I find it hard to behave myself at formal functions. It's not that I mean to cause trouble, I just tend to drop canapes on the waiter's foot or choke on an ice cube like I'm starring in an Adam Sandler movie.
Thankfully - for Mrs Guru's sake - I avoided such embarrassments at the opening of the Auckland House Hotel in Shanklin this week. I was wearing one of those ridiculous fake shirt and jumper combinations, but no-one seemed to notice.
The old Auckland House guest house was bought a couple of years ago and has been completely gutted and redeveloped by a company called Carlauren (the same people currently redeveloping the Ocean Hotel in Sandown). At one stage there were plans to turn it into a '5 star support care hotel' but that plan changed and it's now opened as a posh hotel which is open to anyone.
The Isle of Wight has about a dozen hotels which I'd consider 'luxury', but Shanklin mostly offers guest houses and B&Bs so the Auckland House Hotel will gives the town something a bit different for those who want luxuries like valet parking and chauffeurs within a classic seaside resort.
Being nosey, I asked for a tour and we were shown round some of the two-dozen smart new rooms, the restaurant and the hot tub. I didn't bring my trunks, otherwise I'd have dived in head first.
Mrs Guru, who knows about these things, made lots of approving noises at the decor and told me that it was 'on trend'. I was a bit busy stuffing my face on canapes, but I got the gist of what she was saying. When I checked, a night for two was about £110 on Expedia.
For what it's worth, I'm really pleased to see investment in Sandown and Shanklin, both of which feel like they are on the up. Besides the Carlauren developments, the area around Sandham Gardens is also being jazzed up with a dinosaur-themed minigolf, beach huts and go karts.
Hopefully there'll be plenty more grand openings and canapes to come.
A few years ago, whilst working in radio in Somerset, a PR company came to me with a news story about a new board game.
If I had lawyers they would at this point ask me to make very clear that it wasn't the company behind this Destination Isle of Wight game. It wasn't.
Anyway, the company told us they were launching a game and wanted to do a poll to decide which local town to base it around.
Being an idiot, I spent several weeks promoting the poll, giving the board game a great big heap of free publicity.
When the poll finally closed, the PR company revealed that they'd had a change of heart and would be releasing a countywide edition instead. The public votes had meant nothing but they were grateful to me for doing my bit.
A week later I spoke to a friend working at a newspaper in the north east who said he had been taken in by the same 'competition' which had been changed at the last minute in exactly the same way.
I still kick myself that I didn't pick up on the PR company's dubious games earlier and hadn't taken the opportunity to take them to task live on air.
I've since held a slightly unfair suspicion of local board games and probably wouldn't have bothered with Destination Isle of Wight unless I'd been given it as a birthday present. (Let me make clear again that the board game I mentioned earlier wasn't this one).
With a couple of hours to fill at 6am I gave it a go, along with my early rising 5 year old.
The general idea is that you play the part of an Isle of Wight taxi driver. Every time you fulfil a request to drop someone off at Blackgang Chine, Shanklin Chine or wherever you pick up some cash and perhaps a tip.
There are added complications such as red lights, speeding fines and log books. To really get into the swing of things I switched on Talk Sport, told my daughter my poorly thought out views on Brexit and kept looking over my shoulder.
In my view, a good board game is a balance between making it complicated enough that you aren't just rolling dice and plodding around a circle whilst not making it so complicated that the rule book resembles a photocopier manual.
Destination Isle of Wight was just about simple enough that my impatient competitor let me read the first half of the rules. I quickly realised that some bits could be dropped so we attempted a basic version which was just about right (the game is really aimed at 8+).
And so we drove our taxis around the Island, picking up fares ranging from £30 and upwards. Whoever paid £100 to visit the Isle of Wight College must have been unfamiliar with the local currency.
A few of the attractions had closed since the game was made (Seaview Wildlife Encounter, Colemans Farm) and some other new ones were missing (Tapnell Farm Park most notably). This gave it a melancholic feeling as I imagined myself dropping off a family of holidaymakers at an abandoned attraction before skidding away in my Ford Mondeo.
