Sunday 26 December 2010

Isle of Wight Festival Calendar 2011

If you're thinking about coming on holiday to the Isle of Wight, we thought a round up of 2011's festival events might be useful, if you're helping to set your calendars, so here's a round-up of some of the highlights!

The Isle of Wight Walking Festival kicks off May 7th-22nd. Our properties are an ideal base, with footpaths very close to all of them. Bring your hiking boots and stride out on the feature walks in this festival in 2011.

Sailing into the nearest town to our properties is the Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival on 3-5th June, providing a fantastic spectacle of these gracious boats cruising and racing out of Yarmouth, with great viewing along the seafront and from Yarmouth Pier.

The Isle of Wight Festival takes place 10-12th June and the line up is looking particularly fine this year, with Kings of Leon, Pulp, Foo Fighters and Kasabian breathing a new generation of life into the 'legends' theme.

Hot on the heels of the Old Gaffers is the Round the Island Sailing Race on 25th June. If you've never seen a flotilla of thousands of sailing boats racing around the world-famous Needles it is not to be missed! Some fantastic viewing locations are only a few minutes from our houses.

2011 is a very special year for the Isle of Wight - we're hosting the NatWest Island Games 25 June - 2nd July. People from Islands all around the world will converge on the Isle of Wight to take part in a wide range of events, held at numerous venues. Whether you want to spectate, or you're involved, you can find great facilities on Wightstay for this event.

The Rhythm Tree World Music Festival at Calbourne Water Mill returns 22-24th July. If you don't fancy camping and aren't so good with teepees Wightstay has accommodation available close to this jolly, small festival.

Cowes Week storms on to the Island 6-13th August, bringing with it a huge range of events and activities, in addition to the sailing. After some stunning action in 2010, the Extreme 40 racing series has just last week confirmed it will be back in Cowes in 2011 for the UK round. It really is sailing's Formula 1 racing series!

Foodies should make sure they get to the Garlic Festival 20-21st August. With all things garlic and an increasing range of other culinary delights it's an eating event not to be missed.

With acts including The Cure, Brian Wilson DJ Shadow and many others The Bestival is already hotting up to be a fantastic event.

The Isle of Wight International Classic Car Show takes place at Newport Quay on 17th September and Ryde's Eastern Gardens on September 18th, with proceeds going to different charities on either day.

This is followed up by the Sun Sea and Cycling festival 18-26th September. Many of the  properties on Wightstay are bike-friendly and provide easy access to the Isle of Wight's quiet roads and the great bridleway network - the most dense and well-maintained in the UK.

The 2011 season closes with the Autumn Walking Weekend 21-24th October, with a series of events already in place to suit a wide range of abilities.

Look out for updates from the Wightstay Team through 2011 about all of these events and more and if you're holding an event you'd like listed or covered, don't hesitate to get in contact with us!

Thursday 2 December 2010

Snow day on the Isle of Wight

For the second time this year the Isle of Wight has been hit hard with snow. It was starting to look like we might miss what the rest of country had been experiencing throughout the week, but overnight the white stuff fell constantly and we woke up this morning to a perfect blanket of snow. The pictures below were shot early this morning on a walk through Cowes. Shame it is a bit too early for Christmas, but at least there are a couple of snow laden Christmas trees on route.

Cowes Esplanade

Queens Road

Cowes Town Centre

The Union Inn

Christmas Tree outside The Vectis Tavern

Friday 26 November 2010

Celebrating Isle of Wight festivals 2010

While there's a lot of excitement about Tom Jones joining the Isle of Wight Festival this year we want to take a moment to celebrate (slightly late) a rather fine accolade recently given to Rob da Bank and his Bestival.  Last Friday the Bestival 2010 won Best Large Festival at the UK Festival Awards.

Photo of Rob receiving his award here.

Seeing as the Bestival has only been going since 2004 this really does represent a meteoric rise for Rob's Bestival.  One of our contributors was at the Bestival throughout this year, with his camera.  VentnorBlog recently featured his pictures here.

