Despite my best intentions, it has been many weeks since my last blog post. The rest of the website is now much more up to date than it was, but the blogs have been ignored somewhat.
As a result, I find myself writing about a trip to the beach in the August sunshine whilst freezing cold and rubbing my hands together like a GP about to examine your chest.
This summer was a good one for us on the Isle of Wight, in the middle of 'unprecedented times' (Trademark: every journalist in the UK).
One of the last days of summer was spent at Player's Beach, which is the closest beach to Binstead. As far as I can see, it isn't marked on Ordnance Survey or Google maps as a separate beach to Appley, but various online sources call it Player's Beach. Presumably the name relates to the golf course nearby rather than because it is popular with flirty lads.
As far as I can remember, I'd not been to Player's Beach although there's always the possibility that my 8th birthday party was held there and I've completely forgotten about it.
We parked outside Holy Cross Church in Binstead. There were about four parking spaces, so I wouldn't say the beach is ready for a massive invasion of people but it's not exactly one of the most famous or most popular Isle of Wight beaches.
We walked for about 10 minutes down a pretty path which includes part of the round the Island walking route.
That's not us carrying those huge rucksacks in the photo, although we do tend to go rather overboard and prepare for every possible weather when we head for the beach.
The beach itself is lovely at low tide, with a fair amount of sand and lots of tiny jellyfish when we visited. At high tide, there's not a lot of beach so I wouldconsult the tide tables before you visit.
A heavily tanned guy was sat on a post reading the Daily Mirror with his top off in the sunshine. I reckon he'd been sat there since 1974 but I didn't check the date on the paper.
Social distancing was easily achieved with only about five people on the beach, so we sat down and ate our picnic before a quick paddle and a walk back to the car.
A visit to Orchard Bay in St. Lawrence has been on my Isle of Wight wish list for a few years now.
Back in the day, we visited fairly regularly as my father's beach preference was one that didn't include any other people. He was a vicar on the Island and I like to think that this was so that he could peacefully strut around in his small brown trunks without being spotted by his parishioners.
More recently we've avoided isolated beaches as they tend to include clambering over rocks and parking a good distance from the beach. Such things are fun on your own but less so with children.
On this occasion we were child free for a couple of hours so Mrs Guru and I raced off to St Lawrence.
Access to Orchard Bay is certainly not child-friendly. We parked on a residential street off Undercliff Drive near to the turning for New Bank End Farm. We then walked past some holiday cottages and down a narrow tunnel-like footpath before reaching the steps which were repaired in 2016 thanks to the efforts of St Lawrence Community Association and the landowner.
Once we got down the steps there were a few rocks to climb across. I'd say it was about 10 minutes walk from the car to the beach.
It's not exactly a golden sandy beach but it still has the Famous-Five charm I remembered back in the 1990s and 2000s. The beach is privately owned by the rather stunning house overlooking a shingly beach with rocks and seaweed. Twenty years ago, whilst we sat eating our sandwiches on the beach the house was being used as a drug smuggling base but now it has a more wholesome outlook.
We stayed for a few minutes before starting to walk along the coastal path to find the next beach. We headed right as you face the sea, towards Mount Bay.
The cliffpath is - to say the least - a little treacherous. It is perhaps a couple of metres wide and has a dramatic drop for most of the walk along. Social distancing would involve one person walking off the edge of the cliff.
Mrs Guru was less keen on this section but I convinced her to keep going. If we'd had the children with us or if there'd been a light wind we would have turned back.
Mount Bay was only a short walk along the Footpath Of Death but it was slightly harder to get down to than Orchard Bay. Instead of steps there was a homemade route down which seems to incorporate a Victorian mangle and other hazards.
When we arrived it was a low tide so the beach was a good size. Again, it's shingly rather than sandy but there was a nice stream trickling down into the water's edge (pretty sure it was a stream rather than a sewage pipe, since there are no houses anywhere nearby). As with much of the South Wight's coastline it has a fantastic feeling of isolation. The view is generally of a lone ship or two on the horizon and it's not unusual to have the beach to yourself (as we did).
As it was getting dark we clambered back up the path from Mount Bay.
Mrs Guru declared that it was only suitable for exploring and adventures and that we certainly would not be bringing the children here anytime soon. I plan to bring child one to Mount Bay in a couple of years when she's a bit less wobbly on a clifftop.
