Isle of Wight, United Kingdom
Today, the Isle of Wight is best known for its eponymous music festival, which attained a near-mythic reputation in 1970 when it was headlined by Jimi Hendrix and attended by a crowd around 600,000 strong. It was the great and good of the Victorian era, however, who cemented the island’s reputation as the destination de rigueur. Proving magnetic for royals and intellectuals alike, the island once played host to Tennyson, Swinburne, Queen Victoria and Karl Marx, effectively turning the isle in to a high-tier salon. Its apparent ability to bewitch is somewhat demystified once you’re armed with the knowledge that the island enjoys some 2,000 hours of sunshine every year, a figure that crowns it as the best and brightest spot in this usually rain-sodden land. Spend a summer evening entranced by the isle’s limestone cliffs – or indeed the peach-pinkish façade of regal summer home Osborne House in East Cowes – as the stone echoes the colours of the setting sun.
When to go
The Isle enjoys the finest weather in the UK, so it’s perennially popular as a summer destination. Sought-after spots can get busy at this time, as does the Isle of Wight Festival, which runs for four days around mid-June.
PlanesThe closest international airport is Southampton; fairly modest in size, it’s best for domestic flights and some of the closer European airports. Those coming from further afield, or from transatlantic destinations, should fly to London Heathrow. Car transfers to Portsmouth and Southampton take around an hour and a half depending on traffic.
BoatsTo get to the island, you’ll need to take a ferry; these depart from Southampton, Lymington and Portsmouth, with most services running seven days a week. The fastest option comes in the form of a hovercraft – note that this only takes foot passengers. It takes less than 10 minutes to make the journey between Southsea in Portsmouth and Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Regular ferries, including those that will transport cars, take between 20 and 40 minutes depending on departure and arrival point.
AutomobilesCar hire is available on the island, but it’s also common for visitors to bring their own on one of the car-ferry services. All the main towns are connected by well-built roads, some of which could even be described as spectacular; Military Road is regularly voted one of the best roads to drive on in the UK, owing to the views of undulating limestone cliffs along the coastline. If possible, avoid town centres during rush hour, as things can get a little congested.