The graph shows just how the Bestival has had to scale since 2004 when 5000 people attended.  They've risen to the challenge with aplomb!  This year - the Year of the Fantastic - bands included The Prodigy, The Flaming lips, Dizzee Rascal, Rolf Harris, Gil Scott-Heron, Roxy Music, Marc Almond, Level 42, Echo & The Bunnymen, The XX, Howard Jones, Heaven 17, Chase & Status, Tinie Tempah, Rox, Simian Mobile Disco, Stornoway, Hot Chip, The Wailers, Lucky Elephant, Ellie Goulding, as well as the usual collection of Isle of Wight bands. 

These performers were spread over the main stage, the big top, the rock stage and the bandstand, as well as various other smaller performance areas. 

Some of our favourite pictures - possibly the most photographed fancy dress outfit at the event:

Wayne Coynes of The Flaming Lips whips everyone into a frenzy - 'she can be a helicopter' - cue everyone in the audience making helicopter noises and whirling their arms above their heads! Their set was like a carnival, with ticker tape poppers and huge exploding balloons filled with confetti thrown out over the crowd.

 LCD Soundsystem close the Big Top at 1AM on Monday morning with an amazing euphoric set (can you tell I'm a fan?)

We'll definitely be there again in 2011!

Thursday 14 October 2010

Dinosaurs and vintage buses this weekend!

This weekend at Dinosaur Isle there’s an exhibition of fossils, prehistoric finds and other ancient artefacts collected from the Isle of Wight and beyond.  The display will range from flint axe heads through dinosaur bones, down to the smallest of fossil insects.

You’ll be able to chat to palaeontologists, archaeologists, natural historians and collectors from Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Displays include those from the Natural History Museum, Gosport SEARCH and Portsmouth University.  If you go along you can also take part in activities run by the Isle of Wight Heritage Service.  Face painting will be available for children.  Weather permitting there will also be two guided fossil walks running at Shanklin and Yaverland beaches. 

What better way to spend Saturday with the kids?

The Isle of Wight Bus Museum provide the entertainment on Sunday, with their annual running day.  An amazing variety of vintage buses and coaches have homes on the Island and these will be bought together at Newport Quay on Sunday 17th October.  The day will include bus runs around Newport and a wide variety of vehicles, including pre-WWII buses and coaches.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Save Ventnor Botanic Garden

Ventnor Botanic Garden is currently local authority owned.  It is a much valued and loved local resource.  It also houses a significant and beautiful collection of plants.  The public future of the garden is currently in question, as the Isle of Wight's local authority reviews its spending plans and tries to find ways of spending money.

The visitor centre at Ventnor Botanic Garden
Vine walkway

Some of the Wightstay team spent last weekend at the garden, supporting the Hop Festival, which was a celebration of arts, crafts and local produce from the Island.  A beer produced from the garden's own hops was also launched at the event (hence the name).  We want to see this fantastic and beautiful resource stay in public hands for future generations to enjoy.

The Hop Festival 25-26th September 2010

There is a limited time public consultation.  If you feel the garden should remain in public ownership, please complete it here.

Resources like this are a fantastic place for all ages.  The Botanic Garden is a fantastic place to visit if you're visiting the Isle of Wight.

Thursday 2 September 2010

James May is invading!

Well, OK he's only talking about it, but it's great that he thinks the Isle of Wight is worth invading!

Excerpt from his new book here.

As noted in the comments the Isle of Wight is getting a Waitrose this winter.  At Wightstay this is something particularly exciting as the new Waitrose will be only a couple of hundred metres from our HQ.  As you can see it's getting tantalisingly close already:

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Brambles Cricket Match - The Solent

On Saturday 14th August 2010 the annual Brambles cricket match was played out in the Solent. Yes! in the Solent. At  a full or new moon as the first signs of a Autumn start to appear, for a brief spell a sandbank appears in the middle of the Solent and this, since the 1950's, has been put to good use; most recently by the Island Sailing Club and the Royal Southern Yacht Club. Early Saturday morning the teams sailed out to wait for the strip of sand to reveal itself. This years game was won by Island Sailing Club and in the short time the bank was above water, the two teams played out seven overs before returning to their vessels and heading back to shore.

