About Ventnor beaches, Isle of Wight
Sleepy staid rural backwater, back-in-time holiday resort, cache of childhood memories, Victorian hotspot, home of Britain’s hippest music festivals; will the real Isle of Wight please stand up? Being on the island can often feel like time travel, but its hippest resort is Victorian Ventnor, with its dramatic cascade of terraces down a cliff, sheltered beach, and boho cutting-edge shops and restaurants.
Sheltered by high cliffs, Ventnor’s sand and shingle beach is a brilliant suntrap. Another Blue Flag winner, it is clean, popular and overlooked by the town’s terraced gardens. Tides can be strong here though (don’t swim when a red flag is flying), and it’s not a suitable place for watersports.
Beyond the beach:
Visit the St Catherine’s Oratory, an ancient lighthouse on the southernmost tip of the island. This tall medieval octagonal tower, dating from 1328, is nicknamed the Pepperpot, but looks more like a medieval space rocket. It was apparently built to make amends for buying stolen church property (wine taken from a shipwreck). Until the dissolution of the monasteries, a monk used to tend the beacon and say prayers for those lost at sea in an adjoining chapel, now destroyed.
Ventnor is the island’s hippest town and a great place to wander, with lots of interesting shops. The town’s flower-filled botanical gardens (www.botanic.co.uk), where subtropical plants thrive in the local microclimate, are only a short stroll from the Esplanade, and have a meadow that’s crying out for a picnic, and a children’s playground. But what will really thrill the kids is nearby Blackgang Chine (www.blackgangchine.co.uk), a 16 hectare (40 acre) cliff-top park with themed rides including a rollercoaster, boat trips and pirate-style adventure playgrounds.
Head up the coast to the pretty twin resort of Sandown and Shanklin, which has its own Blue Flag beach as well as traditional English seaside fun. Sandown also has the fascinating Dinosaur Isle (www.dinosaurisle.com), a museum highlighting the island’s prehistoric remains – you can handle many of the fossils and palaeontologists will advise on how to look for fossils and where to find them. Shanklin has the pretty Shanklin Chine, a fairy-light-dotted ravine, with waterfalls and at least 150 varieties of wild plants.