After an hour I was getting hungry so I discreetly removed a big wadge of the cards to speed things along.
Half an hour later we were involved in a frantic race to get our cabs back to the taxi rank. I put my metaphorical foot down as I raced to my final stop - LA Bowl in Ryde - whilst my contestant headed for Waltzing Waters (Rest In Peace).
I punched the air as my double six got me back home first and gave me the £250 bonus. I then remembered that it's much easier to lose a board game with a 5 year old.
Luckily, she won anyway thanks to an earlier triple drop off at Cineworld, Carisbrooke Castle and the Visit Isle of Wight office.
After consulting with my contestant we've given the games a thumbs up, particularly if you simplify it a bit and ensure that the youngest player wins.
You can buy Destination: Isle of Wight from Amazon, and no-doubt from various local retailers on the Island.
I’ve been holding back from having a bit of a rant, since I know that very few people would consider “listening to rants” as one of their hobbies.
It concerns the Isle of Wight Festival, which recently announced headliners and ticket prices.
For those, who missed it, the lineup – so far – looks like this:
Some were delighted...
...some were already opening a can of beer...
whilst others expressed their general horror...
Honestly, the reaction from some people online made me wonder if the organisers had pushed over their grannies or left dog turds on their doorsteps.
Take note of the fact that Fatboy Slim will actually be playing last on Saturday night so the headline acts will be: half of Oasis (who had 8 number one UK albums), a dance act that even my mum has heard of and a rock band with two UK number one albums (Biffy Clyro).
And that's 'terrible'?
If anything, I think we've been terribly spoilt over the years.
OK, it's undeniable that Sir Paul McCartney (2010) is a bigger name than Noel Gallagher and there aren't yet many 'surprises' on the lineup, but I can’t help feeling that some people have got short memories and no real grasp of quite how difficult it is to put on a profitable world-class music festival in 2019.
As I’ve said before, when I was growing up on the Isle of Wight the best chance of live music without a ferry trip was a husband and wife folk duo in a bar in Shanklin. And then, in 2002, the Isle of Wight Festival returned (well, Rock Island specifically) with Robert Plant, The Charlatans, Ash and others playing at a one day festival.
As the years passed, the Festival grew to three or four days and many of the world’s biggest acts turned up at Seaclose Park including The Rolling Stones, Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, REM, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen, The Killers, Florence + The Machine, Pink, Kings of Leon and so on (see our Isle of Wight Festival History page or our 10 unforgettable moments)
The concept of these acts playing on the Isle of Wight would have been utterly bonkers to me as a teenager in Carisbrooke. Yet, here we are complaining that Noel Gallagher, Fatboy Slim and Biffy Clyro are 'disappointing'?
As the Isle of Wight Festival grew in the early 2000s, others decided to have a go and the Island became a much richer place for music and culture. Bestival gave us a few great years of Elton John, Stevie Wonder and inflatable churches. And then there’s Eklectika, Jack Up The Summer, Rhythmtree, V Dub Isle, the Fairweather Festival and probably others I’ve forgotten.
Sure, some have been and gone but I don’t think many of them would have given it a go if John Giddings and Solo hadn’t first (well, second really including the remarkable 1968 to 1970 festivals).
And then there’s the overlooked matter of the Isle of Wight Festival's shrinking ticket price.
Back in 2002, the one day festival was £35. By 2007 it was £125 for a 3 day weekend ticket.
In 2019, Islanders were able to get early bird tickets for £110. The standard Islander rate is £145, whilst the mainlanders' price is £175 (plus booking fees). In case you're curious, Reading/Leeds 2019 is £205, Download 2019 is £210 (plus fees).
So, if you got in early and bought an early bird Islander ticket, the Isle of Wight Festival price is actually lower than the standard price 12 years ago. Try comparing that to what's happened to the price of your weekly shop in the last 12 years.
It’s also fair to assume that the costs of putting on the festival haven’t gone down in the last 12 years. This Guardian article from 2016 paints a bleak picture of the finances of putting on a festival and reckons that policing at the Isle of Wight Festival costs £1 million (I think it's actually the cost of security in general rather than just policing).