For more information on the Annual Brambles Cricket match please take a look at these links below, and if you have access to the bank next year, why not go out, set up your deck-chair and enjoy a piece of British eccentricity at its very best.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Isle of Wight Cycling Festival and the 7 Hills Killer

Only weeks left now until the 2010 Isle of Wight Cycling Festival. This year the festivities run from 18th-26th September and as usual many rides and events are taking place; around 60 in fact, ranging from events just for kids to the now legendary Hills Killer.

Brook Down Descent
The Hills Killer consists of three options: 3 Hills Challenge - Chale Green Stores, Chale Green , 7 Hills Challenge - Apple Tree Cafe, Afton Park, Newport Road, Freshwater and the 14 Hills Challenge - Park Resorts, Landguard Holidays Camp Site, Landguard Road, Shanklin. All the rides finish at Landguard Holiday Camp in Shanklin.

You may notice in this blog that I switch between past and present tense to describe the route and that is because it was and still is very much as I describe it. I rode in the very early days, but it still remains very much the same. It may not be a known fact to many, but The Hills Killer actually dates back to the very early 1990's, and if I recall correctly 1993 was the first running. The very first 7 Hills Killer as it was known then was run in exactly the same format, following orienteering points stretching from Freshwater Bay Car Park to the famous Offshore Sports in Shanklin. Sadly, although the Killer event still exists, Offshore Sports does not, but the shop and its co-owner Ian Williams (author of Cycling Wight and other related publications) can claim to be the legitimate founder of the event all those years ago. I know this because Ian is a good friend and I remember his boyish excitement when he gathered us all up on a club run and told us of his intention to run the event later that year. I rode all these early events for at least the first seven or eight years and worked in the bike shop at Offshore, I was also very active in Mountain Bike racing during those early boom years of the sport.

As mentioned, the format was just the same and the popularity - especially in those early years - was just as intense. At the time, it was the locals that rode the Hills, but it wasn't strange to see 60-70 riders out in the depths of January, ankle deep in mud, clad in Buffalo Cycling Fleeces (yes those nasty jackets that had a strap under the crotch) and Etto helmets, both classic icons of early 90's Retro Mountain Biking. The bikes too were about as retro as you could get, suspension was in its very early years and disc brakes were a thing of the future. None of that put us off though, and every January, Ian would venture out on the trails with his wife Jill, with a bag of markers, ride the whole route and place the checkpoints at fairly obvious locations so that we could all just get on with the ride without spending too much time searching for hidden markers (this element of hiding did go through some varying changes over the years, to the annoyance of several riders, including myself).

The Seven Hills Killer often turned into a  bit of a race, unofficial, but such was the intensity of competition that some of us just couldn't help it. The likes of myself and other MTB race regulars Simon White, Damon Stanley, Will Steward, 90's Master female National Champion Fiona Ecclestone and a clutch of other very fit riders and friends such as the sadly missed Mark Rann (a winner of the event and namesake of the original trophy) and Paul McDermott, who has a ride at this years Festival in his memory. We all knew the best route, where the markers were and what the conditions would be like, so the event became finely tuned over  a number of years.

After the very first event, lessons were learnt, like placing a marker at top of Freshwater Golf Course, not at the bottom of Brook down near the road, where surprisingly only one rider sussed that it would be quicker to go round the Down on the road rather than over it - then promptly got the quickest time!!! By year two, the obvious course was set and competition hotted up. I can't really remember all the facts now, or finishing positions/times, but I know one thing for sure, pretty much each year there was a different winner, such was the unpredictability of the terrain. I think I may have won it twice and I'm pretty sure that I got the quickest time ever 1hour 57mins (until they changed the start finish points in the last ten years) on a freak day in January where conditions where perfect!! No mud, although I seem to remember the trails were totally frozen and three of us finished a ways ahead of the rest with all markers visited and punched within a few minutes of one another; the closest ever I reckon... A few reading this will complain that it is not a race and they'd be right - it isn't a race, but we all knew that getting the quickest time or beating your mates was the appeal. Maybe that's a racers mentality, but this event was the most popular for a reason, and we had many conventional MTB orienterring events on the Island throughout the year.

