View from Compton Chine to Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.
The Green Isle
Need an eco break? Hazel Sillver recommends hopping on a ferry and making your way to the Isle of Wight....
*Eco beach cabin – Highly recommended is The Beach Retreat in Thorness Bay, on the northern coast of the Isle of Wight. This snug eco-friendly beach hut is just a few metres from the sea and situated on a quiet lane at the end of a farm track. It has gorgeous views over the sea and the curving coastline. In summer, you can lounge on the veranda and watch the sunset over the water, and in winter, cosy up by the log burner with the provided stash of eco straw logs. Being solar and wind powered, the Beach Retreat is prone to eco-centricites, such as insufficient oomph to fuel mod cons (leave the hairdryer at home!) Despite that, everything is comfortable, clean and nicely furnished. There’s no TV, but the oven works! There is a double bed and a sofa bed for two; dogs are welcome and the cabin has an enclosed garden, where they can roam.
Other eco-accomodation on the island:
*The Shepherd's Hut – a secluded getaway for those who really want to go back to basics. There’s a wood burning stove, but no or electricity or plumbing.
*Isle of Wight Treehouse – a sylvan hideaway for wannabe elves, the treehouse loo is a composting toilet and wastewater runs into a reed bed in the woods.
*Really Green Yurts – this is my kind of camping... Luxurious yurts with wooden floors, log-burners, solar showers, compost toilets and (wow) four-poster beds!
*Calbourne Mill Eco Lodges – three cedar and larch lodges that boast geo-thermal underground heating and bio-bubble treatment for waste.
*Tom's Eco Camping Lodges – part tent, part cabin, each of the five lovely new ‘eco lodges’ at Tapnell Farm has a toilet, shower and bathroom. Dogs welcome.
*Gotten Manor – a gorgeous B&B (with the option of self-catering) that serves homemade, organic and local produce.
WHERE TO EAT
*The Chocolate Apothecary, Ryde – Sup soy lattes or vegan hot chocolate and gorge on gluten, dairy and egg free goodies in the Chocolate Apothecary cafe on Ryde Esplanade.
*The Orrery, Ryde – A vegetarian and vegan cafe in an ornate Grade II listed building that is covered in Alice in Wonderland murals.
*Brawns Tapas, Cowes – A charming tapas restaurant that serves a tasty selection of veggie dishes on vintage crockery, alongside a good wine list.
*Wateredge Beach Cafe, Gurnard – A good spot for a veggie breakfast or a hearty simple lunch (cheese omelette/egg and chips) with views over the ocean.
*Minghella's, Ryde - On a hot day, head here to gorge on delicious ice cream made with local milk and unrefined sugar and free from artificial ingredients. Flavours include Peanut Butter Bliss, Apple Crumble and Sicilian Lemon. Find it on the seafront, at the bottom of Union Street.
*Michelangelo's, Ryde – This new Italian cafe (adjacent to the existing restaurant on the seafront) is a great place for coffee. Shop for yummy artisan food (such as cheese, bread, biscuits and pasta) while you’re there.
*The Beach Hut, Bembridge – A lovely cafe on Forelands Beach with gluten free and veggie options, as well as a good seafood menu (made with local catches). They also do cream teas.
WHERE TO SHOP
*Rapanui Clothing – This Isle of Wight brand offers a range of casual clothing that is made with organic fabrics, in factories powered by wind and solar energy. The new Rapanui shop in Newport is also a lovely little cafe, selling the brand’s own organic, fairtrade coffee. They also have a shop in Sandown.
*Liz Earle – Heavenly skincare brand Liz Earle are based on the Isle of Wight and have just reopened their island store in Ryde. They use organic, fairly traded, sustainable ingredients wherever possible. Book into the store’s treatment rooms for a relaxing massage.
*Daisy Daisy – This shop in Godshill sells a range of fairly traded, hand-made and recycled gifts, such as toys, homeware and jewellery. Warning: Godshill can be horribly touristy, so go early or late in the day!
*Real Island Food Company – This company will deliver a box of locally-produced, organic produce to your self-catering cottage or campsite just before you arrive. They also have a farm shop, The Dairy Deli (01983 531557), in Shalfleet.