My photos don't really do it justice, so here's a 360 degree view that someone else took at Mount Bay on a sunny day. You can take a look around if you click on the image below. You can't walk around or smell the sea air but there's certainly a smaller chance of falling off the cliff edge if you stick to Google Maps.
We've made more of an effort to visit the Isle of Wight's quieter beaches this year. I much prefer a bit of space to myself on the beach but with young children I'd given in to the convenience and ease of parking on Shanklin Esplanade.
Now the children are able to cope with a 10 minute walk without complaining too much, we're getting a bit more adventurous and headed for Binnel Bay in St Lawrence.
The other reason, of course, is that quieter beaches are preferable during a pandemic.
We parked on Old Park Road in St Lawrence and then walked down to Molly Attrill Pottery. Round the back of the buildings is a footpath which leads down to the beach, past several rather nice looking houses including a massive glass house and a former bunker.
The footpath is quite narrow and the last few metres requires you to hold onto a rope and climb down a bit of a drop. We managed it with a couple of young children with a bit of lifting from myself and regular shouts of "be careful" from Mrs Guru. I wouldn't want to do it with a pushchair or anyone who was a bit wobbly on uneven ground.
From the car I'd say it took us 15 minutes to get there and 20 minutes to get back.
We had the beach to ourselves at first before it became completely overcrowded and spoilt by one other person. Bear in mind this was a sunny day in early August and yet we still had a beach more-or-less to ourselves.
There's no shade and no toilets and it's not really a swimming beach but you can sit on a log and listen to the stones being dragged up and down the beach.
Our visit also happened to coincide with a yacht race called Race The Wight so we had the added spectacle of hundreds of yachts sailing past. Not bad, eh?
One of the silver linings of the grim and worrying time of the last few months has been the discovery that my children don't mind woodland walks. I assumed they'd complain endlessly like I did as a child whenever I wasn't staring at a screen or kicking a ball but they just plod along in wellies and only start to whine when they get tired or hungry.
On previous wet days we would have headed for the clinkety-clankety arcade machines in Shanklin or the glorious comfort and extortionately priced popcorn of the cinema but we're now one of those irritating families who puts on raincoats and look like they're enjoying themselves outdoors.
With this newfound enthusiasm we headed for Parkhurst Forest on a wet day in search of red squirrels.
After an argument about whether a summer dress was appropriate clothing for a walk in the rain we headed left out of the main car park as you face the forest (just off Forest Road) and discovered a board with a suggestion of where to walk.
Like the mindless lemmings that we are, we followed the map through a wiggly bit of forest before emerging at a larger track.
Well, that's not quite true. The first time we tried to follow the map we took a left turn down a small track which wasn't the right one at all. The left turn you want is actually by a bench, so keep an eye out for that if you attempt to follow the same route.
After about 20 minutes of walking we arrived at the red squirrel hide. I reckon you could have done it in half that time if you didn't take a wrong turn like we did and if you walked at a good pace. We wandered along at a slow pace partly due to the children having small legs and partly because there were people in front of us and we were trying to keep our distance.
We had the hide to ourselves, so we sat and waited...
So did we spot a family of red squirrels feasting on nuts mere metres from our enraptured faces? Did we see them playing gleefully in the forest as shards of light shone through the canopies above?
No, of course we didn't. The youngest child lost interest after 30 seconds and started walking off so we gave up and went back to the car.
But did we fill an hour on a wet day without resorting to another hour of telly? Yes, we did and I'm sure we'll come back again for the same reason on another day.
People are overrated aren’t they? They’re always blathering on about this and that when really you’d rather just have a quiet sit down and a chance to listen to the waves lapping on the shore.
Sometimes you need a beach without loads of people. Sandown, Shanklin, Ryde, Ventnor and Colwell are unlikely to offer you that unless it’s 3am on a wet Wednesday in November.
Here are some of our favourite spots for avoiding people on an Isle of Wight beach holiday. Apologies in advance if this page leads to a mass influx of visitors to previously quiet locations but I think that's unlikely.
If you've got your own favourites, please share them in the comments.
1. Chilton Chine, South West Wight
To be fair, most of the Isle of Wight’s South West coast is as empty as it is beautiful. However, some beaches are easier to access than others.
Chilton Chine has a small car park next door to Isle of Wight Pearl on the Military Road. You clamber down a few steps and then you’ve got a pleasant stretch of beach which is sort-of-sandy and sort-of-stony. If you look carefully, you might discover an enormous dinosaur bone and become world famous. Or more likely, you won’t.