Freshwater Golf Course Bridleway
That was the old route though, and we had refined it, the whole way sticking to rules and law about riding only on Bridleways and Byways (that's important to remember, even now ;0). There were choices concerning which way to go to get to markers, but we all knew the tricks. Always starting from Freshwater Bay we would sprint up the road to the Golf Club car park/bridleway, shoot through  the car park and onto the chalk trail. This cut out the sapping grass option before the club house before eventually meeting with the chalk track further up, leading up over the main bridleway. The first marker was always on the gate at the end of the Golf Course, and we'd all fumble with thick gloves and/or cold fingers for the hole stamp card we used back then to clip the point and prove we'd been at the checkpoint. The problem was getting these cards out of your pocket, always requiring glove removal. It was pointless shoving them down your top as the sweat would make the card all soggy. This, over the following years, led to some ingenious devices and inventions that meant access the punch card was much easier. Unfortunately some of these devices were pretty nasty and could only be described as only just short of medieval weaponry. The worst I saw was a lump of sharp aluminium zip-tied to the handlebars, just to hold a map and the punch card. I just put mine in a  plastic bag and hung it round my neck.

Chalk Trail on Brook Down
Stopping was what got me, I hated it, and to be honest even now I shy away from such events because of that one aspect. But The Seven Hills had an addictive charm and still does, and this was always enhanced by the stunning views and scenery that you see once the top of Brook Down is reached. Even now, having ridden that trail hundreds of times, it is still awe-inspiring and great to know that this beautiful part of England is on my doorstep.

You'll go up this at Brook Down if you do the 14
A quick descent down the Chalk to the first road crossing and onto Brighstone Down, up another big climb over the top and a fast descent into Strawberry Lane car park. I think there may have been another checkpoint somewhere on that leg, but I can't really remember. Still, this was the only way to go, so marker or not, we all took this route and even in the worst conditions this section was always quite quick as the water just rolled down the sides of the down into the valley. Across the road then onto the climb up Limerstone down over the loose stones, rocks and chalk to another marker, quick punch of the card and then another descent, scaring lots of sheep, to the top of Shorwell Shute.

Best Views of the Island, top of Brighstone Down
It was at this point (after three hills and a few smaller lumps) that things would get very difficult, the mud from now on takes on a different consistency: sticky, smelly and gritty. I can't really say where today's Hills Killer goes from here because I've not ridden it for a while, mainly because of clashes with Cyclo-Cross events on the mainland, but I'm pretty sure one of two ways is still used to get to the top of Chillerton Down where I think another marker is normally placed. The first choice was to go straight across the road at the top of Shorwell Shute, up the trail and past Lorden Copse. This was and still is nasty in winter; fast in dry or frozen conditions but muddy, wet and slow in rainy, mild weather, often requiring dismounting and running for most but the fittest. The point at which this trail meets with the byway going to Chillerton mast is the same point at which you can reach from choice two at the top of Shorwell. Longer but a lot quicker, it was easier to drop down the shute to the left going in a Carisbrooke direction and take a right turn up the byway, still on tarmac (although rough) and to the same point that the Lorden Copse trails ends up. Masses of time and effort can be saved here.

Following the descent to the Chillerton road after peaking Chillerton Down, it was then a case of a large section of road to get to Chale Green. There is an option to cut cross country but it was avoided at all costs, again, winter trails made this almost impassable without walking through thick mud, and at this point a heavy mud laden Mountain Bike. So, we all headed for Chale Green. The next checkpoint was Hoys Monument and this threw up several route options and was possibly the most argued section of the Seven Hills.

It was possible to go pretty much straight up, through Gotten Farm, following the steep bridleway to Hoy but again, this was just too heavy going, requiring running and walking. It was shorter though so many took this option. Myself and a few others would take the risk of heading out on a longer route on the road towards Godshill then doing a right turn to the Hermitage and a road climb almost to the top. The legal use of the bridleway meant doing a field section, which is never very nice, but once through the field it was up the gully and to the top where Hoy's Monument stands. A  longer route, but I still maintain, quicker, easier, much less muddy and psychologically sound.

