**Updated August 2023 with an extra money saving tip**
**Updated December 2023 to remove Robin Hill references, as it is up for sale and isn't currently open (tragically)**
We are big fans of Blackgang Chine with its oddball collection of moving dinosaurs, talking bins and waterslides. Many of our best days out have been held there, particularly now child one is tall enough to go on most things. For many of us, it offers both nostalgia and new curiosities each time we visit.
However, prices have gone quite a lot in recent years (a ticket for four at Blackgang Chine was £126 in 2022). Discount codes and money off vouchers for Blackgang are rarer than the residents of Dodo Valley, so it can cost a similar price to Alton Towers where ticket prices are higher but 2 for 1 vouchers are ubiquitous.
A four-person family ticket to Blackgang Chine way back in 2008 would have cost you £35. According to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, that would put 2021's prices at £50 for Blackgang Chine.
To be fair, a lot has been invested in the last 15 years. For example, back in 2008 Blackgang Chine didn't have big evening parties included as part of the price. Also, they didn't used to have peak and off-peak prices, so it's not a very fair comparison. I’m sure there are also multiple other expenses that have increased and Blackgang Chine always looks clean and freshly painted, unlike the flaky-paint you find at some cheaper parks.
Anyway, rather than wishing it was 2008, let’s have a look at seven ways to get better value out of a trip to Blackgang Chine:
1. Visit at the start of your holiday
Blackgang Chine offers a 7 day free return. You can probably see all of the park in a day, but you may want to revisit things if a rain cloud arrives twenty seconds after you’ve coughed up £100+ (the weather is weird at Blackgang Chine). Most things operate in the rain but the the snakes and ladders slide at Blackgang Chine shuts - and of course it’s utterly miserable walking round a theme park whilst raindrops drip off your nose and the map turns into a soggy mess.
You’ll feel better about it if you come back at the end of your week for another go, even if you do end up spending twenty quid on unicorns and plastic cap guns in the gift shop.
2. Arrive early and then Come back in the evening
During the summer months Blackgang Chine puts on excellent evening shows, which are included in the ticket price. Some people visit the park during the day and then return for an evening show later in the week.
We went along to one of Blackgang Chine's foam parties and fireworks displays in summer 2023 and enjoyed it greatly. If you consider it two different family days out for the price then it starts to feel like much better value.
It's also worth arriving at 10am when the park opens and then heading for the most popular rides to avoid wasting time in queues. Double check that the opening time hasn't changed before you go.
There's a golden hour between 10am and 11am when Blackgang Chine is much quieter because most parents are still arguing with their children about getting out the house/caravan/tent.
I would head right as you come in the Blackgang Chine entrance and head for the waterslide and other rides. Most of the stuff on the left hand side of the park is imaginative play stuff that you walk through so you don't need to queue for it.
3. Visit with a 3 year old
From what I can tell, Blackgang Chine is changing its pricing structure so you that pay based on height rather than age.
We don't have prices for 2024 yet, but that's my hunch based on the pricing for the annual passes.
Previously, we advised people to visit with three year olds as they got in free. I imagine we will soon be advising people to turn up before their children grow too much or to wear shoes with worn soles. We will update this section once we have more information.
4. Buy an annual pass
This one’s no use to most holidaymakers, but an annual pass may be better value for some. As I write this, Blackgang Chine is offering annual passes for £49.
We don't have 2024 day ticket prices but my price from previous years has been that if you plan to visit Blackgang Chine during two different school holidays then it is probably worth getting an annual pass.
It's quite complicated because the price of day visits fluctuates depending on when you visit and whether you book in advance.
5. Buy in advance
The biggest change in the last couple of years at Blackgang Chine is that some people can save a lot of money by booking in advance. Previously, it was only a tiny bit cheaper.
For 2023, you could save £5 on a school-holiday Blackgang Chine ticket if you buy in advance (£30, instead of £35).
The 'off peak' and 'mid peak' savings were smaller but it's still worth booking in advance.
We will update this blog when we have more details on prices for 2024.