Let's not forget that it wasn’t that long ago that Bestival went into administration. The Big Chill gave up altogether in 2012. Fairweather Festival won’t be returning in 2019 due to finances. And then there's the Fyre Festival…
The reality is that there are many more festivals in the UK than there used to be. Weekend festivals now need to compete with a whole heap of one day 'festivals', which don’t have the same overheads since they don’t offer camping.
It's also worth remembering that the Isle of Wight Festival has gradually transformed from a single stage festival to a weekend of fun and games over several stages. I’m sure some of the extras are good moneymakers (fairground rides, more food stalls etc.) but most just add to the overall cost.
Organisers have realised that a good festival isn’t just about the acts on the main stage. One of the best afternoons I've had at the festival was spent in the kids' field (with one of my children, I should add).
So please, if you want the Isle of Wight Festival to return in 2020, buy a ticket and enjoy the party. Embrace the lineup for what it is, rather than comparing it to a time when you were younger, better looking and only had one chin.
Otherwise, don't complain when we're back to watching husband and wife duos at a pub in Shanklin.
I'm always delighted when the Isle of Wight gets shortlisted for something.
Admittedly, the naming of Yates in Newport as the UK's 'most tragic hometown club' was not a proud moment, but it has since closed and been replaced with a Slug and Lettuce (presumably that's better, kids?).
No, I'm more interested in awards for natural beauty and tourism which are slightly more glowing and likely to encourage people to visit for the first time.
The latest is the Countryfile Magazine Awards which has nominated Sandown Bay as the Best British Beach and Bembridge as the Best Village.
If you like the Isle of Wight (and aren't put off by attempts to harvest your data for marketing) then I'd encourage you to vote.
The curiosity is that many people will tell you that Sandown Bay isn't even the best beach on the Isle of Wight, let alone the UK. And it's not, if you are looking for a beach where you can go surfing or walk the dog in the middle of summer.
It's also not the best Isle of Wight beach for kite surfing or searching in rock pools for crabs or angrily throwing stones into the sea after a difficult breakup or cooking up some sausages on a barbecue.
And it's definitely not the best Isle of Wight beach for watching a lifeboat launch, avoiding the crowds in August, looking for dinosaur fossils or for building a tower out of stones for an Instagram post.
And since you asked, it's not the best Isle of Wight beach for kayaking into a cave and it probably isn't the best Isle of Wight beach for flying a kite or gazing at sunsets, although I'm happy to debate those ones.
My laboured point is that choosing a beach to visit on the Isle of Wight depends very much on what you are looking for. We spent most of our youth at Compton Bay, which is glorious for sunsets and bodyboarding but is much less practical for a family with a pushchair or a wheelchair. The steps down to the beach are steep, the toilets are pretty basic and there's nowhere to go if it rains.
In our guide to 'which is the best Isle of Wight beach for...' Sandown was winner in the category for the best beach for toddlers. The sand is soft, there's a playground and parking nearby, and if it starts to rain you can race everyone else to the Pier or to the cafe at Brown's Golf Course. But in other categories, winners included Shanklin, Ventnor, Freshwater Bay and about a dozen other beaches.
As I've said many times before on this blog, the Isle of Wight's trump card is its range of beaches which makes it the 'UK in miniature' rather than any one beach. Lots of other UK counties have plenty to offer and can do things on a bigger scale, but you'll struggle to see such a varied coastline during a week's holiday.
I'll tackle the question of whether Bembridge is the Isle of Wight's best village some other time...
As reported previously on these pages, we are currently enjoying a local food binge in an attempt to highlight some of the more authentic souvenirs which are on offer to Isle of Wight visitors.
It came about after discovering that most Isle of Wight souvenir fudge doesn’t actually come from the Isle of Wight, in the same way that your French Windows weren’t made in Paris.
We went for a quick trip to a farm shop, which soon turned into a spending spree.
It’s not an especially healthy activity or one which is suitable for pregnant women, teetotalers or vegans, since last time we were drinking gin and this time we are slicing off great chunks of blue cheese.
You’ll find cheese is one local product with a decent range of options on the Isle of Wight.
