It is an early start to catch a ten o’clock ferry to the island and the weather does not look inviting. We know it will take about one and half hours to drive to Lymington (the mainland port for the ferry) but we don’t know about the traffic. Hence the early departure.
As we near the New Forest the sun breaks through and the traffic remains light. We have made good time and we arrive at the terminal in sufficient time to have some breakfast before boarding. The ferry is much smaller than cross channel ferries but they have a trick. One floor in the ship is on an elevator and three lanes of cars disappear into the third floor of the ferry.
As we travel across to the island I keep an eye open for Castle Hurst and the pebble peninsular connecting it to the coast. When I spot it, it surprises me how long it is and to think we walked that peninsular. It also surprises me that the Needles on the western end of the island are so close to the castle and yet because of the heavy sea mist on the day of our visit we did not know they were there.
Our first place to visit was the Old Batteries and the Needles. Unfortunately the only place to park is a commercial car park at a cost of £4.50 which is fine if you are staying all day and visiting the amusement park. But for us it just left a bad taste and not a good way to start the day. To see the batteries and the Needles you must walk to the end of the island (at least a twenty minute walk) and when you get there apart from the spectacular view the other features were not that riveting. Perhaps the most exciting were the tunnel to the search light and the old rocket launch pads from Britain’s venture into the space race. The only British satellite launched on a British rocket remains in orbit and is functioning but is not used any longer.
When we visited the new batteries where the rocket launch pads are located we encountered two Brits who were waiting for a bus. Unknown to us there is a city tour hop on hop off bus available from Yarmouth for £5 per passenger. If considering a visit I suggest you consider this option.
Next we visited Mottistone Manor and Gardens but it is closed Fridays. My fault for not checking the opening days as well as the times. So we moved on to visit St Catherine’s Lighthouse. I was driving and I missed the turn. We did try to pick it up but the road was closed so on we went to our next stop the islands last windmill with all its working bits made in wood. Well not quite true as the grinding stone is made of stone and some of the mechanical bits are made of metal. A bit disappointing and it no longer works. However not all was lost as the scenery had been very enjoyable up til we stopped for lunch. We turned into a road which we thought would take us to a viewing point but instead we found the road closed due to subsidence – severe subsidence with the houses around it abandoned. It looked as though there had been a significant land slip. No photos of the land slip as people had turned it into a dump. Not very nice.
For our last visit I suggested Carisbrooke Castle but on the way we spotted a sign to a roman villa. After our experience with roman ruins at Weymouth I was suspicious that there would be little to see. Well I was wrong again. Brading Roman Villa is the ruins of three roman structures of different periods. Discovered in 1879 by the farmer working the land it was excavated in Victorian times and some magnificent mosaics. By our standards they did more harm than good. Recently the excavation has been visited again and a new shelter to protect and display the third dwelling has been constructed. The building itself is impressive but the relics it protects are truly fascinating.
After visiting Brading we journeyed back to Yarmouth and caught the ferry back to the mainland and Kerry then took on the driving to return us safely home to Long Eaton.