Is That A Ship I See Before Me? No, It’s The Isle of Wight!

Posted on Jul 31, 2011


As me and a friend were in Portsmouth at the time for a couple of days, we decided to see how much the Ferry was over to the Isle of Wight. We were foot passengers and I hadn’t been on a ferry in a while so I was quite excited about the idea. It doesn’t take much nowadays. Also I had never been to the Isle of Wight and was curious what the fuss was about.

Leaving Portsmouth Harbour for the Isle of Wight. Old Defensive Walls are in view

So a short walk through Gunwharf Quays to reach the terminal and we were in the booking office. £12.30 each and twenty minutes later and we were boarding our ferry to the Isle of Wight.

The views were incredible and it is surprising how big Portsmouth actually is. The defensive walls from the Napoleonic era stand guard and proud still as we sail away from the ancient harbour. New mixed in with old sits well as we move further away into the Solent, one of the busiest shipping lanes around. Before we know it, we’re in the middle of the complex and busy expanse of water and enjoying the ride. It’s a hot morning and the ship is busy as you would expect on a hot day.

Forty minutes later and we were docking into Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight and we had no idea where we were going from here! We had just taken a chance and would see how it would turn out as usually they are the best adventures.

Fishbourne Harbour with boats a-bobbing on the water

So after dodging the various vehicles coming off we walked up out of the main ferry terminal into a quiet road. The question now was left or right? Mmm… After much detective work, notably the sign pointing right saying ‘Dead End,’ we decide to turn right and head off along a long looking road before coming to a main road with lots of traffic. Oh hell we think, another major decision but so far so good. Why wasn’t there a bus stop or taxi service outside the terminal for foot passengers we think when low and behold we spot one across the road. We again dodge various vehicles to cross the road like mad chickens making it safely to the other side. Now for a bus and hopefully one that comes very soon. Now I hate buses as they are so damn unreliable and expensive for a service that constantly lets you down and don’t even get me started on the rail service! But we have only a few minutes to wait until it turns up. Maybe our luck is in after all?

A bus comes into view and we decide to get on it only realising that it is one of those tour buses that annoy me so much as they are a rip-off. You can never hear the commentary and you end up going to random places where there isn’t much of interest.  So on we get, sitting at the top deck, trees attacking us we move off and throughout the journey like Triffids. ”And to your right you can see a pub and the famous ice cream factory behind the building you see there,” came the tinny voice to us. What?

We drove on past a steam railway where a few OAP’s got off to go on that. Getting hit by a branch I was thinking we should have done the same thing. But on we go past thatched cottages and pubs, one having a beam inside the bar where an infamous highwayman was hanged from the gallows of which this beam was from. Damn I thought, we should have got off there! We Pass Amazon World, Garlic Farm, Rosemary Vineyard where they make cider as well as wine, and various pubs that look all chocolate boxy. We regret not getting off at some of these but the ticket lasts for 24 hours so it’s not that bad for the £10 price tag.

We come to the end of our strange bus trip of the Downs and get off at a seaside town called Ryde. The Victorian look of the place with it sandy beaches and the usual arcades and shops give the town a feel of never leaving the mainland, that you could be anywhere along the south coast of Britain. In truth I’m a little disappointed at what I have seen of the island so far but I tell myself it’s early days yet and only just past 1pm. So we take a walk along the pier that is huge and which takes cars as well as a train on it to the end. What I wonder shall we find when we get there? The excitement mounts (told you it doesn’t take much nowadays). After around a ten minute walk we finally get to the end only to find… Nothing much. I was expecting a bar, a restaurant, a few shops, a theatre, anything that would bring people on to the pier, but no, barely a thing. It had a small cafe (a brand name that I won’t advertise), a bike rental shop which I thought strange and a ticket office for the train station. What an anti climax! The view was okay though if you could put up with the builders who seemed to be extending a part of the pier. Pedestrians walked on for free, the rest paid to use the train or to take their cars on.

We decided to walk along the beach which was packed, play a game of crazy golf for the sheer hell of it, and take everything in. I kept getting messages from friends saying go to Shanklin or Cowes as they’re a bit more full of life, so we thought okay, that’s what we’ll do after a wonder around town and maybe a drink in a pub somewhere. And we did walk around town going to ‘old’ Ryde that didn’t seem old at all but did come across two unusual shops which were closed. One was a Doctor Who shop that specialised in all things Timelord and the other was a pet shop that sold, wait for it… Furniture! I wouldn’t buy a pet from there and I certainly will be taking a second look at my sofa! Gives a whole new meaning to the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch!  All very strange, so we headed to a pub called the Kasbah.

Doctor Who shop on Ryde, Isle of Wight

The pub was very Moroccan in feel and was very welcoming and relaxing being situated in the heart of town. We got talking to someone who lived on the mainland but used to live on the island and seemed to be contemplating moving back with his family. He was a musician who told us he had just bought a boat for the hell of it and was getting drunk to celebrate, kindly buying us a drink.

We thought that we would be there for a short while but three hours later we walked out of there debating what to do next. Did we stay here in Ryde or move on to another town? Time was getting on and the ferry was a forty five minute journey and as much as it was easy to go elsewhere on the island with the excellent transport system, it was the getting back that could be the nightmare even though the buses ran till 1am from what I saw for most of them, although not all. It best to check if you travel this way.

So we decide to make our way to a pub right next to the ferry terminal and wait there till our ferry was due. I don’t recommend that pub unless you really have to. It seemed to me a bit rundown but it does have it’s locals and uses so don’t put it out of your mind totally. All pubs need our help nowadays and this is no exception to the rule.

Wicked Wanda's Pet Food & Supplies that also sold pets? Notice anything strange?

Anyway we waited for about twenty minutes and boarded the ferry back to Portsmouth and a couple of pubs we had come to love. I was looking forward to our trip to the Historic Dockyard and HMS Victory the following morning before heading back to Brighton and the normal craziness that we love.

God knows though, we needed that relaxing trip and I would gladly do it all again.

Next time though I’ll be ready with the knowledge for the Isle of Wight and its welcoming arms again.

For more information on this trip please go to the following links: