Friday, 22 December 2017

Island Life Part One

Having lived for a large part of my life in sight of the Needles on the Isle of Wight, you'd think I would have been a regular visitor to that small slice of England. But, as silly as it may seem, I had never crossed that stretch of water, and neither had Mr. GCP. Now that I have a job, and, you know, some of that money stuff, we decided to finally take the trip and go explore. I recently got a beautiful new bike and have always fancied the idea of cycle touring, so we planned a nice easy introduction to the concept, taking in a good portion of the island.

We said goodbye to the mainland and Lymington pier, taking the Wightlink ferry to Yarmouth. This crossing is super easy as the train goes right to the ferry terminal at Lymington, and as foot passengers with bikes it was only £21 return each. We tucked the bikes to one side of the car deck and enjoyed the slightly grey views across the solent. We made landfall in Yarmouth 40 minutes later; arriving by boat does get the excitement levels up!

Our accomodation for the first night was on the outskirts of Newport towards the North of the island, about a 10 mile ride from Yarmouth; I told you we planned an easy introduction to cycle touring! We managed to find some nice quiet lanes for some of the ride, and link up with some of the many off-road cycle paths that criss-cross the island, but did end up on some faster roads for a part of the route. At least the island drivers seem to mostly be very sensible about overtaking! After puffing up a few hills in the drizzle we got to our rather special accommodation, a lovely yurt set in a pretty garden, complete with Indian Runner ducks for company! Sidenote: We booked all our accomodation for the trip through Airbnb - lots of great interesting and unique options on the island.

We loved the space and atmosphere in the yurt, it was really nicely decorated and massive too! We want a yurt now...

Day two dawned a little brighter than the first, and we had a great cycle ahead of us, following the Red Squirrel trail down through the centre of the island. I should say that the Isle of Wight is an excellent cycling destination, there are loads of off road cycle paths mainly following the routes of old railway lines, and there are plenty of quiet country lanes. Even the busier roads we found to be not too bad. The tourist board actively promotes the island as a cycling destination, and I would definitely recommend it. My new bike (the beautiful Genesis Croix de Fer on the right of the pic below!) is a gravel/cyclocross type, meaning it has drop handlebars like a road bike, but chunkier tyres and disc brakes, so was ideally suited to the gravelly off road routes we found.

Through the course of the morning the sky cleared and we were treated to some lovely early summer sunshine. We arrived at our next accommodation in Newchurch just before lunch, and found a excellent cycle-friendly café called Peddlers just around the corner. Our hosts were kind enough to let us check in early, so we ditched the luggage and headed to The Garlic Farm just up the road. After lots of delicious tasters we decided we need to go back to the island with the car just so we can stock up on goodies from the farm! There were also some test plots of different garlic varieties which was interesting, and some beautiful meadows of flowers.

We then carried on down the Red Squirrel trail to the coast at Sandown, saying hi to some friendly highland cows (a little far from home?!) along the way!

Sandown is a pretty typical seaside town, and we enjoyed having a gentle spin along the promenade in the sunshine.

We rounded off the day with a truly excellent dinner at The Pointer Inn in Newchurch, I would highly recommend it if you are on the island; we loved it so much we went back the next night! Do book though as it was rammed both nights we were there. Stand by for part two of our adventure!

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