There are at least two companies producing cheese on the Island, and probably more which I’ve missed (apologies in advance, I await a telling off).
Firstly, there is the Isle of Wight Cheese Company, which presumably held a very short brainstorm meeting before deciding on a name and launching in 2006. At the time of eating, their range includes:
The second is Briddlesford Lodge Farm, which is based nearish to Newport and which has a cafe and farm shop you can visit (they also do tours on certain days during the school holidays). They currently offer Caerphilly, Cheddar, Gouda, Halloumi-Style and Feta-Style.
On this occasion we tried Isle of Wight Blue, which the Isle of Wight Cheese Company say will taste 'spikier' towards its best before date. We tried it about 20 minutes after purchase, so I would say we didn't exactly let it mature a great deal. Nonetheless, it was very tasty and went down nicely with big chunks of bread and my mother-in-law's soup which was as thick as a tin of gloss paint.
To try it for yourself, visit one of the local stockists on the Island. You won't regret it!
We were recently contacted by a blogger from the Isle of Wight, who had read our coastal path guide and decided to give it a go. For some reason, they attempted it during October, with three children and with tents.
Once we had checked Robert and Hazel Jones weren't too traumatised, we asked if they'd like to write us a guest blog.
During what turned out to be a fine week in October, we hiked all the way around this little Island we call home. We had been threatening to do so for a few years but the long trails on the mainland were always more enticing. So early on the Saturday morning we left our home in Gurnard and we arrived at the beach we put the sea on our left and started hiking.
Hiking to Ryde was tough, really tough. The trail pretty much follows the road all the way to Fishbourne before joining the cycle path to Ryde, through Quarr Abbey. The kids enjoyed this stretch as it allowed them to run ahead, play their games and pull faces at the pigs without the fear of traffic. We got to Ryde in time for a bag of chips for tea before we hiked on in the dark for a few more miles on the road, on the beach and through the woods to St Helens and our camp for the night.
From the campsite at St Helens we had a breakfast of coffee and yesterday's doughnuts before heading through the Duver to Bembridge where the kids tried to decide which of the houseboats they would like to live in and said goodbye to tarmac for a little while. The climb up Culver Down rewarded us with splendid views and a tasty ice cream before we came down to Yaverland and the kids practically ran along the esplanade for their promised visit to Sandown Pier. We followed the beach around to Shanklin, where we left the trail in search of the campsite at Lower Hyde.
The following day promised to be the best on the trail, and so it proved as we hiked through the landslips at Luccombe and Bonchurch, the kids racing ahead through the woods and down onto the prom at Ventnor, ultimately jumping into the paddling pool when we stopped for lunch.
We carried on and up and down headlands, through Steephill Cove and onto St Lawrence, where we headed inland and climbed up onto the downs. From up here the views only got better, and as we found our stride we covered miles without stopping, past St Catherine's Lighthouse, along the edges of fields and down hedgerow lined lanes.
We were just heading towards Chale when the sunset began and it was truly magnificent. We hiked on into the night for another mile or so before making camp on the cliff tops.
We woke up for the sunrise and for the first time on this hike there were clouds in the sky. It was quite chilly so Hazel took the kids on while Evan and I packed up. In our haste to get the children fed the night before we had inadvertently eaten all the porridge so we hiked on empty stomachs and a hope that the snack van at Compton Bay would be there.
Our route took us along the tops of the cliffs, meeting the first other thru-hikers of the trip, although they did think we were brave to be camping at the end of October. Soon we reached Compton where we all had a healthy breakfast of Mr Whippy ice creams (with a flake!) and some fizzy pop. We headed up the second and last decent climb of the hike - Tennyson Down - which took us up from Freshwater Bay to the monument from where we could see both sides of this little island.
Now it felt like the homeward stretch.
We pressed on towards the setting sun, along the headland that leads to the Needles. The views back across the Island were fantastic, those to the nearby New Forest and further away Isle of Purbeck magnificent. We dropped down to Alum Bay with a spectacular sunset behind us and hiked a little further to our safe haven for the night, Nana's basement.
