The sun is shining, and we are already thinking about long sunny days exploring the best new attractions and festivals on the Isle of Wight.
Here's a selection of what to look out for in 2022:
1. New rides to test your stomach at Blackgang Chine
The UK's oldest theme park has got two new rides for 2022. One of them is a 'flying carpet' style ride...
...whilst the other is a 'drop-tower' which will show off Blackgang Chine's excellent views...
2. Further falconry at Robin Hill
Falconry has been a part of Robin Hill for some time now, but for 2022 it is being upgraded with a 'Falconry Experience Centre'. We're not exactly sure what that is...but we're looking forward to finding out
3. A new skatepark for the South Wight
The Isle of Wight has a good choice of places to practice your, er, kickflips and sick heelflips. And yes, I did have to Google 'skateboarding moves' before I wrote that sentence.
Canopy Skatepark has the advantage of being indoors. It's based in Chale in the South Wight.
4. New homes for the animals
Plans are afoot for two new 'giant eco-domes' at Wildheart Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary - which was previously called Isle of Wight Zoo - will have a 'walk-through primate centre'. It's due to open in May.
5. Another week to get blisters
The Isle of Wight Walking Festival is growing in size for 2022.
It's now taking place over two weeks - one in May and one in October.
6. Strewth mate! A new joey at Tapnell Farm Park!
Neighbours may be ending, but we can at least enjoy a feeling of life in Australia with the arrival of this little cutie!
We've also heard rumours about a nearby attraction which is getting bigger in 2022. We'll hold off promoting that one until we have permission to share some details...
7. The need for speed in Sandown
This event was due to happen a couple of years ago, but it's been postponed because of you-know-what.
It involves a street race along the seafront in Sandown and Yaverland. It should be quite a sight!
I think it may be a good moment to admit I have misread the room.
If I was a politician then my position would now be described as untenable. Cabinet ministers would be resigning. Committees would be gathering and submitting letters of no confidence. Political correspondents would be stood outside Downing Street and shouting questions from a distance which I would sheepishly ignore.
Last week, I rather excitedly created a petition to promote Wet Leg to the Main Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival after seeing them on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
I had memories of The Strokes being promoted to the Main Stage at the Reading Festival in 2001 after their debut album turned out to be a classic. Wet Leg have an album out in April and I have high hopes after hearing their last five songs.
Unfortunately, it seems no-one agreed with me.
Well, that’s not quite true. There are currently 17 people who agree and have signed the petition. However, I must admit that there is a more significant number who disagree and feel they a good fit for the Big Top.
I hereby resign as a petition writer and look forward to spending more time with my family.
See you at the Big Top on Sunday lunchtime!
Dear John Giddings and the rest of the brilliant team behind the Isle of Wight Festival.
We strongly believe that Wet Leg should be promoted to the Main Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival 2022.
The band are currently buried away in the Big Top as the second act to perform on Sunday.
This is a problem for two reasons.
Firstly, half of the festival attendees will still be in their tents on Sunday lunchtime after a few too many whilst busting some moves to Kasabian and Pete Tong on Saturday night.
Secondly, those festival attendees who aren't nursing a headache or sleeping through lunch will all attempt to cram into the Big Top to see the BBC's second hottest band of 2022 (and the hottest band ever to have met at the Isle of Wight College).
Let us also remember that Wet Leg recently appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon! The Tonight Show!
If this isn't sorted out, there is a high risk that we will end up watching Wet Leg whilst stood next to a waffle stand and a fairground ride half a mile from the Big Top. How will we know what is a quirky new Wet Leg lyric and what is an announcement that the dodgems are about to start?
Please take our plea onboard, or things could literally go Pete Tong at the Isle of Wight Festival 2022. Oh no!
The Isle of Wight has a modest selection of forts and castles which offer accommodation. Most of them are self catering cottages and they're usually by the seaside.
I've compiled them into a top five, which is ideal for parents whose children spend most of their time jousting in the lounge with cardboard poster tubes.
Here are five castles and forts on the Isle of Wight where you can stay overnight:
1. Fort Redoubt, West Wight
Fort Redoubt is the one which looms over the highest cliffs at Freshwater Bay. I like to look at it from afar and imagine hosting a wild party there with a fireworks display reflected on the water below. I'm usually interrupted by a child pulling on my arm and asking for an ice cream from the Freshwater Bay lifeboat shop.