Whale Chine on the same coastline used to be a favourite of ours before the steps disappeared and the council were forced to block it off and put up enormous red signs saying things like “DANGER OF DEATH”. I do wonder whether the phrase "danger of death" helps the Island’s tourist industry, but I’ll let that one go.
2. Gurnard’s hidden beach, North Wight
Gurnard and Cowes beach both get pretty busy on a sunny day, but we usually head for the ‘hidden’ beach in Gurnard which is quieter although not completely empty. Take the footpath round the back of Gurnard’s sailing club and you get to a rocky and sandy-ish beach. You can park quite nearby with this one, which is a bonus.
I did swim there on our last visit but the tranquillity and peace was destroyed when I stood on a jagged rock under the water.
3. Far end of Compton Bay, West Wight
The Hanover Point end of Compton Bay is not a good choice for avoiding people on a busy day. The car park overflows, the ice cream van has a queue like Primark after lockdown ended and there’s an awkward back and forth as you work out whose turn it is to use the steps.
However, if you love that stretch of beach and want to avoid people as much as possible then it is much quieter at the far end. Park at the Compton Farm car park, walk through a field and climb down the steep steps with the gorgeous views down the coastline. The steps are a bit hairy if you’re also carrying three bodyboards, a windbreak and a picnic bag.
4. Binnel Bay, South Wight
Most of the South Wight’s beaches are quiet, apart from Ventnor and Steephill Cove.
Binnel Bay is a rocky beach which we’ve had to ourselves before.
When I say that it's rocky, I don't mean it has that tiny shingle which you can sink into. I mean that it has massive great rocks which will poke you in the bottom. Top tip: find a rock with a similar indent to your buttocks for maximum comfort.
Click on the image below and you can have a look around, although this is a bit further along from the bit we have visited.
5. Orchard Bay, South Wight
Orchard Bay in the South Wight gained a bit of local attention about 20 years ago when it turned out it was the landing spot for a massive drug smuggling operation.
For a while, you couldn't access it because the steps had given way. Thankfully, the St Lawrence Community Association and the landowners worked hard to get the steps re-opened. Three cheers for nice people doing a nice thing!
Here's a virtual tour thing from On The Wight:
6. Woodside Bay, North East Wight
Woodside Bay is hard to access unless you're staying at Woodside Coastal Retreat and Woodside Bay Lodge Retreat. The bay gets used by residents at the holiday parks but it's a long stretch of beach so it isn't terribly busy.
It's shingly with the occasional patch of sand(ish) and is a bit too stony and seaweedy for swimming. However, it's facing the right way for sunsets. My mother told me 'it has a Robinson Crusoe quality about it' but I didn't see a single cannibal when I was there.
It's also right by the spot where Bob Dylan headlined the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival.
7. Watcombe Bay
Now, this one’s a bit specialist but if you’ve got a kayak and know what you're doing, you can make your way round from Freshwater Bay to Watcombe Bay.
The only other way to access it is by abseiling down from the cliffs so you aren't likely to find many other visitors there.
We visited as part of a trip out with Isle of Wight Adventure Activities so there's a chance that a whole school party will turn up just as you get settled in. There are also some caves which you can explore but I'd caution against doing that unless you are with a guide. Otherwise you'll probably end up as part of a cautionary tale used by the RNLI when they train their coastguards.
I wasn't completely convinced that virtual tours were the answer to keep us all sane during these unprecedented/difficult/worrying times (delete according to mood).
I thought it might be like putting up pictures of an ex-girlfriend all around the house straight after being dumped. You'd be much better to put on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, make a ham and cheese toastie and begin listing reasons why you're better off without her (Ed: think you might be oversharing).
But after taking a look at a few of them, I felt they were worth a share. If you really get into it, try setting up a desk fan next to the screen to offer a cool breeze. Pour some concrete into a C-shape in your garden and decorate it with dinosaurs for the Isle of Wight minigolf experience. Or for the authentic seaside day out ask a neighbour to charge you £7 to park on their drive for the day, from a safe distance of course.
1. The Isle of Wight Guru Car Park Viewpoint tour
We normally recommend our Car Park Viewpoint Tour for cold or rainy days where you want to see some of the Isle of Wight without getting off your bottom.
However, it's also useful during a global pandemic when you would like to see the glorious views from the top of Brading Down, Gurnard seafront or Freshwater Bay.
We've embedded a couple of our favourites here, but the whole selection can be found here.