We left Totland before dawn, and followed the seawall around to Colwell. No one was around and the sun was just coming up as we took another alternate route along the beach, through the holiday village and into the woods around Fort Victoria coming out on the top of the Island with fantastic blue sky and Yarmouth Pier just ahead.
We wandered along the sea wall before nipping into Bouldnor Forest and probably only the second stretch of this trail that we hadn't hiked before. It was wonderful, with proper beaten earth trail being kind on our feet, tree cover for the kids to play their games while charging ahead. Shalfleet to home was a stretch that was worrying us as it was mainly on the road so with nerves shredded, and feet on fire we stopped into Porchfield for a treat in the pub before the last 3 or 4 miles home.
The Trail to Thorness Bay started on the road but soon diverted through some fields and into the holiday park. The beach opened out in front of us as the sun started to dip and we hastened to get done before sunset. The kids knew the way home from here and with that mission in mind they practically sprinted the last mile and a half, Hazel and I struggling to keep up.
Of course, they paused at the rope swing, where we did catch them and we hiked the remaining yards back home together. Looking at the GPS, we had hiked 18 1/2 miles on that last day, our furthest on any trail so far, AND we had hiked a grand total of 77.7 miles on this 68 mile trail.
The writers of Just Up The Trail are Robert and Hazel Jones but the real stars of the show are the kids, Evan (aged 11) Lillian (9) and Isaac (7). You can find out more about them, and their magnificent adventures at www.justupthetrail.com and @justupthetrail on social media
Our days out are very much determined by the weather. If it rains we've got a list of favourites, including the yellow-ticket-spewing-machines at the arcade in Shanklin and the indoor play area at Tapnell Farm Park.
I'm yet to write a guide for one of those odd days where it is shorts and sandals weather one minute and then raining the next.
Our day in the West Wight was one of those.
We started off at the Compton Bay car park, before quickly abandoning any beach plans when we saw there wasn't any sand and there was a rapidly rising tide. Compton is probably my favourite beach but it is at its best at a low tide with the evening sun reflecting off the pools of water. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it.
We carried on to plan B which was Freshwater Bay. Fun fact: The clifftop up and down road between the two has featured on Top Gear and in a dreary horror movie starring Calista Flockhart.
We spent about an hour choosing stones, watching kayakers and stopping the younger one from falling over before getting back in the car and heading into Freshwater.
Mrs Guru, who understands Instagram, suggested we try the Freshwater Coffee House. It's one of those trendy places with deliberately eclectic furniture and friendly things written on chalkboards.
Thankfully, this was an establishment which had dealt with the strains of drinking coffee with children in tow. I helped myself to their decent selection of toys and books in the hope that they would provide an effective enough distraction for me to down my latte.
The staff were friendly and clearly owned the place, unlike the grunting teenager you might get in some chain. Mrs Guru was impressed with the eco-friendly individual hand towels and I was impressed with the coffee.
After a high-speed coffee we were on our way to our next stop - Fort Victoria.
There aren't many Isle of Wight attractions we haven't visited in the last five years, but Fort Victoria was an omission.
It's an odd selection of small museums and the like, housed in an impressive Victorian battery. The cannons are still there, pointing aggressively towards Hampshire.
We found time for the Model Railway exhibition which is in a metal building alongside the Fort, and the Archaeology Discovery Centre.
Both filled about 45 minutes, which wasn't bad for their £4ish entry fee. We do tend to speed round attractions, so you could happily drag it out if you want. You can also borrow an archaeology kit from the Centre if you want, which you can use to dig up the nearby beach.
The model railway provided a little spotter sheet which kept my 5 year old companion entertained.
The Underwater Archaeology Museum was a little bit bigger and was a bit more hands-on with things like a morse code thing to prod and some sand to dig into. At times I thought she might realise it was educational, but thankfully she didn't twig.
Fort Victoria also has its own little stoney beach, which is a nice spot for a picnic. It's not going to win a place in our beach awards as it's really just a stoney little patch, but we enjoyed digging through the stones.
My conclusion is that we're making significant strides in our ability to cram a lot in, despite having two children. At one stage it felt like an achievement if we got everyone dressed and in the car. Once the younger one drops her nap, there'll be no stopping us...