6. Visit off peak (and then return on peak)
Not much use to most holidaymakers, but Blackgang Chine is considerably cheaper outside of school holidays when there aren’t the evening events. Many years ago, it was the same price all the time. During 2023, an off-peak ticket to Blackgang bought in advance was £23, compared to £30 on-peak.
If you have different school holiday dates to most people then you may be able to pay the off peak prices.
There is also a little loophole that I haven't tested myself, but which I think will work. Thanks to Dan for pointing this out (please blame him if it doesn't work).
If you visit for the first time on an off-peak date, then I think that you can use your free return on a peak date as long as it is within seven days.
My hesitation with this is that I have a vague memory of some special events being excluded from the seven day free return offer.
Please leave a comment below if you have tried this!
7. Get your in-laws to pay
Ruthless pennypinchers on a family holiday with the wider family should attempt this strategy:
Got any other suggestions for discounts at Blackgang Chine? Please feel free to comment below...
I have an emotional attachment to Robin hill that no grown man should have about a mid-sized country park.
The future is not looking great for the park, which closed early this year, cancelled its winter events and is being put up for sale.
Here's the full statement, copied and pasted from the Robin Hill website:
Vectis Ventures, the Isle of Wight based holding company that controls and operates the leading attractions; Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill, has today announced that it intends to sell its Robin Hill attraction and has instructed Savills to market the property as a going concern.
The decision to sell Robin Hill has been necessitated by a prolonged period of financial turbulence following Covid and acerbated by the cost-of-living crisis and poor Spring and Summer weather. These factors have stretched the finances of Vectis and the eventual sale of Robin Hill will strengthen the balance sheet of the group, allow borrowings (debt) to be repaid and to release funds for further investment in Blackgang Chine.
Alexander Dabell, owner of Vectis Ventures said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have taken the decision to sell Robin Hill. It is a much-loved attraction and has given millions of visitors’ great pleasure and memorable visits over many years. It has been a privilege for my family to be the custodians of this fine site for nearly thirty years. However, the stark reality of the economic picture is that without a sale, the debt created through Covid loans, would need to be extended further into the future and would prevent investment in the short term. The truth is that visitor numbers have been effected by the very poor weather we have seen the past two seasons, which has given us no choice but to sell Robin Hill and focus our investment in Blackgang Chine. Robin Hill is being marketed as a going concern, and we have every hope that it will flourish under new ownership, when a suitable buyer can be found”.
With regards to staffing, Dabell confirmed, “regrettably the group is unable to support the number of staff currently employed and as part of the sale process we are entering into consultation with the workforce where it will be explained that around ten jobs will be at risk. We have worked hard to try to train and retain the talent in the business and we have a reputation as a reliable employer, but the testing economic picture is such that we simply cannot carry the existing high headcount”.
It is anticipated that some of the attractions at Robin Hill will transfer to Blackgang Chine and that the sale will trigger further investment at the Ventnor site.
Dabell continued, “It is with regret that having made the decision to sell Robin Hill that we will of necessity have to cancel the Polar experience and the Christmas parties. However, full refunds will be made to those who placed their deposits with us and no one will suffer any financial loss.
What now for Robin Hill?
Of course, it would be wonderful if Robin Hill stays as a publicly accessible theme park but who knows what the future holds. We do know that some elements will probably move to Blackgang Chine (see above), which suggests that it is going to change one way or another.
My money is on something turning up where Cliffhanger once stood at Blackgang Chine. Perhaps the Cows Express? Or Colossus? Or The Ripple? Will the animals in the African Adventure return to Blackgang Chine? What about the Observation Tower that came from Blackgang?
I have no insider information here, just having a bit of a guess
Back in the day
My first memory of visiting Robin Hill was not until the late 90s for a birthday party. I think we may have visited earlier but my parents were more keen on isolated beaches than paid attractions.
I remember playing pitch and putt and finding a dozen lost golf balls in the woods. We handed them in and persuaded someone in the café to give us a free ice cream as a reward.
