This week, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Rachael, who is such an interesting blogger – she knows everything there is to know about Kent and its fascinating history – and I love reading her stories. Rachael is sharing her fun-packed family holiday to the Isle of Wight and boy did she pack a lot in – from dinosaur hunting to pedalo rides, it reminded me of all the amazing trips I had there with my parents as a child. I shall definitely be using her tips when I return there some day!
Over to you, Rachael…
What do you look for in a holiday?
What I dream of is a mix of family days and evenings alone with my husband, with lots of sunshine, sightseeing, great food and the opportunity to lounge around with a good book or two thrown in. Our boys are still quite young though, so our holidays are centred around them and usually involve lugging lots of bags filled with buckets, spades, kites and body boards to the beach, regardless of the weather. On the way back to the car, the load is usually twice as heavy due to my son’s compulsion to collect stones.
Where did you go?
We had two brilliant weeks on the Isle of Wight.
Why the Isle of Wight?
Primarily, because the kids asked to go back again and Steve and I love it too. There’s always lots to do and the landscape and beaches are stunning. We also wanted to try out some of the cycle trails and walks. Oh, and we’re particularly partial to some home-made ice-cream made by a little old lady near Black Gang Chine. Yum!
On a more practical level, it’s an easy journey from Kent and allows my mother-in-law the option of coming with us for a week – we always have the second week to ourselves. Temperature wise the island is usually a little warmer than on the mainland and, so far, we’ve always had more sunny than rainy days.
My husband and I, our two boys, aged 8 and 10 and, for the first week, my mother-in-law.
Where did you stay?
We visited a heritage attraction based around Calboune Mill – a 1000 year old water mill – last year and saw a leaflet for their new eco-lodge holiday homes. Following a quick chat with the manager, she showed us around and we loved it so much we booked this year’s stay before we left the island. As part of the rental, holiday guests are given free access to the mill and its facilities for the duration of their stay and free tea and cake on arrival. This is definitely not a place to go if you don’t like birds though as, within the mill grounds, peacocks, ducks and geese roam free and are used to being hand fed by visitors.
Our cottage was a comfy and clean, purpose built three-bed holiday home with all mod cons and lots of space. A balcony leading off the lounge was the perfect place to watch the kids run around with the free roaming peacocks or grab a glass of wine. We tend to go self-catering as our youngest son is diary free so having a fully equipped kitchen, and a separate dining room, made life really easy for us. That said, we were surrounded by fabulous restaurants, and a very good chippy, so were spoilt for choice when we did go out.
Were there plenty of activities for the kids?
Tons! The island is very family friendly, especially for those with younger children, and offers a great mix of museums, castles, animal centers, beaches, cycle rides, walks and activity parks. Tourism keeps the island alive so you can always find a carnival or festival nearby and there’s lots of free entertainment.
Your most memorable moments of the trip?
There were plenty, but the look on my 10-year-old’s face when he was told he had found some coprolite – fossilized dinosaur pooh – on our guided fossil walk! I also loved being able to see and touch real dinosaur footprints – that was pretty magical in a geeky kind of way. Perhaps I should mention the stunning sunsets too!
Was it good value for money?
It’s not a cheap holiday, although we did save ourselves some money by cashing in some Tesco’s vouchers and using them to get into some of the attractions, but for the experience we had, it was worth it.
Your top tips for the area?
• Grab the free island ‘Eating Out’ and ‘Summer Pocket Guide’ books on the ferry. Wi-Fi doesn’t work particularly well on the island so having a telephone number to check details is always handy.
• Compton bay is great for body-boarding, kite-surfing and wind-surfing but if you’re looking for a sandy beach, with smaller waves suitable for young children, head over to the other side of the Island, nearer Portsmouth.
• Make time to go to the beach one evening; the sunsets can be magical and the kids can run around making as much noise as they like.
•If you have a dinosaur hunter in your midst, the Dinosaur Isle museum is well worth a visit and the guided fossil hunts along Brook beach are a great experience. Restricted Area 5 –the new interactive dinosaur section at Black Gang Chine, and their new dinosaur themed activities, are also worth seeing.
Which photo is your favourite and why?
Ok, it’s not a particularly flattering picture, and my husband will probably kill me, but I loved watching him try to teach our boys how to use a pedalo. Fortunately, the mill stream isn’t particularly wide, or long, as they zig-zagged from side to side with Steve hanging precariously on the back. The ducks and geese dived for cover while I giggled from afar. They did get their own back on me a few days later though when they offered to show me a moor hen and her chick. Having anxiously climbed into the boat, yes they had rowing boats too, I settled down to take a photograph of her, totally oblivious to the fact they were purposely guiding me through some low, wet branches. I thought you were supposed to stay dry inside a boat but, on that occasion I was definitely mistaken and had wet hair, feet, legs and bottom to prove it!
Would you recommend this holiday?
We’re off to America next year but I would definitely recommend the Island to a friend and, if we go back, we would definitely stay at the Mill.
What are your five holiday essentials?
At least one member of my family, my kindle, a decent bed, a picnic blanket and my camera.
If you would like to be featured on Holiday Snapshots, please email me at [email protected] and I look forward to including your travel stories.