Osborne House, Gardens, Swiss Cottage & Queen Victoria's beach
The country retreat of Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert. Visit the sumptuous Royal Apartments and the intimate family rooms, including Queen Victoria's bedroom where she died in 1901. Marvel at the awe-inspiring Indian décor and exquisite gifts in the Durbar Room and take a peek at life 'below stairs' in the Table Deckers' Rooms. Unwind in the spectacular grounds with stunning views across the eastern Solent and don't miss the Victorian Walled Garden with flowers, triumphal arches of Victoria plums and hot houses full of exotic plants.
Take a mini bus ride to Swiss Cottage where the Royal children played and see the miniature furniture made especially for them. Next door is a fort, a little museum housing their collections and their flower & vegetable gardens with garden tools. A new area of play for children. Discover more about the lives of the royal children and play where the prince and princesses played.
Visit Queen Victoria's bathing beach and take a dip in the sea. See her restored bathing machine and 'sketching' alcove. Beach café and mini bus transfer available in Summer.
Enjoy a tasty treat at the lovely Terrace Restaurant and Orangery café, Petty Officer's Quarters cafe, Gazelle House cake shop or beach cafe. Baby changing facilities are available.
In addition to the cafe, the Petty Officer's Quarters houses an extensive shop and exhibition which covers various aspects of the sumptuously furnished house and magnificent grounds, as well as the lives and personalities of the Victorian royal family and the servants who cared for them.
- Have lunch or afternoon tea - dine in style in the Terrace Restaurant and Orangery or enjoy light refreshments in the Petty Officer's Quarter cafe. Enjoy ice creams and coffees in the beach cafe and snacks at the cake shop at Swiss Cottage. Picnics welcome in the grounds.
- Shopping - there's an extensive shop in the Petty Officers Quarters including plant sales.
- Parking - 50m from reception centre, then a further 230m to house entrance. Wheelchairs are available for less able visitors.
- Toilets - available in reception building near the house, Swiss Cottage adn beach cafe.
- Disabled facilities - Access to house: Four wheelchairs available. Ground and first floor accessible to wheelchairs via ramp. NB the nursery rooms are not accessible to wheelchair users. Gardens: Accessible on tarmac and impacted gravel paths. The Walled Garden is heavily gravelled and may be difficult for wheelchairs. Facilities available to take wheelchair users to Swiss Cottage. Seats provided. Accessible mini bus available to take wheelchair and buggy users to Swiss Cottage and the beach in the summer months.
- Dogs - sorry no dogs (except assistance dogs)
More about the gardens at Osborne
Prince Albert planned to build terraces on the seaward side of the house in 1846. Construction was finally completed in 1850 and the view from the terraces to the beach below apparently reminded Prince Albert of the bay of Naples.
The terraces have two significant Prince Albert plantings: Magnolia grandiflora is trained against the walls on the lower terrace are the original plantings which still thrive today and Myrtle which was planted at the base of the central steps from the upper terrace to the lower terrace. Why Myrtle? a sprig was given to Queen Victoria in a nosegay when she left Prince Albert’s ancestral home in Germany in 1845.
Within Osborne House’s 350-acre estate, there are 30 acres of gardens ‘proper’ tended by head gardener Toby Beasley and his team of eight, plus volunteers.
How to find...
Address: East Cowes, Isle of Wight PO32 6JY.
Location: 1 mile south of Red Funnel's East Cowes ferry terminal:
They consist of the flower-filled terraces, which take five gardeners five weeks, twice a year, to put in 20,000 bedding plants – plus a further 20,000 bulbs in the autumn for the following spring.
There is also a lovely walled garden, Toby’s favourite area, containing espalier fruit trees as well as the flowers, which are still cut for the house as they were for Queen Victoria. The Walled Garden is the oldest part of the garden at Osborne dating from around 1775, and was originally built by Robert Pope Blatchford. It was originally used by Prince Albert as a nursery to grow on his trees and shrubs until ready to plant in the wider garden. A new nursery was constructed late in 1846 on the edge of the estate. The walled garden at Osborne was used for producing flowers for the house with many letters confirming this.
An orange tree was referred to in the accounts during the 1880′s, this was planted to the east of the glasshouses out in the open. An orange tree donated by The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers in 2003 is still growing well but unfortunately it has yet to produce any oranges. However, a lemon tree grows at the other end of the glasshouses (outside again) and this does fruit.
The entrance to the walled garden was the entrance to the original Osborne House built by the Blatchford family. When Osborne House as we know it today was built the old house was taken down but this entrance was kept by Prince Albert to ornament the walled garden.
The walled garden was restored under the ‘Contemporary Heritage Garden Scheme’ in 2000. The style of planting employed in Queen Victoria’s era is not known so the garden is now planted in a modern style with plants emerging through one another or in a checkerboard style but all the plants used are from the Victorian era i.e. they were introduced to cultivation in this country before 1900.
Queen Victoria mentioned in her Journal on the 23rd May 1850 that ‘the whole kitchen garden is ornamented and the flowers along the walks close to the walls are very nicely arranged'. Hopefully you will think the same!