Home Run: the Isle of Wight

A Walk to Hoy

Nestled away in the English channel, the Isle of Wight is often reputed as an OAP’s paradise, or as a permanent re-enactment of the 50s and 60. The Isle of Wight is in fact really a hub of history, music, and eccentricity. Let me convince you that the place is worth your time.

At heart, I am an Islander, not a caulkhead (a native with three Island-born generations before you), but I can’t deny that it is my home. No matter how many days pass between visits, I know I’ll never be able to, nor want to shake the place. The Isle of Wight is a place like no other, difficult to describe with just words: I can’t explain what it’s like to grow up consciously surrounded by the ocean.

At only thirteen by twenty-four miles across, it’s certainly compact. Despite its size, the island punches above its weight again and again. There are miles upon miles of pristine, award-winning beaches; quaint villages filled with tearooms, and rolling green hills in every direction, cascading into the ocean. Sure, anyone can boast of their home as having national parks, gorgeous beaches, or charming towns, but the island squeezes all of that in and more, without even pausing for breath.

The Isle of Wight is perhaps best known for its contributions to the arts, as the music scene here is legendary. Since 1968, the iconic Isle of Wight Festival has provided the stage for both global sensations and smaller local bands, to the delight of attendees. In 1970, it made waves as the most highly attended music event of all time, when almost 700,000 people arrived on an island with a population of less than 100,000. Across time, acts such as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Muse, The Rolling Stones, and David Guetta have graced the festival stages.

Alongside music, the visual and literary arts of the island have been consistently excellent. Alfred Tennyson and Charles Dickens both lived there for a time, Jane Austen is just one of many authors to namedrop the place in her work, and visionary director Anthony Minghella was born and raised here. Famous celebrities are often spotted roaming the Island; Benedict Cumberbatch married there in 2015, and my mum once met Johnny Depp while in line at a pub in Cowes.

Sailing is also at the heart of island life. The famous sailing regatta Cowes Week has been held on the Island every year since 1826, where thousands descend to enjoy a week of sailing accompanied by beach views, local cheeses and wine. It would be an injustice to my childhood if I didn’t give a guide to these infamous beaches. At Gurnard, you can sail, kayak, and watch the busy shipping lanes of the Solent.

The sandy slopes of Compton and Appley are ideal for long sunset walks and surfing. At the Needles there’s a chairlift that takes you down the chalk cliff face. Bembridge is ideal for snorkelling, whilst the cliffs of Freshwater and tiny chines around the south of the Island provide views so Insta-worthy that no one can resist a sunset pic tagged #nofilter. And who can blame you, when right on your doorstep is all the sun, sea, and sand that you could ever want?

If beaches aren’t your thing, there’s still lots to do — whether it’s climbing to the highest point on the island and having a picnic, witnessing the stunning landscape from a glider, visiting the dinosaur museum, or taking a guided tour around what many believe is the most haunted island in the world, attractions are endless and varied. To explore at your own leisure, we also have castles, lakes, rivers, forests, and endless cafes. If you’re feeling daring, it’s also not hard to find routes to the abandoned villages previously claimed by the crumbling cliffs.

I didn’t realise how much I loved the place until I left it. When I visit, there isn’t a single spot that doesn’t hold a memory of family outings, long dog walks, drives along the coastal roads with friends, and countless after-school trips to the nearby beaches. It’s a place with its own culture, wildlife, and landscape, found nowhere else in the UK, where the pace is slow and the activities natural.

So, if you fancy a cute trip that won’t break the bank, I can’t recommend the Isle of Wight enough. I mean, if you’re in the UK, you don’t even need a passport to get here. It’s only an hour or two from London, but you’ll feel like you’re in an entirely different world when you’re here.

Esme Johnson

Image credits: Esme Johnson

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