We visited again around the same time with an American friend and I bought a little trinket of the wooden characters that lived around Carp Quay (the bit with the wobbly bridges).
In 2003, I started my job as a ride operator at Robin Hill and over the next four summers worked on the toboggan run, Colossus, two small rides called Jumping Jets and Neptune and The Time machine (now the 4D cinema). I can still give the safety talks for the Time Machine and Toboggan. I occasionally perform it at dinner parties.
I also worked on the front ticket office and in the shop, selling stuffed squirrels and sweets. Entry was £7.95 but you didn't get free returns and it was a smaller park without the amphitheatre, jumping nets, big events, African Adventure playground, Cows Express or falconry.
My only dalliance with catering was in the ice cream hut where my hayfever meant I had to scoop ice cream in between sneezes whilst the queue grew ever longer. We sold four flavours and I eventually picked up a skill for guessing what flavour each customer would order before they had even decided (70+ granny = rum and raisin, five year old child = strawberry etc). This talent hasn't had much transferable value.
In 2004, the job got a whole lot more interesting when Bestival turned up. Fat Boy Slim and Bassment Jazz playing at Robin Hill? It was barely believable. The year before we hosted a Pink Floyd tribute act that had ended up with a fist fight in the car park and the police being called. And yet here we were, hosting thousands of people with world class bands. Basement Jaxx went on the toboggan run, an inflatable church turned up. It was bonkers.
Bestival enjoyed a number of excellent years with some really terrific acts including Elton John and Stevie Wonder. The Isle of Wight was really being spoilt with two mammoth music festivals (see our Isle of Wight Festival history). We endured the task of cleaning up afterwards (I found some unpleasant things in the woods) but it was a great experience and continued at Robin Hill until 2016.
The Next Generation
I didn't make it to the last few Bestivals at Robin Hill. In hindsight, I should have made more effort but our children had arrived and I'm not one of those parents who drags babies along to festivals.
We made up for it by taking them to Robin Hill for numerous days out as they got older. This is one of the joys of parenting - being able to act like a child under the pretence of helping your child.
The first return was in 2016. By then, there had been several upgrades - including the excellent bouncy nets course and the amphitheatre mentioned earlier. Robin Hill also upped its game with regular events, like the hot air balloon festival. We caught a couple of really good shows in the theatre including Brainiac Live, a fire show, an acrobatic show and Vote Pedro at the Festival of the Dead.
Yes, the price had gone up a lot but if you visited twice - once as a day out and then again as an evening trip to a show - then it was still good value. The night time lighting certainly makes the most of the woodland.
The children love the toboggan run, an attraction that feels like it probably wouldn't be built today (perhaps I'm wrong and these things are popping up everywhere).
They also love the mini village at the top of the park, the bouncy nets and squirrel tower. They also enjoyed the Ripple when it arrived in 2023. It became an annual tradition to get a hair braiding during the summer holidays at Robin Hill. Read the blog about a recent visit.
I'm not too keen to hear whinges about why Robin Hill is up for sale. I've read enough of those on Facebook. It's remarkable how many people on Facebook are experts in business without ever having run a business themselves.
However, I would like to hear your memories of Robin Hill over the years. I have in mind that I might write up a Robin Hill timeline (similar to our Blackgang Chine timeline).
Hopefully this isn't the end for Robin Hill but I think it's a good moment for a bit of nostalgia! Thanks to everyone from Vectis Ventures who has contributed to some great days out over the years.
The job of maintaining the Needles Lighthouse has been going on this week and some terrific photos have been appearing on Facebook.
I rather wish that my careers advisor had suggested that I might like to repair lighthouses. Instead, I was offered a week stacking the shelves at M&S in Newport.
I contacted Nick Chappell, who is on the lighthouse at the moment, who kindly said I could share his images. For an Isle of Wightophile (Ed: that's not a word), these are pure gold.
You might also like to see our video of the Needles, which was taken last month. At the time of writing it has had 15 views, which I think can be considered as 'going viral'.