Most of our Isle of Wight souvenirs either contain multicoloured sand or include a photograph of the church in Godshill. For once, Mr Guru allowed me to explore some other options and set me free in a local Farm Shop.
On this occasion, I went for Brownrigg’s Farm Shop in Godshill, which was well stocked with dozens of local products. Sure, it isn’t as cheap as a trip round Lidl, but we’re increasingly keen on local souvenirs which can be consumed rather than those which gather dust.
Whilst Mr Guru waited in the car with the children, I did a mini supermarket sweep, checking off some of the products which I’d been trying to track down. I emerged with a modestly sized bag of goodies, hid the receipt and offered consolation that another family in there seemed to be carrying out a weekly shop.
I decided to purchase the Mermaid Gin and Fever-Tree tonic gift tube because a) I loved the packaging and b) I felt a G&T might be appreciated at the end of the day.
Here’s the blurb from the website:
Mermaid Gin “is a hand-made, small-batch gin using 10 botanicals that are meticulously sourced for quality and carefully blended to create a smooth, fresh and complex flavour profile. Locally foraged rock samphire and elderflower, fresh citrus zest from Sicilian lemons and Grains of Paradise are complemented by Boadicea hops grown in the local botanical gardens at Ventnor, English coriander from Sussex, orris root, angelica root, liquorish root, and juniper”
I don’t particularly like liquorice (can’t get away from the thought of Allsorts) or coriander but I do like Gin.
Included in the gift pack is a 50cl bottle of Mermaid Gin, a 200ml bottle of Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water and two Fever-Tree wooden stirrers. You can order the gift pack online directly from the Isle of Wight distillery, but it is also available at various Island shops.
The gift tube itself is beautifully designed and the bottles inside are well packaged to prevent any accidents during the journey home (that’s if you haven’t given in to temptation before then).
It cost about £8 and made enough for a couple of drinks. I rather got into the tasting, despite not being a gin expert. The juniper and coriander were certainly noticeable, as was the liquorice. There was also a slight peppery flavour and the elderflower flavour grew as I finished off the glass.
Mr Guru meanwhile just about managed to offer “very nice, tastes like gin”.
We rather enjoyed our first sample of gin from The Isle of Wight Distillery and are looking forward to sampling more of their range in the future. If you’re interested, the Mermaid Gin people also run The Mermaid Bar at the Wishing Well, which is nearish to Ryde. We’ve not been yet, but we’re hoping to pop in sometime now that we’ve got a taste for it!
In the days when the news is mostly Brexit, Donald Trump and Miscellaneous Misery, it's perhaps not surprising that the Great Isle of Wight Fudge Scandal has gone unnoticed.
Well folks, it's time to change all that. I'm going to peel away the cellophane wrapper covering up this minor scandal and reveal it to the world.
If it helps, we can call it Fudgegate.
Let's imagine that you are approaching the end of an Isle of Wight holiday and have just realised that you need to buy something for grandma. She bought you a lovely ashtray from Lanzarote so it's only fair that you get her some tat in return (a tat for tat arrangement, if you will).
You end up in a gift shop, most likely in Shanklin, Sandown, Ryde or Alum Bay and decide grandma would like some fudge. She lost her final tooth when you bought her toffee once, so fudge is the best option.
The box has a postcard of Godshill on the front, which she will love, so you happily pay through the nose.
But here's the minor scandal.
Take a careful look at the box and you'll almost certainly find it wasn't made on the Isle of Wight. It will more likely say something vague about coming from the UK and have an address in Devon or Dundee or anywhere apart from the Isle of Wight. You could probably buy the same fudge from any shop in any town.
I guess in a way this minor scandal doesn't matter two hoots. Most stuff is made in China now so we should be grateful that this is even made in the UK.
But in my mind there's a difference between plastic souvenir rubbish (which you assume comes from China via a vast warehouse in Northampton) and souvenir food, which you sort of hope might be vaguely reflective of the local area.
So I'd like to invite you to look for some more authentic Isle of Wight souvenirs for grandma.