From the monument it is a flat trail (still  muddy) across the ridge to the kick up to the Pepper Pot on St Catherine's Down. Fortunately, cresting the Pepper Pot was never required, but possibly the worse part of the entire route - in my opinion - was the flat, ankle deep muddy trail leading to Crocker Lane. Massive puddles, sticky mud and grass banked sides that looked rideable but often weren't. This hell-hole always required dismounting, running and tripping over in deep puddles and grassy tufts, cyclo-cross style for nearly a kilometre, at a point where tiredness was starting to creep in. After this though was a tarmac descent and then some more tarmac respite down King Gates Lane, Kemming Road and onto Ventnor Road to decide how best to get up onto Ventnor Down for the next marker.

Again, there are a few options and most included steep, unrideable muddy trails. A lot of us chose again to go slightly out of the way and take Weeks Lane off the Whitwell Road through Weeks Farm, past the Yappy dog that would always chase you into a cow holding pen, often full of cows, and after a fight through the Bovine masses it was then possible to traverse the field across a not so steep bridleway (but still not always rideable) to the next marker atop Ventnor. From here it was down past Ventnor Golf Course, down the fast decent, left turn, bit more trail and out onto the road at Upper Ventnor - the start of the hardest part of the whole ride, and ironically, this was all on road climbing Down Lane, possibly the hardest and steepest climb on the Island, to the very top of Ventnor Down.

Once at the top, after too long hearing your heart beating in your ears and black spots clouding your eyes,  it's as good as downhill all the way to the finish, but once across the ridge, the descent gets progressively trickier as the foot slopes are reached and the mud comes back with a vengeance. Depending on where the markers are and where the finish was, the event sometimes meant a final flurry through America Wood. Great singletrack, but a lot of mud, and at this stage any kind of technicality on tired arms, aching backs and dead legs proved just a little too much, and the finish could never come quick enough.

The Hills Killer isn't a race and that is highly emphasised, but it is hard not to feel a little competitive in a timed event, and back in the day there were several of us all vying to get the fastest time, if not the record time and since those early days, the event has gone through a lot of changes. Different starts, different finishes, markers in random and sometimes hidden places, different organisers but always attracting the stalwarts and the first timers. Since its inception, the 14 Hills is now proving popular amongst the endurance riders and the 3 Hills is appealing to beginners and those just wanting a quick-ish' ride. Whatever the appeal though, the event attracts, in the main,  people doing it for fun and people doing it for competition, that's human nature, but makes the event quite unique against standard format MTB orienteering.

The route I have described above is by no means a comprehensive guide to the Seven Hills, but it does cover the actual seven hills used, so it will vary depending on where the organiser places the markers. I may even have a go myself this year to see how much it has changed, and maybe get some photos to re-blog, but to be honest, once I get my competition head on, I will find it difficult to ride casually, so don't hold your breath.

~ Sean W

(pics copyright Netguides/Sean Williams.)
Pictures are from parts of the route but not from the event itself and not always in the right direction - unless you do the 14 hills. If you are lucky, the same conditions may be present  for the 2010 festival - give or take a bit of mud and sun. I hope you don't have the conditions I describe in the blog!!)

Thursday 5 August 2010

Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight

It's Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight 2010 (1st - 7th August)

This fantastic event has the town alive with people wearing everything from shorts and t-shirts through ball gowns to Micheal Jackson outfits and everything in between.

During the day the sea is full of all manner of boats, racing, carrying people and even selling burgers.

This year is the debut for high octane racing from the Extreme 40 catamarans. Each afternoon through Cowes week this high octane racing series is taking place just meters from the shore, off Egypt Point. Check out this exciting video from Tuesday where Groupama is left with no steerage (or Crew who jump ship) after a collision and heads straight for the sea wall.

Find out more about the racing and the social events around it at the Series website.

By night the town is one long party.

This year the Cowes Yacht Haven is free to enter except on Friday (fireworks night). There is a large stage with live performances from 4pm every day, a very large beer tent along with a selection of retail tents and a wide choice of food, including paella, noodles, burgers, waffles, pancakes, cakes etc.

On the Parade is the 'Sail for Gold' bar and stage and a variety of retail outlets and food stalls.
Try a bit of Liz Earle (Island based cosmetics company) pampering and check out the 'Lonesome Valley Boys' playing from 7pm on Thursday - Excellent band - I'll be there!

