Family travel with flair

5 best things to do with kids in Isle of Wight

TweetI’ve blogged before about the sheer awesomeness of Vintage Vacations, a spot in Isle of Wight near Ryde where you stay in vintage Airstream trailers in a sylvan field (am I overdoing it now? I can’t tell. I love it so much). We cook our meals on the tiny gas stoves in the trailers and eat on the rainbow striped picnic tables; spontaneous cricket and football games are the order of the day. The holiday news out of Isle of Wight earlier this summer was all about bad weather at the festival. I kept wondering why all those visitors didn’t ditch the idea of music in the mud and instead check out all the other great family things to do on the island. I love that moment when you’re on the ferry at Portsmouth, sipping a cup of tea and crossing the water to the island where visiting feels like returning to simpler pleasures. 1. Blackgang Chine, Blackgang – This small but well-considered family-owned amusement park is an Isle of Wight institution. It has a hedge maze, a waterslide, a rollercoaster that thrilled our group ranging in age from 8 to 13, a real-life chutes and ladders…and many more attractions. I really liked the Crooked House – a walk-through attraction with vignetttes that could have been cribbed from the children’s story rhyme (why doesn’t every amusement park have one?). Perfect for the better part of an afternoon, plus they have lawns for picnicking and a playground. 2. The Chocolate Apothecary, Ryde – *Rainy day outing* On a day that it was bucketing down, we drove out on the pier (not much to see but interesting for a quarter hour) then popped across Ryde Esplanade on the waterfront to this adorable chocolate shop. Situated in a listed Victorian building – an old chemist’s – it sells all manner of cocoa products. There are fancy handmade chocolates, bars, patisserie and to-die-for hot chocolate. Sip the thick, sweet nectar at one of the small tables while the children bite the heads off their chocolate bunnies. 3. The Garlic Farm, Newchurch – Who knew allium sativum could be so much fun? This farm has a cafe, farm store, tasting room, field walk and roaming chickens. You can even stay at one of three onsite cottages that sleep up to 10 or do one of their yoga weekend retreats. We spent an afternoon smelling the gorgeous oak-smoked bulbs in the shop, tasting the chutneys and butters and doing the farm walk and ticking off...

Review: Holidaying in an Airstream on Isle of Wight

TweetDestination: Vintage Vacations, near Ryde, Isle of Wight, 07802 758113 Great for: holidaying with other families, having a chill-out getaway Pack: Football, cricket sets, badminton sets, croquet sets, and the novel you’ve been meaning to read Don’t forget: Your wellies, just in case The one problem with writing about travel: you find someplace really cool you want to tell the world about…and then you can’t get a reservation or a table next time you want to visit. I’ve already booked my Airstream caravan at Vintage Vacations on Isle of Wight for next year, so it’s safe for me to spread the word. For two years I kept trying to snag one of the refurbished classic silver American motorhomes that Helen and Frazer rent, only be told they were booked solid. (The caravans are stationary, located on a sprawling farmer’s field near Ryde.) We got our act together for a visit earlier this year and spent an amazing four days in an Overlander, along with some friends in the Airstream next door and the kids playing in the Doris, a tiny vintage English caravan parked just in front of them. This Isle of Wight treasure isn’t a big secret: it’s been written up in newspapers and magazines. What is new are the upgrades they seem to make every year – adding new caravans and improving the site on which they sit. The Airstreams themselves are kitschy and comfortable. The beds have real mattresses and the showers are surprisingly useable, despite their diminuitive size. Yet this isn’t full-on glamping. The upgrades are in various stages of finish, their caravans’ kitchens are stocked with mismatched implements and homey tea towels. It all adds to the sepia-toned experience. You sit out on the brightly painted picnic tables, sipping coffee or a glass of wine, while in the field the children play cricket or build dens or set a trap an animal with a folding chair and a net shopping bag. (At least, that’s what ours did.) At night you roast marshmallows and tell jokes around the brazier or cookout on one of the site’s barbecues. Nearby there are all the usual Isle of Wight family attractions: touring Osborne House with its amazing playground, climbing with Good Leaf tree climbing, visiting Cowes, and sand-castling on the beaches. But ultimately, we spent most of our time lounging around the campsite, playing games, reading books and chatting. You know, just like in the good ol’ days. Resources We took the ferry with Wightlink (0871 376 1000...

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