You can click on each one and turn around.
2. Seven seconds at Compton BAy
I assume this 360 view of Compton Bay from Wightlink had to be limited to seven seconds because the camera is set up on the cliff edge which tends to collapse regularly (remember when the car park was twice as big?).
Still, it's good fun being able to turn around briefly, particularly as it includes real life moving people.
Get yourself an ice cream out the freezer and a coffee in a polystyrene cup and you'll feel like you're there.
3. Amazon World
Here's a slightly longer 360 degree video, featuring a selection of human and animal species.
4. Ventnor Botanic Garden
Next up it's everyone's favourite microclimate - Ventnor Botanic Gardens. I wouldn't quite say you could persuade yourself that you're there, but it's a good effort nonetheless.
5. Newport Roman Villa
Finally, a trip inside Newport Roman Villa. As I've mentioned before, my only memory from visiting here was on a school trip when us nine year olds were overwhelmed with giggles when we saw the scantily clad statues.
I'm not an especially crafty sew and sew but I can recommend Hama beads as a way of filling an hour during a global pandemic.
Whilst child one started rummaging around for brown beads for her poo emoji shape, I set to a more wholesome project of an Isle of Wight Hama bead shape.
If you're attempting this for yourself, I recommend sticking a map underneath the board (I used this one) and taping the whole thing down. My first attempt was abandoned after a half finished project was bumped by a small child. You may have heard me crying in anguish if you had the windows open at the time.
To add a certain amount of nerdiness I decided to highlight some themed Isle of Wight landmarks in white, grey, orange and yellow. Hopefully you figured out that the blue bits are rivers.
I'll leave you to work out what the different colours represent.
I'll be honest, writing a blog about days out on the Isle of Wight is a bit of a struggle during a national lockdown.
Perhaps I'll cook up some Isle of Wight doughnuts or feature some Isle of Wight craft activities as an alternative to outdoor activities. (Don't) Visit Isle of Wight has come up with a number of Isle of Wight themed lockdown suggestions to work your way through.
For the time being I'll have to stick to photos from people who are lucky enough to live within walking distance of the beach.
So here we go.
Thanks to Dan, who used his government-approved-exercise time to walk to the beach near Brighstone in the West Wight and captured the sun going down. Rest assured, he maintained a distance of two miles from anyone else.
Don't worry guys, the sunsets will still be there once the lockdown is over. Stay safe!
Cafes have come on a long way since I was a nipper.
They used to be places which served one type of tea in floral china on wobbly saucers. Nowadays, they serve decaf vegan latte macchiatos and smashed avocado on toast. Well, apart from the ones who are using mismatch floral china on wobbly saucers in a self-aware nod towards the past.
Anyway, child one recently suggested that we share ideas for cafes on the Isle of Wight which are particularly good for younger visitors.
So here goes:
1. Board, Newport
The Isle of Wight's only board game cafe is in Newport town centre. Not exactly the most picturesque location on our beautiful Island, but it's a welcome shelter on a stormy day. You pay a small cover charge to have access to all the games and then order whatever you like.
If you've not been to a board game cafe before, these aren't the sort of places which have a copy of Connect 4 with half the pieces missing. There are loads of interesting games to choose from, including some complicated ones for grown ups which take all afternoon to play.
Youngest player rolls first.
2. Arty Shakes, SHanklin
There are a few pottery painting places on the Isle of Wight, but if you want to combine it with a sugar rush then head to Arty Shakes in Shanklin.
Last time I checked, you paid a four pound fee for the paints and glazing and then buy whatever you want to paint (from about three pounds). I recently spent forty pounds painting a mug and a cupcake at Center Parcs, so Arty Shakes seems pretty good value to me. Needless to say, I felt like a mug.
Other pottery painting options on the Isle of Wight include Isle of Sweets Craft Centre in Shanklin which is great value and very friendly but not really a cafe, Fired Art Ceramics in Ryde (not really a cafe either, but they do painting and glazing) and Chessell Pottery Cafe in the West Wight (more of an emphasis on the cafe side of it than there used to be, but you can still paint pottery there).
3. Brown's Golf Course Cafe, sandown
Brown's Golf Course Cafe doesn't look anything much from the outside but inside it's a lovely light and spacious cafe with toys for toddlers.
The golf course also hosts free Campfire Sessions on some evenings with live music, fire pits and the like.
4. Comicoffee, Newport
Newport is also home to ComiCoffee, which will probably appeal more to older children (and Dads).
