Friday, 28 July 2017

A Pocket Adventure on The Isle of Wight

Wight Cycle Hire Isle of Wight

If you're short on time and money after saving for the annual summer holiday abroad then a pocket adventure may be a perfect way to break up the months ahead. Wightlink Ferries invited me to explore the Isle of Wight to see how a weekend escape or adventurous day trip is all possible on this island.

DAY 1: PORTSMOUTH TO RYDE WIGHTLINK CATAMARAN
Explore With Ed Wightlink Catamaran
Crossing The Solent from Portsmouth to Isle of Wight

My pocket adventure began with a direct train from South Wales to Portsmouth Harbour station where the entrance to Wightlink’s passenger service is located. An advance return fare costs around £25, much cheaper than driving and parking.
Portsmouth Harbour is also easily accessible from major cities in central and southern UK, just 90 minutes from London Waterloo and 2 and a half hours from Bristol by rail.  

The bridge controls onboard Wightlink's Catamaran
Wightlink Ferries in Portsmouth Harbour
View from the bridge (thank you Wightlink Ferries)

The Wightlink catamaran whisks passengers across The Solent in just 22 minutes to the seaside town of Ryde where adventure awaits via 'Travel to', a local car and coach hire service that kindly shuttled us around the island.

Arriving in Ryde from Portsmouth Harbour

EXPLORING CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Exploring Carisbrooke Castle
View from the top of Carisbrooke Castle

I first headed to Carisbrooke Castle (adult ticket currently £9.40) and explored the spectacular remains of the motte-and-bailey fortress. Most notably this castle was where Charles I was imprisoned during the Civil War of 1647 - and you even see the window he tried to escape out of! The last Royal to live here was Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice who’s private garden area you can now visit after opening in 2009. I've created a separate post about the castle's history that you can view here.

Motte and Bailey Castle on the Isle of Wight
Charles I chapel in Carisbrooke Castle

STAYING AT EAST AFTON FARMHOUSE
East Afton Farmhouse on Isle of Wight
Self catering farm house on the Isle of Wight

I stayed at East Afton Farmhouse, a gorgeous 1700's property in a Provence-like setting of open fields. The luxurious 5 bedrooms sleep up to 12 people and have been tastefully decorated with access to a roof top veranda and jacuzzi. Downstairs the huge country style kitchen leads to a cool snug that’s been converted into a cinema room, complete with plush red arm chairs (image below supplied by Farmhouse).
Prices start from £1100 for a 4-night midweek break, or 3-night weekend break.

East Afton Farm house Cinema Room
Yurts on The Garlic Farm Isle of Wight

I was also shown around the yurts and cottages at The Garlic Farm (pictured above) that may be a good option for solo travellers, couples or those on a budget.

DINING AT THREE BUOYS RESTAURANTCocktails at Three Buoys Appley Beach
Menu at Three Buoys Restaurant in Ryde

After enjoying a little time to unwind at the farm house I headed to Three Buoys restaurant in Ryde and soaked up the Caribbean vibe with live Reggae music and sunset beach partying.

Three Buoys Balcony area with Appley Beach views
Seaside at Three Buoys Restaurant

The menu options included a 32 day dry aged sirloin steak, mussels and masala cod loin alongside vegan and vegetarian options like gin battered halloumi.

DAY 2: WIGHT CYCLE HIRE TOUR
Wight Cycle Hire to Freshwater Bay Isle of Wight

The next morning I explored more of the islands 147 square miles of countryside by bike with Wight Cycle Hire who offer half day hire (including helmets) from £12 per person. The tour guided us through wheat fields, a hill top golf course and Freshwater Bay beach that could rival anywhere in the Mediterranean.

Beaches on the Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight Coastline

LUNCH AT THE GARLIC FARM
The Garlic Farm Isle of Wight
Lunch menu at The Garlic Farm

For lunch I went to The Garlic Farm in Newchurch and tried their Quesadilla’s loaded with sweet potato, mozzarella, peanut butter and spicy garlic. The options were all ridiculously tempting and the shop next door sold unique garlicky condiments, alcohol and of course, freshly picked garlic.

The Garlic Farm shop with Garlic Vodka and varieties of Garlic
Cottages and accommodation at The Garlic Farm

AN AFTERNOON WITH THE WEST WIGHT ALPACAS
Walking with Alpacas and Llamas on the Isle of Wight

The pocket adventure continued at West Wight Alpacas where you can walk with the llamas and alpacas through the farmland. It’s such a unique opportunity to get up close with these amazing animals, I felt quite attached to my llama ‘Loko’ after learning about his life and achievements as a world record jumper! Alpaca and Llama Farm Walks start from £12 per person for 20 minutes or £19 per person for 40 minutes.

West Wight Alpacas Farm

FINE DINING AT THOMPSON'S RESTAURANT
Thompson's Restaurant Menu in Newport

Saturday night was spent at Thompson’s in Newport where classy cocktails and a carefully crafted dining experience awaits. Chef Robert Thompson (the youngest chef to achieve a Michelin Star in 2007) with the assistance of his team prepares the dishes before your eyes.

Cocktails at Thompson's Restaurant
Appley Beach at Sunset
Thompson's Restaurant dinner preparation
Thompson's Restaurant Dessert

The Eight-Course Tasting Menu (£65, available Tuesday-Saturday) is a masterclass for food presentation using robust local ingredients. You can also pair the dishes with wine for an additional £45.

DAY 3: WINDSURFING WITH TACKT-ISLE ADVENTURES
White cliffs on the Isle of Wight
Windsurfing with Tackt-Isle Adventures

My final day began with more adventurous pursuits on the coast with Tackt-Isle Adventures. The company can give you lessons in various water sports like kayaking, waterskiing and windsurfing. I tried the latter (£30 for 2 hours including equipment) to some success under the helpful instruction of Nick.

LUNCH AT THE COW CO, TAPNELL FARM
Beef burger at The Cow Co on Tapnell Farm
Steak at The Cow Co
The Cow Co Interior
The Cow Co restaurant on Tapnell Farm

Before setting sail back to Portsmouth on Wightlink’s car and passenger ferry service I visited The Cow Co on Tapnell Farm. There was plenty of praise from locals about this place and it was indeed thriving for an early Wednesday afternoon. If you love steaks or a good burger, do not miss The Cow Co (vegetarian and skinny options are also available).

FISHBOURNE TO PORTSMOUTH WIGHTLINK FERRY
Fisbourne to Portsmouth Car Ferry

The next time you grow tired of routine or bogged down with work, I encourage you to ignite your adventurous spirit and take a pocket adventure in the UK. For further inspiration have a look at Visit Isle of Wight tourism website that contains a list of all the things you can do on the island.

How do you feel about a staycation or pocket adventure? Please let me know in the comments.

Thanks to Wightlink Ferries and Visit Isle of Wight for organising and hosting me on this trip. All opinions are my own.
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© Explore With Ed | A Cardiff based Food, Travel and Cruise Blog

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