English Heritage flagship property, Osborne, on the Isle of Wight, will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria (and Albert) in 2019. The Victorian era brought with it a golden age to the Island, as writers, poets, artists and some of the earliest holiday makers followed in the footsteps of Victoria & Albert, who created their famous summer home on the Isle of Wight. Pioneer Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron lived at Dimbola Lodge in Freshwater; while poet Alfred Lord Tennyson set up home at nearby Farringford – a property which has only recently reopened to the public following major restoration, and now welcomes visitors on pre-booked tours of the house, and into the estate’s gardens. The Isle of Wight is one of the locations used for the filming of ITV’s Victoria; and has also provided the backdrop for the movies Mrs Brown and Victoria & Abdul. Osborne itself will mark the bicentenary with a new display and trail at the couple’s seaside home. Whenever possible the Royal couple spent their Birthdays at Osborne. The bicentenary display will take inspiration from the gifts Victoria and Albert received and exchanged; and from Spring 2019, a new trail will guide visitors through this unique collection – around the house and out into the garden and estate.
A new 10-bedroom hotel could appear in Ventnor as early as Summer 2019. The group behind the luxury boutique Hambrough Hotel is creating an entirely new and separate hotel, which will be located behind the Hambrough. With an informal entrance from the street, the new hotel will feature a deli bar as well as a small kitchen in each room; but guests can choose to have breakfast in the Hambrough Hotel. Room rates are expected to start from £130 per night.
The annual Isle of Wight Walking Festival, sponsored by Warner Leisure Hotels, will take place on the Island for the 21st time from May 4 to May 19 in 2019. One of the most popular festivals of its kind in Europe, it draws on 60-miles of dramatic Heritage Coastline and more than 500-miles of well-maintained and signposted footpaths.
The 2019 Ventnor Fringe – scheduled to take place this year between July 23 and 28 – will also mark its tenth anniversary. The Ventnor Fringe is growing in status as one of the UK’s popular fringe festivals, and its new dates make it the perfect place to catch Edinburgh previews. The multi-venue festival features over 400 emerging artists from across the UK and beyond each year, and is the Island’s only urban Festival – with its own vibe, and energy – and is based in venues which include churches, old halls, basements, warehouses, laundrettes, barber shops and even some of the local’s front rooms. The Fringe HQ – Ventnor Exchange – is itself a dynamic creative hub, combining a craft beer bar and record store open year-round. “I can’t think of anywhere else on a scale as small as Ventnor where so much is happening,” says spokesman Jack Whitewood. “It can all appear a little weird, and very quirky. But eventually world-class talent will be ‘made’ here. Ventnor was originally built as a health spa town – and the Fringe is a modern take on that. The environment influences what we do. This is authentic. It’s not a made-up attraction. And what we’re saying is that the Ventnor Fringe is the way to discover the Island’s blossoming cultural scene.”
What’s “the best kept secret on the Isle of Wight”? It would be interesting to see just how many hidden gems there are left to be unearthed on an Island that has been a hub of UK tourism ever since Queen Victoria first planted her summer home, Osborne House, there in 1845. But here’s one to consider…Dimbola Lodge. The one-time home of pioneering Victorian photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, Dimbola Museum & Galleries has – for the past 25 years – established a reputation as a place of pilgrimage for photographers of all standards, and also houses a permanent display focusing on the world-famous Isle of Wight Festival. A full calendar of special events, exhibitions, activities and courses are being planned to mark the 25th anniversary in 2019.
At the cost of £½m “Dino Islands: A Golf Adventure” will become latest large-scale development for Sandham Gardens, on the Isle of Wight when it opens for business in 2019. The new golfing attraction, which takes players on a prehistoric adventure into a land of dinosaurs, will be open by Easter. The multi-level course includes a number of water features, alongside life-sized Dinosaurs. The family-friendly, 18-hole experience, suitable for all ages, will also include obstacles ranging from volcanoes, to waterfalls. The new attraction is the brainchild of Heritage Attractions Ltd, which owns The Needles: Landmark Attraction. Future plans for Sandham Gardens include a Sky Trail, electric karts, enhanced catering and beach huts.
Priory Bay is currently undergoing an extensive redevelopment programme. Set within an historic 60-acre estate on the sandy shores of the Isle of Wight, Priory Bay was – until recently – a luxury hotel favoured by discerning holiday makers. The all-new resort is expected to open in 2019 and the hotel, outbuildings and grounds are currently undergoing a sensitive restoration. Once complete, the private beach, swimming pool and luxurious accommodation will be served by an exclusive bar and restaurant. The gardens at Priory Bay were designed by notable Arts and Crafts movement pioneer, Gertrude Jekyll and were visited by Queen Victoria.
A new Slow Travel Guide, scheduled for launch in March 2019, will create a collection of eight routes around the Isle of Wight that can be explored by a combination of bus, walking and bicycle. The routes will be available online and feature food and drink, farm shops, artists and craftspeople as well as places of interest – including some lesser-known rural gems. The guide will be available via Google Maps and a website. With the emphasis on really exploring the Isle of Wight and getting a feel for island life, the Slow Travel Guide will offer practical travel information on how to explore the Island without a car. Visitors will be able to access the routes at any point along the way; they may cover the route in a day; or may choose to take a couple of days to experience everything the local area has to offer. The intention is to pull visitors into the pace of island living, and encourage them to choose authentic local experiences.