Ventnor truly is the jewel in the Isle of Wight crown. Built upon steep slopes that run to the sea, this picturesque and paradisiacal setting lies towards the south east of the region. Home to some of history’s finest authors it lures thousands of tourists every year, visitors leaving with their own stories to tell.
Visiting Ventnor is essential for all destined for the island. Not only does The Royal Hotel stand proudly within its midst but a host of other attractions certain to capture the imagination. To point newcomers in the right direction, we have highlighted five favourites…
Steephill Cove might just be the Isle of Wight’s best kept secret. This owes much to its location, shielded at the foot of the Ventnor Undercliff and accessible only by foot. No normal tourist attraction, its isolation is its attraction.
It has been said that venturing into the cove is akin to being transported back in time. There is certainly no sign of the party lights that have come to define (or ruin depending on your position) modern beaches. Indeed arcades and burger vans are conspicuous by their absence as the area remains noise and pollution free.
The scenery itself is beautiful and unspoilt, tempting visitors into surrounding coastal walks. In between stints rock pooling and building sandcastles you may chart a course to the Needles, which can be reached with nothing but a handful of fishermen’s cottages along the route.
As for food, there is arguably no better exponent of fresh, local cuisine. Both the Boathouse Restaurant and Crab Shed serve up fish caught that same day, with the latter even presenting crab pasties weather (and water) permitting.
The prettiest place on the island, Steephill Cove is well worth visiting; if you can find it of course!
Not only does Ventnor benefit from stunning scenery but an unlikely microclimate that allows for the growth of subtropical plants. These are showcased within Botanical Gardens resembling a slice of heaven here on earth.
The site itself is nestled within the heart of the Undercliff and protected by chalk downs. Average rainfall is just 28 inches, creating an environment in-keeping with Casablanca or Costa Rica. No, really.
The Gardens were reimagined into a tourist attraction in 1970 and have been expanded to include a restaurant, café and gift shop in proceeding years.
More importantly however a Tropical House was unveiled in 1987, one designed to mirror the curvilinear conservatories of the Victorian era no less. Entrants are met with tropical heat and a pool containing 22 tonnes of heated water as well as a giant Amazonian Waterlily in summer months.
Before its rebirth in the 70s, these grounds actually played host to a chest and respiratory disease hospital. In a nod to tradition, a Wellbeing Experience has been introduced in its stead – complete with yoga classes, healing foods and yet more serene surroundings.
A trip to the Botanic Gardens is rewarding and reinvigorating.
Lower Winstone Farm has been dubbed a Forever Home for rescued or abandoned donkeys relocated to the Isle of Wight.
At last count some 97 resided at this celebrated sanctuary located between Shanklin and Ventnor. And to the delight of all-comers those numbers have been inflated in recent times by the arrival of some 26 ponies!
Visitors are welcomed to the farm to observe, walk or even adopt a donkey should they feel a kingship.
Led by a charity, the Sanctuary relies on the generosity of others. Staff are supported by 50 volunteers, while donations ensure its survival.
The farmland now doubles up as an education centre, providing learning and training for children who leave as experts in all things Equus asinus.
Ventnor Bay is a Mediterranean snapshot right here on the Isle of Wight. Its peaceful seas and golden sands are complimented by a breath-taking backdrop that comes courtesy of the watchful Undercliff.
Down below you will find red shingle and an array of vintage beach huts that truly resemble a throwback. Indeed these converted huts were once Victorian bathing machines; hire one to be transported back to another age.
The accompanying promenade is filled with amusements and eateries, including the Ventnor Haven Fishery revered for selling freshly caught crab and lobster. Elsewhere the new bandstand development is a viewing platform affording panoramic as far as the eye can see.
In the summer months Ventnor Bay has no equal, be sure to grab a beach towel and soak up more than just the sun.
Finally we introduce Bonchurch Village, one of the oldest settlements on the Isle of Wight.
East of Ventnor, it was developed on the side of St. Boniface Down. which just so happens to be the highest point of the island.
Quaint and quiet, you can wander its narrow streets and marvel at stone cottages and houses in-keeping with Victorian tradition
The likes of Charles Dickens, John Keats and Anna Sewell all lived here at one time and you can smell the history.
Attractions include the Old Church, which certainly lives up to its name given it was one of the first built in the region, and the delightful Pond Café where drinks can be enjoyed whilst looking out at the restful river complete with its many ducks and swans.
A morning or afternoon well spent, you’ll be glad you dropped into Bonchurch.
Given our vantage point you would be forgiven for thinking we have a vested interest in promoting Ventnor. One trip to the area however and you’ll quickly realise its appeal.
A seaside resort which has come a long way since its Victorian heritage without ever forgetting it, Ventnor remains one of the Isle of Wight’s premier attractions. Housing just 6,000 residents it has become a home-from-home for tourists who return annually. It’s easy to see why.