Last month, we returned to Sandy Lanes Resort, which is being constructed on the site of a former holiday park. The old resort apparently opened in 1935 and closed in 2007. We don't know the planned opening date for the new resort but will update when we do.
As previously discussed, a planning application was approved in 2016 and the land sold for £650,000. The advert outside the resorts talks about a bar, restaurant, tennis courts and a wellness centre. There are about 60 lodges.
You can read more here about the site, including how much the properties have been advertised for and how much owners will pay in service charges. There has also been some controversy about changes to the site, which are discussed in last year's blog.
And here's our first video from 2022 so you can see how it has changed in the last year.
This is just a short blog to show off a couple of excellent deals that have appeared for ferry travel to the Isle of Wight Festival 2024.
The car ferry can be very expensive for the festival once standard fares kick in, so get organised and get booked if you can.
Wightlink and Red Funnel are the two main ferry companies - take a look at this guide if you want to know more about which ports they travel to and from.
Wightlink's early bird deals for the Isle of Wight Festival 2024
Wightlink's deals are really good and are valid until 9th October 2023. However, they "reserve the right to modify or cancel the offers at any time" so I wouldn't hang around.
The car ferry deals are:
Standard weekend fares are likely to top £300, so a £100 deal is not to be sneezed at. As I said, don't hang around! The price includes a car full of passengers.
They also have a foot passenger deal which is £12 or £18. It looks like this:
The standard foot passenger fare is about £20 - £35, so it's less of a saving but still good value.
Red Funnel's early bird deals for the Isle of WIght Festival 2024
Red Funnel's Isle of Wight Festival 2024 deals work a bit differently.
The car ferry deal doesn't have an expiry date but it will end once a "limited number of early bird ferry sailings" are sold.
The car ferry deal looks like this:
Again, that's a BIG saving on the standard fares.
The foot passenger deal is an £18 return and doesn't appear to have an expiry date, so you can either book now or wait until nearer the time (I'm not 100% sure on this, but I think that's the case based on previous years). It is 'Valid Southampton or West Cowes/East Cowes'
What if I've missed the early bird ferry deals?
This is an additional for anyone who stumbles across this blog whilst desperately searching for a deal in May 2024.
If you are travelling to the Isle of Wight Festival as a foot passenger then it's not a big problem. Check our guides to foot passenger travel with Wightlink and Red Funnel for some money saving suggestions. Also check Hovertravel's fares (they didn't have an Isle of Wight Festival deal when we checked but they might have something when you read this).
If you need to bring your car then you may be slightly irked at having missed the best offers. Sorry about that.
Take a look at our main guide to discounts on Isle of Wight ferry travel for discount codes, money saving tips and loopholes which might help you.
After the success of our car free bike ride from Freshwater Causeway to Off The Rails in Yarmouth, we decided to attempt another off-road track.
This time it was the route which starts in Seaclose Park and leads up towards Island Harbour. Footpath fans will already know that it's called the Medina Greenway N120.
Pricey Parking at Seaclose Park
The first issue with this bike ride is that you have to pay seafront parking prices from Monday to Friday. This irks me as Seaclose Park is hardly as busy and short on parking spaces as Shanklin seafront in August. I erred between one hour (£2.05) or two hours (£3.60).
Some money saving alternatives can be found on our guide to cheap parking. A couple of drinks at nearby Beefeater is probably your best strategy, as it gives you free parking.
An alternative way to do this bike ride would be to start at Island Harbour and then cycle towards Seaclose Park. I haven't tested this out for myself but the Island Harbour website says that it has 'extensive, free of charge waterside car parking'. You could then stop halfway at Beefeater and avoid the parking charges.
Seaclose Park has a good playground so you might want to include that in your plans. See our guide to the Isle of Wight's best playgrounds.
The second issue we faced is that we only brought bikes for the children. Unlike Yarmouth there isn't a cycle hire place at Seaclose and I hadn't got round to getting a bike rack by this point.
Anyway, we plodded on with the plan that they would cycle and we would walk.