Friday is Firework Night, and one long party - have fun.

For more information and full details of whats on see

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Britain by Bike - The Isle of Wight, on BBC Four

Tonight at 20.30 on BBC4, presenter Clare Balding visits the Isle of Wight on her Dawes Super Galaxy touring bicycle and examines how the Island helped to cure Dickens's writer's block and how it dealt with Luftwaffe attacks during the Second World War.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

WightStay crew on the Round the Island Yacht Race

Saturday mornings are usually relaxed affairs for the WightStay team, but not this week.

The alarm went off at 04.30 and by 5am we were on our way to Cowes Yacht Haven to compete in the world-famous Round the Island Yacht Race organised by the Island Sailing Club.

As we went along the sea front we saw the first of the 1754 yachts already starting with the huge J Class Velsheda an amazing site with her large spinnaker as she sped away to the west.

We were one of the last classes to start at a fairly relaxed 06.40.  With the favourable North-East breeze we soon had the spinnaker up and were on our way to the first turning point, the famous Needles rocks at the western end of the Isle of Wight.

On the run down the Western Solent we passed another of our WightStay team, filming the event:

We rounded the Needles at 08.00 and dropped into the wind shadow of the huge cliffs. You could see the gusts of wind as they made little groups of yachts heel and rush forward, only to stop again as the gust disappeared. Eventually we got clear of the cliffs and headed across Compton Bay past Atherfield Ledge to our next turning point of St Catherine's Point at the south end of the island, which we reached at 10.00.

From St Catherine's Point we were heading into the wind and we had to tack across Sandown Bay to the next turning point at Bembridge Ledge Buoy, which we reached at 12.25. Then it was inshore against the tide past Bembridge Harbour, Seaview (taking care to go round the exclusion zone marking the remains of the old pier) then past the notorious Ryde Sands which were being well-guarded by the Ryde Inshore Lifeboat.

Starboard tack from Ryde to the finish, going into Osborne Bay to get out of the adverse tide. Then trying to identify the finishing line hidden by a mass of yachts. We had to go through the South line which we crossed at 14.38. Eight hours and eighteen minutes for the 60 mile course.

Then into the marina for a cold beer and to see the results – we were 150th out of 820 finishers in the ISC Rated classes. In the top 20% - very satisfactory, but we know we could have done some things better – could we have won our group? We were 6th out of 44, only 10 minutes behind the group winner.
As we relaxed at home admiring the superb sunset and reflecting on the events of the day we thought how great it must feel to win this famous race. Maybe next year?

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Flying Pink at the Isle of Wight Festival

It was one of our intrepid festival-goers who shot this amazing footage of Pink in action during the Isle of Wight Festival:

That's some amazing aerobatics.  Can anyone top it for great festival footage?

Thursday 20 May 2010

Summer Madness 2010 29th August - a mini-festival!

 This will be the second year this event has been held at Carisbrooke Castle.  Last year it was headlined by - guess who - yes, Madness.  This year the Modfather comes to the Isle of Wight to headline the event.  The line up for this mini-festival includes:

Paul Weller
Brand New Heavies
Imelda May
The Bees
Twisted Wheel
The Chords

and today The Coral have been confirmed.

At £40 for this one day mini-festival it looks to be excellent value and a great family day out.

Tickets are available at See Tickets now.  Click here to buy.

We'll see you there!

Friday 14 May 2010

We're suckers for a sunset!

Took a walk along Cowes seafront last night.  This takes you past Egypt Point, which is a waypoint for sailors and also an excellent vantage point for the Round the Island Race, which takes place on June 19th this year.

We used the last of the light to capture a couple of photos from Egypt Point.  Hope you enjoy them!

Friday 7 May 2010

A walk on Yarmouth's wild side

Lovely weather means more walks on the Isle of Wight.

We went out for a walk in Wight Nature Fund's Mill Copse, just outside of Yarmouth. Here's the location, which isn't available on Streetview as it's nowhere near a street!

View Larger Map

This mixed, ancient woodland is just outside of the harbour town, off the fantastic cycle-track that runs between Yarmouth and Freshwater.

