A stress-free destination which ticks all the Wight boxes
The sun shines on the righteous, so the saying goes. Well, if it's true, we must have been very good because the moment the four of us set off for a July break on the Isle of Wight the rain that had plagued the whole country for weeks stopped.
If ever there was an advert for the great British holiday this was it. Bless England with sunshine and it's as good as anywhere in the world.
Our break started with an easy drive out through Salisbury and on to the pretty little port of Lymington at the foot of the New Forest for Wightlink's half-hour crossing from Lymington to Yarmouth. Driving on the Isle of Wight is a delight. The roads are uncrowded, stressless and interesting.
The little resort of Bembridge, our home for the week, is proud to claim to be the biggest village in Europe.
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It has a popular working harbour and an impressive new lifeboat station that keeps watch across a busy stretch of water used by all manner of craft. There's a small beach, which is safe for swimming and fair buzzing with dogs and their walkers.
We stayed at a lovely light and bright four-bedroom house, Seascape, one road back from the sea in Beach House Lane. Owners Penny and Barry clearly have an affinity with the sea – the whole house has a nautical theme. Penny is a talented artist and her paintings (mainly ocean scenes) and artworks (fish and boats skilfully crafted from driftwood) are everywhere. Barry has served his time on the water – a framed certificate thanks him for more than 30 years' service with the local lifeboat crew.
Seascape is cleverly designed with the main rooms – the lounge, well-equipped dining kitchen (with seating for 10) and two bedrooms (including the master) – all on the first floor. Terraces to the front and back of the house look over mature gardens – the latter proving a suntrap in the afternoon. The ground floor has another double and a twin bedroom and a laundry room.
Seascape was the ideal base to explore. And the island is compact – measuring 23 miles long by 13 miles wide – so you can get to know it quite well in a week.
One minute you can find yourself in a fabulously expensive, uber trendy area (perfect for the world's best sailors who flock here every year), the next you feel you have stepped back in time a couple of decades.
It has wild open spaces as well as a couple of "kiss me quick" seaside towns that some may find a tad "fish and chippy"…
Our first trip was to Blackgang Chine, a theme park perched on cliffs six miles from Ventnor on the southernmost tip of the island. Opened in 1843 and still run by the family of the founder, the rides will never challenge Alton Towers for thrills, but they are spot on for little ones. The gardens, the BBC's Coast exhibition and steam engine display here were excellent.
Osborne House in East Cowes, pictured above right, the former home of Queen Victoria, shouldn't be missed, especially if you bag a family ticket – two adults and up to three kids for £33.80.
Most of it is run-of-the-mill "old house, old paintings, old furniture", but it can come "alive" if you look and listen a bit harder to the guides.
Tourism really takes off at one of the island's finest natural attractions, Needles Park at Alum Bay. This place, where three distinctive chalk stacks mark the westerly tip of the island, attracts thousands every day.
It might be a coincidence, but everything seems to cost £4 – well, parking, pasties and a ride on the chairlift certainly did. And when you're paying £4 a go for four people it quickly adds up. If you have the nerve, do try the chairlift which whisks you down to the beach.
If you fancy a bit of sand with your sunshine, the island boasts no fewer than 13 award-winning beaches, including three Blue Flag winners.
And if you are more into the bright lights and restaurant scene, the island's main towns of Ryde, Newport, Cowes, Shanklin and Ventnor have plenty to offer.
Stephen White and family stayed at the four bedroom Seascape in Bembridge, Isle of Wight. Blue Chip Holidays manages more than 800 four- and five-star rated self-catering properties across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and the Isle of Wight.
Seascape can be booked from £699 for seven nights in low season. A week in August can be booked from £1,979. For bookings visit www.bluechipholidays.co.uk or call 0844 7044987.
He travelled with Wightlink (www.wightlink.co.uk, 0871 376 1000) on its Lymington–Yarmouth crossing. A day return for a car plus four travelling on economy tickets costs from £39. Wightlink's Wight World programme offers discounted packages including ferry crossings and entry tickets to some of the Isle of Wight's most popular attractions.
The company has also published a number of excellent free guides designed to help visitors get the most from their time on the island. They can be ordered from the Wightlink office or downloaded from its website.
Blackgang Chine: www.blackgangchine.com, 01983 730330. Osborne House: www.english-heritage.org.uk/ osbornehouse / 01983 200022. The Needles Park: www.theneedles.co.uk.