As part of the grounds there are three dog friendly holiday apartments you can hire including Upper Caponier (sleeps 6), Lower Caponier (sleeps 6) and Moonfleet Cottage (sleeps 2).
Google tells me that a caponier is a type of fortification which comes from the French word for chicken-house (Ed: are you making this stuff up?).
The nearby beach is one of my favourites thanks to its mix of caves, rockpooling and crashing waves. We recently watched huge waves at Freshwater Bay during Storm Eunice (from a very safe distance).
The main building at Fort Redoubt was built in the 1850s, when Palmerston became paranoid about a French invasion and started surrounding the Isle of Wight with cannons.
I would recommend Freshwater Bay and the West Wight for walkers, cyclists and anyone who prefers unspoilt landscapes. It isn't the best location if you want to spend every minute down at the amusement arcades or want a lot of nightlife.
The West Wight is probably my favourite part of the Isle of Wight, but it's also the quietest. You'll either need a car or enjoy spending a lot of time waiting for buses.
See our guide to the West Wight for more ideas of what you can do within a 10 minute drive of Fort Redoubt.
2. Golden Hill Fort, West Wight
Another castle for hire on the Isle of Wight is Golden Hill Fort. It's similar to Fort Redoubt in that it was built in the West Wight in the 1850s.
It's a rather cool hexagon shape and had a brief life as an unofficial location for raves in the 1990s before it was tidied up somewhat and turned into holiday flats.
Holiday homes for hire at Golden Hill Fort include The Sergeants Quarters (sleeps 7) and The Officer's Mess (sleeps 10).
The land surrounding it is a country park which is nice for a walk. It's home to a willow sculpture which looks a bit like like a spider.
Golden Hill Fort isn't as close to the sea as you might expect from something built as a coastal defence. However, you can walk to the beach at Colwell in about 20 minutes (unless you are carrying seven bags for a beach day with children).
3. Carisbrooke Castle, Central
Carisbrooke Castle is the real deal. It's more than 1000 years old (well, parts of it are) and it was used as a prison for King Charles I. You can even see the window where he failed to escape.
There are lots of stories about Carisbrooke Castle being haunted, which are definitely true. One suggests that a 'grey lady' was seen near the moat. Anyone that suggests this was a dog walker in a grey coat is peddling fake news and will be silenced by a local wizard.
Inside the grounds there's the Bowling Green Apartment which sleeps four people. The castle is on a big hill and has terrific views from The Keep at the very top.
Carisbrooke and Newport are not especially exciting places (sorry Mum). Curiously, they applied for joint city status in 2021. I liked the idea of visiting the small co-op in Carisbrooke High Street and saying 'I'm just popping into the city centre for a Mini Milk'.
The advantage of staying in Carisbrooke is that you can visit any part of the Isle of Wight without driving for more than 25 minutes. The nearest beach is about 15 minutes away along the Island's lovely South West coastline.
Read our guide to 10 things you can do in Carisbrooke and Newport.
4. Ryde Castle Hotel, East Wight
The history of the Ryde Castle Hotel is a little, er, disputed.
The website of its owners proudly says that it was 'Originally built by Henry VIII to defend against Spanish invasion'. However, the Historic Ryde Society say that it was built in 1833, which is nearly 300 years after Henry VIII died.
Regardless, it looks like the sort of castle my daughter would draw so it's worth a mention in our Isle-of-Wight-castle-accommodation-guide.
You can either pop in for a pint and a pie in the Greene King Pub or you can book a room. There are 18 rooms and some of them have sea views.
The location is very good if you're coming on foot, as you can get the Hovercraft or Wightlink catamaran to Ryde. Bear in mind that it's a pub as well as accommodation.
Ryde is a traditional bucket and spade town with a large sandy beach and plenty of attractions. It isn't as pretty or unspoilt as the West Wight or South Wight but it has better public transport than most of the Isle of Wight.
See our guide to days out in Ryde.
5. Spitbank Fort, In The Solent
We are beginning to stretch things a little as we reach the end of our top five castles and forts you can stay in on the Isle of Wight.
Spitbank Fort isn't actually on the Island, but it's in the Solent along with some other forts built to fend off the French. I would like to add that French visitors are now very welcome, as long as they can afford the nightly rate.
At the time of writing, you can't actually book to stay at Spitbank Fort. Hopefully that will change soon as it's a rather spectacular location.
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