The muddy banks of the Medina
The bike ride goes alongside the River Medina, which is nice but wasn't as scenic as the River Yar on this occasion. There are some nice bits but there are also big industrial units. It was low tide so we also endured something of a riverside stench for which the children tried to blame me.
On the plus side, the track is off road all the way to Island Harbour. As you get near to Medina High School you want to fork left to stay close to the river.
Most of the way, the track is a lot more narrow than the Freshwater to Yarmouth route and it goes up and down a bit. However, it was wide enough for child two who is still a bit wobbly.
After half an hour or so we reached Island Harbour. You would do it in 10 minutes if you were a lycra-wearing enthusiast.
On a grey day it looked a little bleak but I can imagine in the sunshine it is a lovely spot. The rusting paddlesteamer called PS Ryde is simultaneously fascinating and a bit sad at the same time. You can read about its history here. It is a notable vessel, which 'saw action at D-Day' as well as acting as a passenger ferry on the Solent for more than 30 years (according to Wikipedia).
I don't wannabe late for the car park
Unfortunately, The Breeze café/restaurant at Island Harbour closed a while ago and hasn't reopened yet so this cycle route lost another point compared to Freshwater to Yarmouth. If you want to stop for food or drinks then you would need to carry on to The Folly at Whippingham or return to Beefeater at the start.
Island Harbour is currently home to The Spice Bus. It was used on the Spiceworld Movie which won nine Oscars (Ed: I think you're confusing it with The English Patient). We took a distant peak at the Spice Bus and turned round. You can't cycle in the Harbour itself.
At this point, the stakes were raised as I realised we might not make it back in time before my parking ticket ran out. I had refused to pay for two hours as it was rather pricey but this was now about to backfire. To further add to the tension I had dared to use actual cash to pay to park, so topping up remotely wouldn't work.
I contemplated a calculated gamble. Would there really be a traffic warden at mostly empty Seaclose Park at 5pm on a Monday? If they turned up, would they care if I was 15 minutes late? (Answers: probably not and yes, definitely).
My heart couldn't take the stress of this situation so I decided that something needed to be done.
Option one was for me to commandeer a bicycle from child one and pedal it back with my knees around my chin.
Option two was to stop a passer by and shout "I'm sorry sir, I need this bike, it's an emergency". This seemed like the kind of thing that would happen in the Spiceworld Movie, which made it all the more tempting. Alas, there was no one else nearby so I dismissed this romantic idea.
Option three was to top up remotely. For this I needed the same ingenuity that had allowed me to come up with brilliant inventions such as a Free Newspaper Printed On Toilet Roll (patent pending) and the transparent toaster (now widely available, so it seems someone else had the same idea).
With a little searching I found an Isle of Wight Council PDF document listing all the Pay By Phone codes for the Island and managed to top up from the banks of the River Medina.
We sauntered back to the car, only having paid through the nose for parking twice.
We wrote an update a while ago about Totland Pier, which has been undergoing a transformation in recent years. Prior to that it was looking pretty holey and at risk of going the same way as the piers in Shanklin and Ventnor.
Things have been a bit quiet in the last few weeks, but we’ve recently spoken to the company which owns Totland Pier and have cobbled together a bit more of an update. All of this is subject to change but it’s good to know things are progressing.
Totland Pier (including both of the new buildings) is now owned by the Wooldridge Group, which is based in Surrey. Google suggests they are a demolition company but they do various things, including hospitality, property development and er, roadsweepers. Their hospitality experience is as the parent company of Seasons Kitchen and Farm Shop in Surrey.
The company bought Totland Pier in November 2022 from the people who were behind the redevelopment. They are the same people who are revamping the Albion in Freshwater and who own the highly-rated Sentry Mead Hotel in Totland.
At the moment, the big new building at the wet end of the pier is just an empty shell. The new owners told me that they hope to start working on it this winter with a view to opening it at Easter 2024. They told us that it would serve lunch and dinner and that it would be open all year (with some closures in the depths of winter likely to give staff a break). There are 20 moorings at the end of the pier so that people could sail across to use the restaurant.
