I received an email this week from a parent who was preparing for an Isle of Wight holiday with children aged nine, 14 and 18.
Florida was off the cards thanks to Covid, so plan B was a trip to the Isle of Wight. Needless to say, the pressure to compete with Florida was weighing on my mind.
The challenge is to find activities which are simultaneously interesting for a nine year old and an 18 year old that don't involve staring at a screen. I've had similar emails from other people before who are trying to occupy toddlers and teenagers at the same time. Do you just accept that one person in the party will be bored or find a middle ground that might please nobody?
We've written guides to days out for toddlers, junior school age children and teenagers but combining ages is more difficult. Fear not though, weary parents, it is not impossible.
Here are my suggestions of what I would with a nine, 14 and 18 year old on an Isle of Wight holiday.
I've crammed a lot in to each day, you might want to enjoy a slightly slower pace.
You can change the order of the days round to fit in with the weather, surf and tides.
Day One - Tapnell Farm Park, Isle of Wight Aqua park and Freshwater Bay
Day Two - Sandham Gardens, Dinosaur Isle, Wildheart Animal Sanctuary
Day Three - Alum Bay and Compton Bay
Day Four - Monkey Haven, Cineworld and Go Karting (ideal for a grey day)
Day Five - Watersports at St Helen's or Dunroamin
Day Six - Amusements and Minigolf in Shanklin, Treasure Trail in Ventnor
Some other options
There are a few big name attractions missing from our itinerary and you may well find that they do the job nicely for your family.
Some of the bigger Isle of Wight attractions that I haven't mentioned include:
A few months ago, the Isle of Wight got a big heap of attention thanks to it being declared as a ‘tier one’ location for Covid restrictions. The Sun featured the Isle of Wight on the front page and headline writers tried to think of puns involving the word ‘Wight’.
The issue was then discussed on Mock The Week which led to this amusing interjection from comedian Rhys James
“What’s the point of being in tier one on the Isle of Wight? I mean, it’s still the Isle of Wight. What are you going to do with your freedom? Pop to the local well and wish you were in London?"
I’m aware that December 2020 now feels like forever ago, but I felt it was my duty to offer a belated reply (plus, I only got round to watching it last night whilst lying on the floor and waiting for child two to go to sleep).
So, for Rhys James, here are my suggestions of five reasons why the Isle of Wight is a nicer place for a holiday than London:
1. The Isle of Wight is sunnier than London
Despite only being a couple of hours away, the Isle of Wight gets a whopping 500 hours a year more sunshine than London. And that’s not a stat from the tourist board calculated by moving a decimal place and looking at data for 1956. That’s actual data covering 30 years of sunshine hours from the Met Office. Shanklin averaged 1923 hours of sunshine per year whilst London only managed 1410 hours.
That’s an average of nearly 90 minutes of extra sunshine every day, meaning you could sit out on your balcony and watch the entirety of The Little Mermaid in the sunshine in Shanklin rather than watching it in the grey of Greenwich.
Plus, when you’re in London the sunsets are frequently obscured by vast glass buildings which once housed office workers and now gather dust because everyone is working from home.
And of course, most people in London spend at least an hour of their day underground.
2. The Isle of Wight has better beaches than London
By my count, there are about 25 beaches on the Isle of Wight which are worth a visit. If you’re staying in the middle of the Island, that gives you about 25 beaches within 25 minutes. (Note to self: suggest this as a future marketing slogan for Visit Isle of Wight).
You can bodyboard in Shanklin, surf at Compton Bay, paddleboard at Colwell, swim at Sandown, go crabbing in Bembridge, fly a kite in Ryde, kitesurf at Brook, let it all hang out at Blackgang (the beach, not the theme park please), kayak at St Helens, explore caves in Freshwater, watch yachts in Cowes, ride a chairlift at Alum Bay, strum an acoustic guitar and cry about an ex-girlfriend at Binnel Bay, lick an ice cream in Ventnor or walk the dog at Player’s Beach.
Meanwhile, London has got the Thames Estuary which has all the seaside appeal of a puddle. It’s fine if you’re Peppa Pig, it’s less of a pleasant day out for the rest of us.
3. People dance to mariachi bands on the Isle of WIght
As we all know, sweeping generalisations are always wrong.
However, we have all observed the misery of the London commuter. Face down, phone in hand, avoiding eye contact as if every other passenger is a mugger.
On one occasion when I was on the tube, a five piece mariachi band walked along the carriage playing El Jarabe Tapatio in the hope of raising a few pennies to pay for their vastly expensive rent.
The miserable commuters didn’t even look up. For a mariachi band!
I admit it’s a slightly different vibe on the tube at weekends, but still...
Contrast that with a mariachi band I saw perform at Appley Beach a couple of years ago (Vote Pedro) which featured a man in his 70s/80s shaking a musical pineapple whilst the rest of the band rattled out mariachi versions of Seven Nation Army and Another Brick In The Wall. A conga line started, the sun shone, we all applauded, I even danced a little.
4. There's more space on the Isle of Wight
Last summer, we decided it would be wiser and more relaxing to visit places on the Isle of Wight without many people. Covid rates were low but I find it more relaxing when Mrs Guru isn’t saying “they’re getting a bit close” every thirty seconds.
Keeping our distance proved remarkably easy.
On more than one occasion we found ourselves all alone on a glorious beach in the sunshine in the middle of the day in August. That was despite the Isle of Wight being much busier than usual. The reason is that the Island has such a choice of beaches and green space that it isn’t a case that everyone piles to the same green space when the sun comes out.
London’s parks are lovely, but they certainly aren’t places to avoid people on a sunny day.
5. Islanders aren’t as backwards as you might think
Alright, so a few Isle of Wight residents may still take a trip to the village wishing well on a daily basis but I would argue that this has become much less popular in recent years.
And reports of witch trials and pitchfork mobs are at an all time low according to the Office of National Statistics (2011 Census Data).
In fact, the Isle of Wight has a pretty good choice of cultural things to do. OK, so the Quay Arts Centre isn’t quite on the same scale as the Tate Modern and Brighstone Museum isn’t on the same scale as the British Museum. But then again, Brighstone Museum doesn’t receive millions of pounds from an oil company (as far as I’m aware – Brighstone residents feel free to correct me).
There are plenty of award-winning places to eat on the Isle of Wight for the discerning diner, including several which feature in the Michelin Guide. That’s not the same as a Michelin star, but it’s still impressive.
I can’t guarantee that everything on the Isle of Wight is cheaper than London, but as a general rule you will feel less like you’ve had your current account raided after ordering a drink on the Isle of Wight.
There are festivals too – such as Ventnor Fringe or the Isle of Wight Festival. I'm not going to argue that the Isle of Wight has a richer history than London, but there's plenty to keep you entertained – Osborne gives any of London’s stately homes a run for its money (and it’s got a beach) and Carisbrooke Castle has spectacular views from the top of the keep. Then there's the seaside views from Yarmouth Castle, the gardens of Mottistone Manor, the dinosaur bones of the West Wight, two lighthouses, four piers, a 17th century windmill and several seaside forts.
Anyway, I'd better go and make a start on my guide to 'five of the best wells of the Isle of Wight'.
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