Next time, try a farm shop and you'll find dozens of locally produced foodie things, many of which also won't raise grandma's risk of developing type 2 diabetes (though admittedly they might not be entirely healthy).
We had a successful shopping trip at Brownriggs Farm Shop in Godshill. My mother recommends Briddlesford Lodge Farm Shop nearish to Wootton/Newport. Some of the Coop stores stock a small range of local food.
I'm sure there are many others, and it isn't really fair of me to just highlight the ones we happened to pass.
In a decent farm shop you'll find Isle of Wight beer, gin, vodka, biscuits, cheeses by the bucketload, posh tomato ketchup and so on. There's even a locally made fudge shop in Cowes, which is ideal for Grandma.
There's also Isle of Wight coffee and chocolate, which admittedly weren't grown on the Island but still have a local link, somehow.
Over the next few weeks we'll be trying out a few of them - for research purposes of course.
Join the campaign, save grandma's teeth and leave the foreign fudge on the shelf.
It takes many years for a human being to realise that walking is actually quite pleasant. I made so much fuss on scenic family walks as a child that I'm surprised my mother still talks to me.
Once you're a parent, you soon forget this and get irked when your children plead for a lift after a few metres.
We decided to try out a Treasure Trail on the Isle of Wight as a means of tricking the children into walking. We'd had some success with a similar thing on the mainland so this seemed like it was worth a go on a grey day.
At the time of writing there are eight to choose from, covering quite a few of the prettier parts of the Island. Unsurprisingly, no one has bothered to create one exploring the industrial estates.
Our first treasure trail was covering Cowes. It was one which claimed to be OK for pushchairs, although it did say it wasn't suitable for wheelchairs. There turned out to about 30 steps but you could find a detour with a bit of initiative or a map.
This one was a Murder Mystery, with a long list of suspects. Each clue led you to a local landmark which would include enough information to eliminate one of the suspects.
We glossed over the murderous side of things for the benefit of our young children and turned it into a mobile version of Guess Who?
Over a couple of hours we wandered through Northwood Park, and along the High Street and Esplanade. I've always liked Cowes and enjoyed the whole thing a lot more than I was expecting. I noticed things about the town I'd ignored before and the level of challenge was varied enough for us all to have something to do.
Around lunchtime the one year old in our party made it quite clear that she had had enough and we postponed our investigations. Frantic searching for lunch began, despite it still being a bit early for elevenses.
However, we were hooked in by that point and a couple of hours later we were back on the beat for the last few clues.
Two days later we embarked on another treasure hunt, this time around Godshill. This one was a lot shorter and more compact but we still enjoyed it thoroughly. I've concluded the village could do with a little less traffic and a little more pavement (anyone fancy a one way system?) but once again we managed to do a significant amount of plodding considering we were a party of all ages.
From that point on there was no stopping us. Ventnor came next, despite the instructions saying that it wasn't suitable for pushchairs. Again, we found a couple of detours to avoid the steps and my buttocks got a thoroughly good workout as I heaved the pushchair up Ventnor's hilly streets. I can only assume that the residents of Ventnor all have backsides of steel.
Finally we attempted Yarmouth, which was shown off in glorious sunshine on a route which followed the estuary, seafront, castle and pier. The town centre is small and can be driven through in about seven seconds, but with clues to find and our travelling circus the whole thing filled two or three hours.
My personal favourite of them all was probably Ventnor, since it had non-stop sea views and a playground at the halfway point which provided another few minutes of entertainment. Yarmouth was in second place, but they were all good time-fillers. Our five year old managed to contribute throughout, whilst the nearly two year old demanded food and drinks from onboard her chariot.
My next plan is to contact the Treasure Trail people and suggest Carisbrooke village as a good location for a hunt. After all, it's got a significant castle, a priory, a cemetery with beautiful views (Mountjoy), an ancient church, three fords and my mother's house.
You have to pay for Treasure Trails - £6.99 at the time of writing so it's not one for our free days out guide. However, I don't think that's bad value for a couple of hours entertainment for a group of people. If you're look for a free alternative, try out our Isle Spy game, which is a similar bit of timewasting around the Isle of Wight's roads.
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