In January, there were news reports that an application was turned down to convert the Bay Café into ‘five short-stay holiday rental rooms’. This is the building at the dry end of the pier which opened for one season and quickly became a popular place for dining with a sunset.
Sophie from the Wooldridge Group told me that the plan was for ‘hotel rooms’ for guests who would dine at the new restaurant at the wet end of the pier. They plan to put another application in.
Anyway, I hope that update is of some interest. Hopefully we can soon add the new restaurant to our places to eat with a sea view.
I'm currently putting together an updated drone video of Totland Pier, filmed in August 2023. Until then, here are some screenshots of how it currently looks.
Family outings are rarely like the holiday brochures. The sun is usually too hot or not available. The children are normally fighting. The café you planned to visit is usually closed.
We experienced a brief moment of idyll on a recent cycling trip, along one of the Isle of Wight's best routes for families of wobbly cyclists. I'm working on a top five, but I want to try them all out first rather than relying on my fuzzy childhood memories.
The route we took links the Causeway at Freshwater to Off The Rails in Yarmouth. It's about 1.8 miles each way or can you easily extend it by heading to Freshwater Bay or Yarmouth - if you don't mind a bit of cycling on roads.
A couple of options
There are two ways to do this car-free cycle ride.
Option one is to start at the Causeway. This is probably the best choice if you have your own bikes as the café is a good half way point.
Option two is to start in Yarmouth where you can hire bikes from Wight Cycle Hire next door to Off The Rails and then finish the ride at the café. There is some free parking at the Bouldner View Car Park, which is an eight minute walk to the start of the cycle track.
If you can cope with a little bit of time on the road, I would carry on to Freshwater Bay where you can buy an ice cream from the lifeboat shop or from Dimbola's café. The most direct route is to carry on along the path at the end of the Causeway which leads to Tesco and the End Of The Line café. It is then just under a mile on the road to the beach via Afton Road. It's a 40mph road and is fairly wide. You may want to walk on the pavement or wiggle through back roads.
We went for option one as we have our own bikes.
Dadmin before the bike ride began
The younger child is far too wobbly for roads so I dutifully did multiple car journeys to get the bikes locked up against a post at the start line (The Causeway). The children were then able to just turn up and pedal off like they were royalty. Neither of them questioned how their bikes had appeared at this random location.
We later noted that this must have been our least environmentally friendly bike ride of all time, since I had covered many miles to prepare the ride.
There is some free parking on the road at The Causeway and it is a pretty place to start the ride with swans and other birds squawking away. My mother's friend can usually be found feeding the swans.
The cycle track is a former railway and is very good for novice cyclists. It isn't completely smooth but our children coped with only minimal whining.
The first 50 metres pedal alongside water, but it was low tide when we visited. After that, the track widens so that you have a better than average hope of not crashing into another group of wobbly cyclists coming towards you. We had lots of conversations which went "Keep left!" followed by "Which one's left?".
The moment of idyll arrived at the widest point in the track when the sun shone through the leaves and everyone pedalled happily. Couples who were walking along the same path gave us a smile which - almost certainly - was meant as a congratulations to us for being outstanding parents.
After about 25 minutes we reached Off The Rails, who found us a table and served us drinks. If you want food I would book in advance.
The café is the former railway station and is truly lovely. One of our party even ordered ginger beer to complete the Enid Blyton moment. It's a fairly pricey café but I personally think it's worth it.
Of course, the idyll was demolished by summer's greatest peril - Mr Wasp. I suppose we can't blame him for arriving when we sat drinking sugary drinks and eating Jammy Dodgers.
After some wasp dancing we went inside and finished our sugary drinks before pedalling back to the car.
There's nothing I love more than an Isle of Wight ferry loophole or discount.
Well, I love Mrs Guru and the kids more but ferry loopholes aren't too far behind.
My latest discovery is a trick which will give you a foot passenger period return from Portsmouth to Cowes for £10.
I beg your pardon?
"But that's impossible!" I hear you cry, with a confused but polite tone.
The deal involves using Solent Cruises, which describes itself as a 'passenger vessel company'.
