Dog-friendly Isle of Wight
Today I give you my whistle-stop tour and photo diary of the Isle of Wight as well as some dog-friendly recommendations. I recently visited this beautiful diamond shaped-isle. A mere stone throw from the south cost it ihomes around 140,000 people and is blessed with the most amount of sunlight in the UK. In short, the Isle of Wight gets a four legged-friendly thumbs up from us!
Totland Bay – our base for the weekend, an early morning walk and we had this whole stretch of beach to ourselves. I felt like I was adventuring on Kirrin Island, the Famous Five’s version of Treasure Island. Totally deserted just a rusting anchor covered in a blanket of seaweed washed over by the waves. Disheveled trees long-blown over by the wind, rugged rocks coated with moss. I imagine hidden caves along the rocky shoreline and buried treasure below.
The Needles and Alum Bay
The Needles rock formation was principally what we came to see but I ended up far enjoying the delights of Alum Bay. I’ve previously written about this so I won’t repeat.
Read: Jurassic Journeys
There is a point on the Headen Warren where you can see both the Needles lighthouse and Hurst Point Lighthouse in one view – simply spectacular! Later in the day I enjoyed a shimmering sunset after a steep and windy hike to the old rocket testing station for a different vantage point of the Needles.
I was only in the cutesy port of Yarmouth for about 30 minutes before catching my ferry to the mainland so I probably won’t do this place justice but I had a small walk around. I spied this large house which I thought not only quite beautiful but also felt it had an eerie quality about it – quite appropriate for the season.
Upon researching I learned that the Isle of Wight is meant to be one of the spookiest places in the UK and some enthusiasts refer to it as ‘Ghost Isle’. There are rumored to be haunted lighthouses, spooky soldiers that roam the Needles battery, disappearing manor houses, a ghastly ghost train and phantom nurses that haunt a garden – the site of a former tuberculosis hospital. Not to mention the ghost girl of Carisbrooke Castle – eeek! Is there anything scarier than a little girl ghost?!?
Godshill itself is something of a dream. I think a picture of it should exist in the dictionary next to the definition of ‘quintessential’. Located in the center south east of the Isle it is home to a church, an abundance of thatched houses and my favorite – a model village. A pet-friendly one at that! Not to mention the hydrangeas decorating the small cobbled pathways, street side wishing wells or the lovely little stores selling gifts galore.
The Godshill Model is a true work of art. It is a complete village home to a church with singing choir, a bathing pond, a train station with whistling choo choo train, a school and rows upon rows of beautiful tiny thatched houses. I particularly enjoyed one view where you can see model thatched houses almost complete replicas of the real giant sized ones towering beyond – exquisite. Quite comically all the ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and ‘oh wows’ I heard were from adults, the children mostly just sauntered on through. What is it about quaint little model villages that allows us to indulge our inner child? I’m not sure Mia enjoyed it as much as I did but she complied with me for a couple of comedy snaps for which I am grateful.
After visiting the model village, I stopped in at Godshill Cider, thinking I would pick up some of the local produce to take home. However I was disappointed to hear from the owner that during lockdown the cider had fermented too long and had turned to vinegar. Although she was delighted to tell me it wasn’t a total loss, they have managed to re-package and shift the majority as apple cider vinegar. So I picked up a bottle alongside a slightly alcoholic ginger beer – yum!
The Garlic Farm
The Garlic Farm was next on the agenda. I was keen to visit this place after receiving a recommendation and being a garlic enthusiast it didn’t take much convincing. In regular times they have a whole host of events such as farm walkthroughs, workshops, a shop and a restaurant. The Isle of Wight is even host to a garlic festival every August. However, its low season during a pandemic so only the shop and restaurant are currently open and the garlic festival has been sadly postponed. I purchased some very stinky oak-smoked garlic as well as some garlic mayonnaise, black-garlic paste and some Rocambole bulbs.
I later learned some fun facts. To smoke garlic, the bulbs are smoldered over burning oak chips for 40-50 hours or so to infuse them with the woody scent which is absolutely delish, although a warning it will strongly perfume your bag/car/kitchen unless appropriately stored!
I also learned that crushing garlic is much more effective to release its flavor than chopping. Crushing it effectively breaks down the cells which enables a chemical reaction that fully relinquishes the garlic’s flavor.
Rocamble is meant to be the ‘tastiest’ garlic owing to its rich taste. Its appearance is a bit different to other bulbs I’ve seen and it has distinct purple striations. Apparently in order to grow well it needs a cooler climate and a cold winter so I’m not surprised this grows well on the Isle.
Afterwards I stopped in at the (dog friendly) café, for a spot of afternoon tea. I would have very much liked to sample the high tea which includes a range of garlicy delights but it has to be booked in advance (take note!). Instead I had a (non-garlic) cream tea and enjoyed the sound (and smell) of a crackling log.
Final stop was the Bembridge Windmill. I was sad to see the picnic area outside the windmill closed, I think due to the pandemic. It does make me wonder why one couldn’t enjoy a simple picnic in front of a windmill on some very spaced out tables and chairs? Just sayin.
The Bembridge windmill is the Isle’s sole surviving windmill and once ground flour and cattle feed and is now under ownership by the National Trust. I visited after going to the Garlic Farm and particularly enjoyed the drive between Knighton and Bembridge. During some sections of road I could see almost a panorama of the entire corner of coast, it was especially spectacular. One thing I didn’t take into consideration is that Bembridge is over on the East side of the Island and so is really better for sunrise than sunset (doh!) If I was going to do this again I would go and photograph the Bembridge Pier at Sunrise!
Sentry Mead Hotel – Dogs Welcome
The very lovely and dog-friendly Sentry Mead Hotel in Totland Bay was our base for the weekend. I wanted to be close to the Needles so if this is your gig I recommend staying here.
We had a huge room with a view, a living space plus an incredibly comfy bed. This place went above and beyond providing a dog bowl and mat (incredibly useful for messy eaters!) We also got a lovely fleece blanket to put on the bed to prevent dog hairs. I never quite know the etiquette about dogs and furniture!
The hotel allows dogs in all spaces, except the dining room for breakfast (extremely reasonable). If you do want to breakfast with your furry friend you can put in an order the night before and they will bring it to your room. Honestly it doesn’t get much more accommodating than that.
The hotel also has a gin bar and on the Saturday night I treated myself to an Isle of Wight gin flight using local Mermaid Gin!
So that’s it folks for my whistle stop tour of the Isle of Wight. I hope it inspires you to visit this wonderful place. Definite thumbs up from the boss and I.