It's a half-coffee shop, half comic-book store which can be found in Pyle Street.
5. Soft play cafes
I reckon there are two types of parents at a soft play area.
The first is the parent who runs around with the children, offering 'supervision' whilst trying not to smile too much or say "weeeeeeee" too loudly when they go down the slides (that's me).
The second is the parent who orders a coffee, sits down with their phone and leaves them to it until one of the children turns up at the table and says "daddy, Harry's hurt himself...".
There are a few soft play areas on the Isle of Wight with cafes attached. Tapnell Farm Park is probably my favourite as it is a large space and has a proper cafe. However, it is part of a larger attraction so you pay about ten pounds to get in and really need to spend a few hours there.
A more recently opened option is Monkey Madness, which is attached to Amazon World but runs as a separate attraction. The cafe area was quite small when we visited, although that was a few months ago. Leave a comment below if you've been more recently and can offer an update.
Other soft play areas are covered in our toddlers' guide.
6. Freshwater Coffee House
The Freshwater Coffee House in the West Wight was very child-friendly when we popped in a little while ago, even though we blocked off a big chunk of the cafe with our huge pushchair.
There's also a fairly good playground nearby in the playing fields in Freshwater. NearbyFreshwater Bay is a great spot for children to fill their pockets with stones and then argue with you about whether or not they can take them home.
As it is February and howling a gale outside, it didn't occur to us that some Isle of Wight cafes are perfect for children in the summer.
Thanks to Andrew for the suggestion of Besty and Spinky's Cafe in Ventnor which sits alongside the Isle of Wight shaped paddling pool.
You don't have to visit the cafe to use the paddling pool, but it's an excellent opportunity to drink a latte whilst your children try not to fall into the 4-inch deep Solent.
Know of any other child-friendly cafes on the Isle of Wight? Comment below if so...
As I've shared many, many times, my proposal to Mrs Guru was up there with the best. It involved spelling out 'Marry Me' in the sand at Compton Bay and then walking her to the cliff edge with a blindfold for a bird's eye view.
The tide had come in and washed away half of the Y so that the message read 'Marr Me' but she got the idea.
If you want to impress your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/life-partner on the Isle of Wight this February, then here are five ideas to get your started, entirely pinched from Instagram.
Please feel free to add other ideas at the bottom of the page if you're a local business owner who is shrewd enough to cash in on romantic fools like myself.
1. Tuk tuk into a burger
The Isle of Wight Tuk Tuk is a new thing for 2020 and they're doing a deal with The Cow at Tapnell Farm where they'll pick you up and drop you off at the restaurant.
The Ts & Cs say that you need to be within 5 miles of Tapnell Farm, or you can pay a bit extra. I'd suggest that 5 miles is a reasonable limit, as the 20 mile drive from Bembridge to Tapnell Farm might be a wee bit nippy on a February evening.
2. An enchanting break
The Enchanted Manor in Niton must be a contender for the Isle of Wight's most romantic accommodation. They offer four poster beds and a sort of rustic vintage decor which Mrs Guru approves of.
3. Dining at the Garlic Farm
I am hoping that the menu for the Garlic Farm's Valentine's meal won't be garlic flavoured soup followed by garlic tart (served with garlic bread) and garlic ice cream for pudding.
If so, I'd say there's very little chance of finding romance unless the bill comes with a very generous pile of mint imperials. Let's hope that it just provides a nice setting for a romantic meal with only a modest portion of garlic.
4. The Spirit of the Orient at Robin Hill
How about celebrating Valentines Day with a Chinese New Year themed walk in the woods instead of a romantic meal? According to the official blurb the Spirit of the Orient will be a fusion of sound, colour, illuminations and oriental flavours'.
Just make sure you pack a woolly hat.
5. Dine at the Duck
Finally, how about going the whole hog (Ed: surely, you mean Duck?) at The Duck in Ryde. After six courses, you'll want to walk it off along the Esplanade at Appley.
If you run a business and want to promote your Valentines Day plans, please feel free to comment below.
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog
Tales of Isle of Wight days out, attractions and ferry discounts from a Wightophile
Where to stay
Some of the links on this site are 'affiliate links' meaning we may receive commission from accommodation providers at no cost to the buyer. We are also an Amazon Associate and earn from qualifying products.
However, we maintain full editorial control and only recommend based on merit rather than whether they offer commission.
© COPYRIGHT 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.