The main service they run is a foot passenger service for shoppers, which goes from Cowes to Portsmouth on Saturdays and Sundays at 9.30am. Islanders spend a day buying trousers in Gunwharf Quays before returning on the afternoon ferry at 4pm/5pm (the time varies depending on the time of year).
It's not a new service, but the loophole involves using it backwards.
There is nothing to stop you from using the Portsmouth to Cowes 4pm/5pm leg as the outward journey and then the 9.30am leg from Cowes to Portsmouth as the return.
They only travel on Saturdays and Sundays, but they are perfectly happy for people to leave a week between crossings rather than using it as a day return service.
I emailed Solent Cruises and they confirmed that this would be fine, but will need to mention it when booking so they know who will actually be on which crossing. If you give it a go, please leave a comment below as I'd love to hear if you've had some success with it.
You can even get a free cup of tea or coffee if you hand over this voucher.
It could potentially save you about £20-£25 compared to Wightlink's standard fares (although there are lots of other ways to save money). It could also be more convenient if you live in Portsmouth and are planning a holiday in Cowes.
You could use the same ferry for a period return if - for example - you live in Cowes and wanted to spend a week on the mainland. Solent Cruises would get you to Gunwharf Quays, and then you could catch a train from Portsmouth Harbour to London.
Other ways to save money on the Isle of Wight ferry
We are regular diners at the Dimbola cafe in Freshwater Bay. Our holiday let is next door and it has provided many brie, bacon and cranberry paninis.
Despite this, I had never got round to visiting the museum at Dimbola. I could tell you great detail about the many Victorian artists who visited but hadn't actually been myself.
The opportunity arose during the Women's World Cup when child two made it quite clear that she wasn't interested in watching the match. I dutifully offered to get her out of the way so the rest of the family could watch it in peace.
We started at Freshwater Bay's bus stop library before heading for the Dimbola museum.
At Dimbola, we paid about £7 for an adult and child and were given a clipboard and quiz - which is an absolute winner for us. A simple trail, ideally with a prize at the end turns a 20 minute trip into a 60+ minute trip.
We also found this to be the case at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway recently. Their trail kept our two occupied very nicely and the clues were laid out well across the site.
We also visited Yarmouth Castle in the same week. It's a beautiful building with gorgeous views but we were done in 19 minutes. The children's dressing up was being used by others when we popped our head round the door, so we moved along. The guidebook we bought was a detailed guide to its history rather than something to occupy the children. What we really needed was a series of letters hidden round the castle which spell out a word - and a prize pencil at the end.
Anyway, back to Dimbola.
The permanent exhibition is about the life of Julia Margaret Cameron. She treated photography as an art form, which was a novel idea in the 1800s.
The museum is a collection of her cameras and photos, as well as a best-guess recreation of her bedroom. It's a good collection but the venue helps things along a lot as well. The building has a lot of character and excellent views of Freshwater Bay, which are almost as good as the views from my flat which is available to hire from Classic Cottages... (Ed: very subtle).
We particularly liked the dressing up area at Dimbola, where we worked our way through the hats and dresses. It turns out that green satin is my colour.
Thanks to the trail, we spent a good chunk of time in this part of the museum. Without the trail, I would have still been reading the first entry on the timeline whilst child two was pulling on my arm. When we finally handed in our worksheet, the volunteer on the ticket office did a good job of appearing impressed. This helped greatly.
The rest of the museum was all about the Isle of Wight Festival, which holds a personal fascination for me (see our guide to unforgettable festival moments).
The permanent section is about the 1970 festival, which took place down the road in Afton. The temporary exhibition is about the festival's revival from 2002 to 2023. There are photos, a fantastic video of highlights and a few bits of memorabilia.
I could have spent an hour or more in here, but child two didn't quite feel the same unfortunately as the trail only covered the permanent museum.
I allowed myself a couple of minutes looking at festival photos before reluctantly moving on to the gift shop for an argument about whether a notepad needed to be paid for from the pocket money fund or my money.
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