It was a dark and stormy night…err, day. The rain was coming down in droves…ok, more like light showers. Alright, how about this: It was an dreary and damp day…
We got on the bus at 8am, whereupon we got a new itinerary for the day based on the weather. Instead of going to the castle first, we would be heading to Alum Bay on the far side of the island. Supposedly that’s when the better weather was supposed to be – I know, great. So on we went to Portsmouth were the bus drove onto the ferry and we had a lovey half hour ferry ride to the Isle of Wight. Getting back onto the bus once we docked, we drove for another hour or so to the bay, passing hillsides of green and yellow, dotted with white here and there (sheep, of course!).
Alum Bay is famed for its beach of colored sands, as well as the Needles Rocks and Needles Old Battery out on the cliffs at the sea. As soon as we got there we walked to the Old Battery, stopping to take pictures of the beautiful view of the cliff face and the beach below. Of course, it had started to rain at this point but it came down to one of those “mind over matter” deals for me. Knowing I’d inevitably be getting wet, I decided it was kind of fun to be out in the rain for a change! I pulled my hood over my head, my waterproof jacket on, and soldiered on, protecting my camera as much as I could while taking pictures. We stopped inside a tiny museum along the path in which we stepped into the rooms used for the ICBM rocket testing program from 1956 to 1971. They have models of some of the rockets tested – we saw the Black Arrow model – as well as plaques and video footage describing the testing that went on. A satellite, the Prospero X-3, was launched from the rockets at this facility as well. Pretty neat!
We continued on the path, fighting the wind as went until we reached Needles Old Battery. The path down there gave us our best view of the Needles. These rocks pop up out of the ocean like the sharp spine of some fearsome sea creature; they are incredibly cool! A red lighthouse stands at the front of the Needles to warn ships of the perilous cliffs. The lighthouse, built in 1859, has since been reinforced at the base and below so as to prevent it from collapsing into the water.
We attempted to enter into the Needles Old Battery, a military fort established in 1862, only to find that we had to pay to get in. So, being the broke college students we are, we decided we were ok without going in (even though we would have had a great view of the Needles I think) and made our way back along the cliff. There is also a Needles New Battery situated further up the hill. It was built in 1895 and was put to use in World War II, firing upon German planes and ships. Interestingly enough, the cliff side was also used to prepare men for the D-Day landing. However, we figured the New Battery would require payment as well so just went back to the Alum Bay main (touristy) area.
This part of Alum Bay has a few touristy shops and a place or two to get something to eat. Like any classic pier, it has some rides and games people can play, too. Further on is the chair lift that takes you down to the beach. “Cute” comes to mind as the perfect way to describe it. We – that is, Betsey, Amanda, Iris, and I – decided to get some lunch as this point. We ate at this cafeteria like place where I was happy to get some warm vegetable lasagna…and the slice of chocolate cake I couldn’t pass up! (sweet tooth – it runs in the family)
After lunch we checked out two of the shops, the first of which held some of the colored sands. I opted for a couple of postcards instead. Then we walked the short distance to the glass shop. We didn’t get to see the glass making demonstration, but the items in the shop were very pretty, ranging from vases, to animal figures, to plates, and candle holders. While tempted to get a glass animal, I decided the little lighthouse was more fitting and was extremely happy with my souvenir purchase. I’m only sorry I didn’t buy a couple more!
But now it was time to get back on the bus and head towards the center of the island to Carisbrooke Castle. As we pulled up it started to rain again – just our luck – but it looked quite impressive and I was excited to explore. Plus, it had my name in it! Dating back to at least the year 1100, further additions were made to the castle in the 1300’s and was the site of King Charles I’s imprisonment following his loss in the English Civil War. I really enjoyed walking around the castle, going up some of the towers, walking along the narrow wall of the castle, taking in the view of the surrounding town and some silly pictures along the way. The castle also has a corner where the gardens that were designed for Princess Beatrice are situated, in addition to some live donkeys. Donkeys used to generate water from the well in the castle – it took 17 turns of this huge wooden wheel to get one bucket of water! Today the donkeys just give demonstrations, but still, I can’t say I envy them…
Unfortunately, right as we were going to check out the museum which was put into the apartments where nobles would stay and where the various Dukes, Princesses, and the like had lived, they were closing. We had 15 minutes left before leaving for Ryde to catch the ferry back across, so we hit up the gift shop instead. This time I was tempted to buy the delicious lemon curd they had samples of, but stuck with a post card once more. (Sometimes I do find the will power to resist the sweet tooth!) All in all, I got the impression that Carisbrooke Castle was more charming than your typical cold, dark castle. Today I think it gets it’s beauty from the greenery in and around the castle, including the flowers and vines that manage to grow on the walls as well.
The ride back was a bit cold as the rain finally managed to seep through my jacket a little bit, yet I was completely content with the day. I’m very glad to have gone on this day trip and seen the Isle of Wight – especially so, as I seen where some family friends have spent part of their summer every year! From the little I saw of Portsmouth as we drove through, it seems like it could be a very cool city to check out as well. Perhaps another day, though. Hopefully one when it warms up again, too!
So the dreary and damp day turned out to be an exciting and excellent day as well. Coming up we have more “normal” updates, a day spent in London, and of course, more Travel Tales! I do hope you’ve enjoyed this post on the Isle of Wight, and hope you’re able to see the island for yourselves some day. Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…