*Kings Manor Farm Shop – The shop on this organic farm offers essentials, such as fruit and veg, milk, bread, cheese, eggs and cakes. They also have a cafe serving breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas.
*Farmers Markets – Buy direct from the producers at the Friday farmers’ market in Newport (9-2) and the Saturday farmers’ market in Ryde (8:30-12:30).
WHAT TO DO
*Walk – If you like to walk (or run), you will be spoilt here. The Isle of Wight boasts gorgeous coastal paths and stunning downland. Some of the best spots to stroll include the downs above Mottistone (park in the NT car park), the clifftops around Tennyson Cross and Headon Warren (but avoid the touristy Needles Park like the Plague), the secluded Chillerton Down, the beautiful Ventnor Downs and the Isle of Wight coastal paths, which run for 67 miles (107 km).
*Go to Beach School – Friendly artist Gerry Price runs Beach School events for children on the sandy beach at Bembridge. Learn how the moon pulls the tides and create coastal art, such as feather boats and pebble mermaids.
*Drool at plants – Ventnor Botanic Garden has a fine display of exotic subtropical plants, the enchanting gorge Shanklin Chine is a green wonderland of winding paths, waterfalls, ivy and ferns and the traditional garden at Mottistone Manor has herbaceous borders, fruit trees and a new olive grove. All three welcome (sane) dogs welcome on leads.
*Spot red squirrels – Disappear into the woods in the hope of spotting a red squirrel or two. The Isle of Wight is one of the few places in the UK that has no grey squirrels, so the bushy tailed red thrives here. Look out for them in Parkhurst Forest, Borthwood Copse and the Mottistone Estate.
*Climb trees – Clamber into the treetops with the help of ropes and the instructors at Goodleaf Tree Climbing. When you reach the top, you can hang out in hammocks and gaze out to sea.
*Enjoy some peace – The peaceful air of Quarr Abbey near Ryde is well worth a visit. The intense silence and presence of the Abbey church is very moving and it’s hard not to be seduced by the French-Moorish architecture, the gardens and the cafe, which serves fairtrade tea and homemade cakes. There is also a farm shop selling the abbey’s own produce. Quarr is pronounced Cor (as in Blimey).
*Meditate - Let it all go at the Friday drop-in lunchtime meditation in Newport. The session is free (although donations are welcome), non-denominational and open to beginners, as well as seasoned meditators.
*Hit the beach – The island boasts 13 blue flag beaches, which are great for swimming, or you might prefer to head to one of the many secluded coves for a picnic; kids will love the rock pools around Bembridge, the sandy expanse at Shanklin and the watersports at Compton Bay. Both Totland Bay and Thorness Bay are great for sunsets.
*Wild Fitness breaks – The friendly bunch at Wild Fitness offer a hearty and sane approach to fitness that avoids the things most of us loathe about exercise (boring gyms, boring press-ups and army-style instruction). Instead their personal trainers lead fun play-fitness sessions on the beach and take you running along the beautiful Isle of Wight coastline. The 3-day courses are held at a lovely old manor house in the Downs, where you’re served delicious healthy food. Wild Fitness is easily the best company to teach you how to get fit in the natural environment - you can read more about what they do in this Ecologist article: Wild At Heart. Contact: wildfitness.com
*Walking or Cycling holidays: Wight Wanders offer various walking or cycling holidays on the island. For instance you can walk the costal paths from one hotel/B&B to another and the company will transport your luggage for you.
*Scuba diving: Aqua Diving School teach a variety of dive courses for children and adults in the island’s waters, including the PADI Open Water and the PADI Dive Master.
*Paragliding holidays: Butterfly Paragliding. Learn to paraglide amid the beautiful scenery of the Isle of Wight coastline. There is the option of staying at the company’s organic B&B or tipi campsite.
Ferries for cars and foot passengers go to and from the island all day. Once there, if you’re without a car, you can use the buses or hire a bike: Isle Cycle offer mountain bikes and tandems from Cowes and Sandown.
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