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Wight on!

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What is it? A driving holiday on the Isle of Wight

Where? We stayed at Gotten Manor, a lovely eco-friendly conversion in Chale on the southern part of the island, and enjoyed a spectacular modern two-storey cottage with all the amenities in the middle of nowhere. In fact, the brochure advertises “only cows for company”, and when a chorus of mooing woke us up in the morning, we knew it was right!

Description: Step back in time to the Isle of Wight, a largely unspoilt world that feels downright tropical. Wendy Sloane and family spent four days on the island, and are already planning a trip back [main_house.jpg]

To enjoy a driving holiday not too far from home, but one that feels light years away.

See below.

Lots of restaurants and pubs are nearby but we did what most parents do – stay home with the kids and get up early!

As Gotten Manor is down a secluded drive that’s well off the beaten path, it’s best to ask owner Caroline in advance for help with childcare. She is more than willing to bend over backwards to make guests comfortable.

Everything in the Isle of Wight is readily accessible by car, and the island has lots of places to visit for either adult pampering or a family swim. The Medina Leisure Centre in Newport is perhaps the biggest venue of all, but ask any local for help in finding more unusual places for a facial or manicure, and they’ll be happy to help.

Local activities: The Isle of Wight has lots to do, but time constraints met we could only take in a few activities. We loved the beaches more than anything but on rainy days Dinosaur Isle (01983 404344 www.dinosaurisle.com) offers family tickets for L13.50, with Fossil Walks – guided fossil hunts on Yaverland beach (approx two hours) organised and run by the team at Dinosaur Isle throughout the summer holidays and half term breaks. A family walk costs L11. Contact Dinosaur Isle or see their website for details/dates. Robin Hill (01983 730052 www.robin-hill.com), a countryside activity park, is open daily 10am–5pm, later in August. A four-person saver ticket costs L29, with free return visit within 7 days.

Wish we had known: That we’d have the foresight to bring some extra videos for the kids to calm them down in the evenings before bedtime. We ended up buying 102 Dalmations at a car boot sale in Wootton Bridge, and it was a life saver!

Our top tip: For a hot shower, don’t turn the water on full blast. Water conservation savers are used to conserve water but a hot shower can easily be had – if you only know how! Also, don’t use the washing machine at night, unless you don’t mind a lot of noise.

Kids say: “When are we there? I feel sick!” said Tilly about every five minutes in the car. “The slides at Robin Hill were the best!” says Josie, 7. “I want another ice cream!” chimes in two-year-old Clementine.

Getting There: We travelled to the Isle of Wight with Wightlink Green Getaways (0870 582 0202 www.wightlink.co.uk/greengetaways) and stayed in The Cart House at Gotten Manor (01983 551368 www.gottenmanor.co.uk), a gold award winner in the Green Island Tourist Awards. It sleeps up to six and one week’s self catering accommodation costs from L270 in low season, rising to L780 in July and August. Ferry prices for a five-day return ticket with Wightlink are from L51 for a car and up to four passengers; special offers available online. Two night bed & breakfast Green Getaway breaks in The Old House at Gotten Manor cost from L98 per person including Wightlink car ferry travel, or L88 per person including passenger ferry travel. Wightlink’s 40-minute Portsmouth–Fishbourne crossing is one of three routes. Car ferry crossings also operate between Lymington and Yarmouth (30 minutes) and there is a passenger FastCat from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pierhead. Also contact Green Island Tourism, www.greenislandtourism.org.

About our stay: My long-time friend Heather grew up on the Isle of Wight, and always talks about her childhood home in raptures, saying how simple and lovely it is. As low expectations are the key to happiness, or so my husband Duncan always tells me, I didn’t want to get my hopes up upon our departure. Happily, we weren’t disappointed. A two-hour drive took us to Portsmouth, where our ferry awaited. Forty-five minutes later we were driving on the island, where the contrast between it and London could not have been more vivid. We stayed in a secluded area in the southern part of the isle, and apart from several brief drives in larger towns such as Newport, everything seemed tiny and quaint. Less than an hour after disembarking we arrived in Chale, a small village near the larger town of Niton, which has a decent foodstore that has been up and running since the 1800s. After circling twice and eventually asking a toothless old man for directions (turn left past the church), we finally found the private road leading to our accommodation, Gotten Manor, where the path was so overgrown we had to get out of the car and pull back the bushes. The Manor is situated at the foot of St Catherine’s Down and has two houses, the Old House and the self-catering Cart House, where we stayed. Advertised as an eco-friendly place, it has two bedrooms upstairs and a sitting room, kitchen and shower room on the ground floor. The view was spectacular and there was a lovely yard the girls could play in. Best of all, everything was where it should be, from washing-up liquid to extra pillows to aluminium foil, and the owner, Caroline, does all she can to make her guests comfortable (when we learned we both have daughters called Tallulah there was an instant affinity). The next few days we spent frolicking around the island, beginning with a jaunt to Wootton Bridge up north to visit a colleague of Duncan’s who lives on the estuary. The girls got to play in his moored boat and Duncs got to fantasize about what it would be like to be rich and single. I got to make sure nobody drowned in the mud, as the tide was out. Good times all round. The girls also loved Dinosaur Isle in Sandown, a sweet dino museum near a fantastic beach, and we spent an entire day at Robin Hill countryside adventure park just outside of Newport, which has 80 acres of things to do. [robin_hill.jpg] Perhaps the most beautiful part of our journey was a morning spent in Bonchurch, a small Victorian seaside town built for the wealthy gentry. The mansions and cottages are lovely, as is the old church itself, and the small seafront has several tiny cafes. All three girls spent a few hours climbing in the rockpools looking for crabs and seashells before we had a hot chocolate in a cafe overlooking the sea. Pure bliss. [rockpools.jpg] As Gotten Manor is so well-equipped (and we are so skint), we ate only a few meals out, taking sandwiches and biscuits to most of our destinations. We did enjoy a rather expensive but nice Thai meal at the Pearl of Siam in Shanklin, where the girls were impressed with the varied hors d’oeuvres platter, and even were brave enough to try the prawn mushroom soup (mushrooms are usually a no-go area in our house). Of course the prawn crackers were a huge hit – Tilly even loved the hot chili sauce. We also had lunch at The White Mouse Pub in Chale. It advertises the biggest children’s play area on the island but we had to pay L1.50 per child to get in– and the food was dire, with Duncan’s chilli pasta so mild even two-year-old Clementine could eat it (if she could stand the taste). Ventnor is another small seaside town not far away from Bonchurch. The southernmost resort on the island, it has several antique shops as well as a decent foodstore, cafes and restaurants. The seafront is built up with a rocky beach the girls loved, with a small concreted paddling pool at one end overlooking the sea. Painted to look like a map of the Isle of Wight, it was, perhaps, the highlight of their trip. I bought a bucket-and-spade set for L1.99 and their happiness was complete. Heather was right. It’s the simple things that count. Wendy Sloane is Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com. She divides her time between writing and taking care of her three small daughters.

Created: 2007-09-17 14:18:05.280

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