Isle of Wight
Situated in the Solent merely half an hour from Britain's south coast, the Isle of Wight, though much smaller than Greater London, it nevertheless boasts diverse scenery and environment. Although inhabited in pre-historic times, the Isle of Wight, until the arrival of the Normans, not surprisingly was somewhat removed from British history. A few Roman villas were built on the island such as the one at Newport. Evidence of Saxon settlement from the 5 th century is also present in the form of two commentaries at Bowcombe and Chessell. The Normans left more significant marks on the island, most notably Carisbrooke Castle, Quarr Abbey and a number of churches scattered around the island. King Henry VIII strengthened the island's fortifications at Yarmouth, Cowes and Sandown Bay, of which only Yarmouth Castle remains. Further improvements of the island's defences were made by the Victorians during the 19 th century at Culver Down, Puckpool and Sandown.
Although some of the island's main towns notably Newtown, Yarmouth and Newport originated in the early medieval period, it was not until the Victorians, including Queen Victoria herself, discovered the island as a vacation centre that the Isle of Wight developed a major tourist industry. With its numerous attractions, both natural and man made, it is not surprising that the Victorians took to the island. Despite its small size, its different geological strata has produced a great variety of scenery and flora and fauna, from woodland such as the ancient hunting Parkhurst Forest used by William the Conqueror ( King William the I) in the 11 th century to the meadows of the downland, from the plant-life of the cliffs and chines, or steep-sided ravines, to the beaches of the north and their large variety of bird life.
Although the island's coastal attractions and its charming towns like Hyde, Cowes, Ventnor, Yarmouth, Shanklin and Sandown, offer much for the visitor to explore, the island's inland landscape, with its pretty traditional English villages and winding country lanes, especially aim to impress. The Isle of Wight caters for all tastes: beach lovers have miles of sandy beaches to lounge around on, walkers have over 500 miles of footpaths, those after a more lively atmosphere can venture into the hustle and bustle of the larger towns like Cowes and Newport, sailors may enjoy perfect conditions, especially if they happen to be in Cowes during the world famous Cowes week regatta and for those who want a taste of old England, few places are better.
With such diversity, the Isle of Wight offers the visitor a place to spend a lovely vacation.