The bluebells in the copse were almost at an end, but they were still providing a good carpet in some areas, off the lovely airy rides.

We walked up from the main entrance, to the top of the copse and then round to the right.

The main ride into the forest has a superb lining of mature conifers to the right of it.  If my sources are right, this is a Coast Redwood, which has a lot more growing to do yet!

This is as well as the more common oaks and coppiced beach elsewhere in the wood.

On the way back around the perimeter of the copse we also spotted a public hide, which looks out over the marshland, where we could see Canada Geese, Curlews, Moorhens, Coots and Egrets.  If you fancy a bit of birding this is a lovely spot to sit quietly and observe the birds attracted to the brackish marshes:

After some time spent quietly we walked back into town and enjoyed a Minghella ice cream from Gossips Cafe at the pierhead.  A cracking way to spend an afternoon around Yarmouth.

Now we've got a tip off about another hide in Alvestone, where there are supposed to be a lot of Red Squirrels, so that's lined up Sunday afternoon's entertainment!

Friday 30 April 2010

Isle of Wight on Google Street View

Last summer the Google Street View car prowled Island Roads, spotted by keen eyed individuals speculation arose as to how long it'd be before we could see the Island in its full glory on the web. Well, its finally here. Below are a few locations we have found for your enjoyment.

Blackgang Chine

View Larger Map

Fort Victoria

View Larger Map

Needles Park

View Larger Map

Bembridge Harbour

View Larger Map

Military Erosion

This week has seen glorious weather on the Island, perfect for sitting on the beach, for walking and for cycling. Deciding on the latter, and being the WightStay expert on all things cycling on the Isle of Wight, it was time to break away from the lunchtime routine of a 20mile training session and take a more leisurely ride of around 40 or so miles and check out the damage done to the Military Road at Compton after a collapse of the cliff in recent weeks.

There is talk that the Military Road, running along the south-western edge of the Island, may soon become two giant cul-de-sacs after a massive piece of the coastline fell into the sea,  leaving the road dangerously close to the edge of the cliff  between Compton and Brook. There is a campaign to 'save the Military Road' on facebook for anyone interested. Cliff and coastline erosion isn't unusual on the 'Milly' and the cliff at Freshwater has already had extensive support work done to keep the road open in recent years. For now, the road - after this latest collapse - has been restricted to one lane, but another fall will surely see the road go completely.

This damage (coupled with bad pothole damage after the freeze and snow of January) has already caused the cancellation of the Vectis Cycling Clubs three day Time Trialling event and will surely mean September's Triathlon will have to be re-routed. All three stages of the Vectis event use the Military road, and a single lane, no matter how short, would cause havoc. Shame really, because the 3-day really is a classic event that has been running for many years.

Before checking out the damage though, a quick chill-out on Compton beach was in order. After all, it was beach weather.

Friday 23 April 2010

Everything's bursting into leaf

This is the time of year that the Isle of Wight really wakes up and loses the last traces of winter.  Trees are releasing their buds, with a riot of mottled greens breaking out across the deciduous woodland across the Isle of Wight.

It's only a short time before the Randonee, which we're limbering up for.  More details here.

This time of year is also a fantastic time to have a wander through Ventnor Botanic Gardens to enjoy the flowers that are now starting to bloom.

Check out our listings to find somewhere to stay when you come over to enjoy the Isle of Wight in the fine spring weather we're revelling in at the moment.

And remember Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel are completely unaffected by volcanic ash so there's no question of a volcano disrupting your holiday to the Isle of Wight!

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Early morning on the River Medina

It was a beautiful early morning, so we had a walk out with the camera.  Down to the River Medina, just before The Folly Inn, but on the west bank of the Medina.

A beautiful spring morning on the Isle of Wight.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Tuesday 9 March 2010

The Randonnee is getting ready for May!

We have a guest blog post this week, from Alan Rowe who is part of the Randonee organising committee.  The Randonee is the very well established round the Island bike ride. The word Randonnee is French for excursion and is used in the UK in cycling circles to describe circular rides.  The round the Island bike ride probably being the best example!

The Randonee takes place on 2nd May this year.

