port for ferries and is also a major centre for sailing. Various festivals attract thousands of people and these include the annual music festival.
 

Isle of Wight Visit

A visit normally starts off with a ferry trip. Ferry services run from Lymington to Yarmouth (40 mins), Portsmouth to Fishbourne (45 mins), Portsmouth to Ryde (22 mins), Southampton to West Cowes (24 mins), Southampton to East Cowes (this takes 60 minutes and is a car ferry) and Southsea to Ryde (10 minute hovercraft crossing).

The island is 25 miles across and 13 miles from north to south, so is fairly extensive and there’s a lot to do.

The south of England is the warmest part of Britain and visitors take advantage of the beaches here and the great weather. The beaches include Shanklin beach, Compton beach, Appley beach, Ryde beach and Yaverland beach. There are also piers at Shanklin and Ryde.

There are some particularly famous landmarks on the island too. These include Osborne House, Carisbrooke Castle, Needles Battery and the Isle of Wight Zoo.

For animal and wildlife seekers, attractions include Amazon World Zoo Park, Haven Falconry, Monkey Haven, Donkey Sanctuary, Butterfly World and the Isle of Wight Reptilarium.

Ventnor Botanical Gardens are wonderful to visit, as are Mottistone Gardens and Rylstone Gardens. Vineyards are at Brading and Ryde.

Railway enthusiasts visit the IOW Steam Train and the Fort Victoria Model Railway. Also at Fort Victoria is a Country Park.

Roman villa remains can be found at Brading and Newport and at Yarmouth is the famous castle.

Other attractions include Appuldurcombe House, Bembridge Windmill, Quarr Abbey, Shanklin Theatre and the Wight Military Museum.

There are 8 golf courses and these are Osborne, Shanklin & Sandown, Westridge, Freshwater Bay, Ventnor, Newport, Cowes and Ryde.

Sports enthusiasts are well catered for, with a host of activities on offer. They include water sports, boat trips, fishing, cycling, karting and climbing. The Coastal Footpath is ideal for walkers.

There are also nature reserves, churches and museums.

Blackgang Chine and the Robin Hill Country Park are local theme parks.