6 Best Sights in Isle of Wight, The South

Osborne House

Fodor's choice

This palazzo-style Italianate house, much of it designed by Prince Albert in collaboration with Thomas Cubitt, was the royal family's private retreat and Queen Victoria's favorite residence. The house reveals Albert's interest in engineering through clever innovations like an early form of central heating, as well as Victoria's determination to give her children a normal but disciplined upbringing. After Albert's death in 1861, the queen retreated to Osborne to mourn her loss in relative seclusion, and the antiques-filled rooms have scarcely been altered since she died here in 1901. The house and extensive grounds (also designed by Albert)—which can be quite crowded during July and August—were used as a location for the 2019 television series Victoria. From June to September, a minibus can take you to Victoria's private beach, now open to the public, where you can see her personal bathing machine. Another minibus goes to the Swiss Cottage, a replica Alpine chalet built as a playhouse for Victoria and Albert's nine children; there are also two playgrounds for young children on-site. Book ahead for guided tours of the house and gardens. Buses 4 (from Ryde) and 5 (from Cowes and Newport) stop outside.

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York Ave., Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6JX, England
sights Details
Rate Includes: £19, Closed weekdays Jan.–mid.-Feb. and Mon. and Tues. Nov.–Dec. and mid-Feb.–Mar.; Swiss Cottage closed Nov.–Mar.

Ventnor Botanic Garden

Fodor's choice

Laid out over 22 acres, these gardens contain more than 3,500 species of trees, plants, and shrubs. Thanks to a unique microclimate, subtropical flora from the Mediterranean, Antipodes, and South Africa flourish outdoors. The impressive greenhouse includes banana trees and a waterfall; a visitor center, with a gift shop that sells plants and seeds, puts the gardens into context. Admission includes a guided tour. You can also stay overnight on the grounds, either in a three-bedroom cottage, in one of two luxury cabins, or in a teepee (July and August only). All include admission and after-hours access to the gardens.

Alum Bay Glass

In addition to being famous for sailing and its connections to Queen Victoria, the Isle of Wight is also renowned for its glassmaking. Local craftspeople have given live demonstrations of glassblowing here since 1972. The perfume bottles, vases, bowls, doorknobs, ornaments, and other items they create are available for sale in the showroom.

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Brading Roman Villa

Housed within a striking wooden-walled, glass-roofed building one mile south of Brading are the remains of this substantial 3rd-century Roman villa, with original walls, splendid mosaic floors, and a well-preserved heating system. The mosaics, depicting peacocks (symbolizing eternal life), gods, gladiators, sea beasts, and reclining nymphs, are a rare example of this type of floor preserved in situ in a domestic building. A dedicated space hosts related temporary exhibitions, and there's also a café on-site.

Carisbrooke Castle

Built more than a thousand years ago, this Norman castle was remodeled extensively during the Middle Ages and surrounded by a mile of artillery fortifications in 1600 to defend against the threat of the Spanish Armada. During the English Civil War, Carisbrooke served as a prison for Royalists, most notably King Charles I, who tried (unsuccessfully) to escape through a still-visible tiny window in the north curtain wall. (The small museum has memorabilia relating to the imprisoned king.) The castle was restored during Victoria's reign and served as the residence of her daughter, Princess Beatrice, memorialized in a namesake Edwardian-style garden here. There are excellent views from the top of the Norman keep and battlements. Children love meeting the donkeys who still pull the wheel that draws water from the castle well along with the medieval joust recreations in August. The castle is about a mile southwest of the Isle of Wight's capital, Newport. From Cowes, take Bus 1 or 52 (1 from West Cowes, near Holmwood Hotel; 5 from East Cowes, near Osborne House) to Newport, from where it's a 30-minute walk or a short ride on Bus 6, 7, 12, or 38 to The Mall in Carisbrooke, ¼ mile away.

Castle Hill, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 1XY, England
sights Details
Rate Includes: £11.60, Closed weekdays Nov.–mid-Feb. and Mon. and Tues. late Feb.–Mar.

Dimbola Museum and Galleries

Freshwater Bay

This was the home of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79), the eminent Victorian portrait photographer and friend of Lord Tennyson. A gallery includes more than 60 examples of her work, including striking images of Carlyle, Tennyson, and Browning. In addition, there's much here that will appeal to fans of decorative textiles and wall coverings. There's also a room devoted to the various Isle of Wight rock festivals, most famously the five-day event in 1970 that featured the Who, the Doors, Joni Mitchell, and Jimi Hendrix. On the ground floor is a shop and a good Alice in Wonderland–themed tearoom for snacks, hot lunches, and a traditional cream tea.

Terrace La., Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, PO40 9QE, England
sights Details
Rate Includes: £5.45, Closed Mon. and Jan.