On our last day on the Island we decided to go for a whistle-stop tour around the eastern side. The idea being to drive along the coast roads, take in the sea views and wander round as many nice places as possible before catching our 23:59 ferry.
In the morning the weather wasn't great and we smugly watched some poor campers next to us trying to put a tent up in the rain while we discussed the merits of campervans vs tents vs caravans.
(The Isle of Wight is campervan central. We had six VW's (of various vintages) in our campsite alone, and saw dozens more during our visit. This is completely the opposite of Sussex where we only saw one or two.)
First stop was the quiet village of Freshwater Bay. There was no one around and nothing was open so we stopped for 10mins to enjoy the scenery then headed off again.
After some serious hills and mostly quiet coastal roads we stopped for lunch in Ventnor, on the south-east of the Island. The town is on a pretty steep cliffside, which we were wary about taking the van down but we didn't have a lot of choice.
We ate lunch in the Spyglass Inn, one of those cool dingy pubs with low ceilings that are filled with old sailing memorabilia.
More campervans in the carpark.
After leaving Ventnor via some very steep hills, the plan was then to drive to Shanklin... but we missed the turning for the carpark and it was so busy Nick decided to keep going to Sandown. Except when we got to Sandown we still couldn't find anywhere to park so we missed that as well. To be honest neither town looked particularly appealing (a bit dilapidated and full of tacky shops).
So we carried on to the eastern most part of the Island, Bembridge. From here we could look out across the Solent to Portsmouth.
As we walked along the beach, we noticed a crowd of people in the distance. As we got closer, we saw there was a sandcastle competition going on.
We sat down outside a cafe and had an ice cream. The next thing we know we are judging the sand castle competition! Apparently the owner of the local pub was supposed to be judging but hadn't turned up. None of the organisers wanted to do it because they all had kids taking part and wanted someone independent. After we had agreed we got told that it was a 100 year old tradition and all the locals take it really seriously! No pressure then!
As you can see the sun then came out while we walked round and looked at the creations. There were four categories, Olympics, jubilee, things beginning with 's' and under 10's freestyle. It was quite hard actually as most people had put a lot of effort in. Some of the winners included a sofa, a sandwich, a canoe slalom and a full size long jump pit.
Here we are with some of the winners:
It was hilarious and we got given a bottle of wine and a round of applause for our efforts!
After we got over the excitement of that, we drove to our final stop before the ferry, Ryde.
Ryde is the biggest town on the Island, probably because the passenger ferries and hovercraft come here from Portsmouth, so people can commute back and forth to the mainland.
Then we headed on to Fishbourne to complete our circle.
We loved the Island, so much beautiful scenery, beaches and coastlines and a real laid back feel. It's just a shame there's so many cheesy attractions and tacky shops, as well as many, many older buildings that have fallen into disrepair. But it is quite easy to ignore all that and just immerse yourself in the varied and breathtaking landscape.
The next leg of our journey takes us to Dorset and the Jurassic coast!