It's that time of year when Snowdrops peep out from the warming soil, likewise the Randonnee committee are beginning to 'awake' and set about the business of finalising this year’s event.

26 years since its debut, the Isle of Wight Randonee now attracts over 2,000 entrants from all over the country. The ride has become a 'classic' due to its free entry and informal nature, not to mention the pretty and varied scenery of the Island. This year we are streamlining the signing on process as we are expecting around 2,500 riders!

One of the joys of being on checkpoint duty is witnessing people’s personal achievements. For some, 100k is a mere morning’s ride.  Others finish with an exhilarated air clutching their hard won badges, knowing they have conquered their own Everest and vowing to return next year.

In the grey winter evenings, toiling over the nuts and bolts of putting the event together it is the thought of those happy faces that keeps you going. All we need on the 2nd of May 2010 is a bit of sunshine and a host of keen riders! We’re looking forward to seeing you there.


For complete information about the event, visit the website at

Friday 26 February 2010

Enchanted Manor wins big with TripAdvisor reviewers

Congratulations to the Enchanted Manor, which has been voted the 6th best B&B in Europe in TripAdvisor’s 2010 Travellers' Choice Awards.  It was described by one enthusiastic guest reviewing online as being ‘the most wonderfully enchanting escape from everyday stress’.  See the full set of TripAdvisor reviews here.

Other guests commented on the ‘beautiful suite, stunning location and very warm welcome.’  On making the hot list, Maggie Hilton, owner of the Enchanted Manor said, ‘we are so pleased to get such fantastic reviews on Tripadvisor.  We always endeavour to provide our guests with a unique personal service and a magical experience that they will treasure forever.  Our satisfaction is knowing that we have made our guests dreams come true and when they are happy we are happy.’

Find other B&Bs on the Isle of Wight on Wightstay here.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

What are dark skies?

The Isle of Wight has the most fantastic, inky black skies.  This is because of the low light pollution over our Island.  Find out more about Dark Skies here.  See the Campaign for Rural England's light pollution map here.

The Vectis Astronomical Society are holding their annual Star Party at Brighstone from March 11-15th.

Why not check Wightstay for self-catering accommodation in the West Wight for the event here.  Or you could look for camping and touring parks in the West Wight here.  If you fancy something a bit more luxurious we have a great list of hotels and B&Bs here

Come and join the star gazing at the Isle of Wight Star Party this March!

Friday 5 February 2010

Welcome to Coast & Country self-catering accommodation

Welcome to Jill and Steve Cowley, who offer premium self-catering accommodation in stunning rural Wellow.  All of the properties are within two miles of the harbour at Yarmouth, which has a great range of pubs and restaurants.

Their properties are Orchard Lee which sleeps up to 10, or can be divided into two units, sleeping six and four in either end.of the property.

Tudor Lee is a self-contained wing of the listed farmhouse, recently sensitively renovated.  It's a great hideaway for couples.

Their latest property Eastern Lee is a detatched chalet bungalow with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, with some aspects revealing as far as Yarmouth harbour

For information on these properties catch up at

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Love walking the Wight? Vote now!

We love the trails on the Isle of Wight.  Walking across West Wight downland is one of our very favourite things to do on the Island.  The Walking Festival is a great event, too.  We'll be on Walk the Wight for sure in 2010.

We spotted this poll and hoped you might join us in voting for the walk over Tennyson Down as your favourite walk in the South of England.  Get voting now here!

Friday 15 January 2010

Spin across the Solent, as recommend by the Sunday Times

The Isle of Wight has been featured by the Sunday Times Travel Section as one of the top 100 holiday destinations for 2010!

Not only is the Island in the top 100, it's at Number 5 in the top 10.

Well, of course we knew how great it was, but it's always nice when a broadsheet reminds us.

Full article here

It's also great to see one of Wightstay's accommodation providers get a mention, too so seeing Mersley Farm in the recommendation was good.  Full details about Mersley Farm on their site here.

Of course we don't just cycle on the Island in the summer.  Wightstay employees are still cycling to work every day even now.  Even in the winter the cycle rides outlined in the Isle of Wight Cycle Routes guidebook are great fun