Cool Places - The best places to stay in the UK

The Best Places to Stay in the UK

Isle of Wight

Tucked into the south coast of England, the Isle of Wight is a rural backwater: it’s easy to reach – a short crossing from Lymington, Portsmouth or Southampton – and yet is a world apart from the mainland, with an array of diverse landscapes, unpretentious small towns and a pace to life that has more in common with the quieter corners of Devon or Cornwall than with Hampshire just across the water. The island boasts lots of family-friendly attractions: its crumbling chalk cliffs have exposed huge numbers of dinosaur fossils, while stately homes, historic sites, cycle and walking trails, and some glorious beaches, make it a perfect daytrip or weekend break destination. Get here while you can, though, because the island’s low-key charms are catching on fast.

History

The Isle of Wight was created by glacial melt water filling the Solent valley after the last Ice Age, about 7,000 years ago. Its prehistoric inhabitants entered the history books when the Roman commander, later Emperor, Vespasian occupied the island with his Second Augustan Legion in 43AD. In 1066 William the Conqueror presented the island to William Fitz-Osborne in recognition for advice given at the battle of Hastings, and for the next 200 years it was ruled by a succession of Lords and Ladies of the Isle of Wight, based at Carisbrooke Castle, who governed it as an independent state. Only in 1293, did Lady Isabella de Fortibus – heirless and on her deathbed – sell it to King Edward I of England, for six thousand marks (about £4,000). Threatened by the French and Spanish in the 1540s, Henry VIII saw the island as a key bastion in the defence of the realm, and had major fortifications built, including Yarmouth Castle, and during the English Civil War, King Charles I fled here to seek the protection of the governor. Unaware that the governor had opted to side with Cromwell’s parliamentarians Charles was imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle, and later sent back to London where he was beheaded. In the 1840s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert chose the Isle of Wight as the site of their family summer home – Osborne House – and news of the fashionable resort island spread quickly. Charles Dickens wrote much of David Copperfield at Winterbourne House in Bonchurch, and another fan of the island, Karl Marx, described it as ’a little paradise‘. There is still plenty of Victorian architecture, especially in Ventnor and along the south-east coast, and the island remains very largely dependent on tourism, with more than three million visitors a year.

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Isle of Wight

Truly a world apart from the mainland, as increasing numbers of people are discovering.
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