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Winter a good time to discover the Isle of Wight's historic past

Thu 29 Nov 2012

Winter a good time to discover the Isle of Wight's historic past

While many people take Isle of Wight holidays in the summer months in order to enjoy the area's scenic beaches and beautiful landscapes in clement conditions, winter also provides many opportunities for travellers willing to get wrapped up against the cold and explore the historic past of the island.

Rob Flower, English Heritage's general manager at Osborne House, pointed out that there are a multitude of interesting sites for visitors to see throughout the winter months.

"At all our English Heritage properties on the island you can explore aspects of England's story," he added.

Despite the fact the Isle of Wight is separated from the mainland of Britain by a stretch of water known as the Solent, it has played an important part in the UK's history, with tourists able to see everything from prehistoric dinosaur fossils to artefacts of the Roman period.

Osbourne House - a seaside palace where Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children spent many of their winters - offers a unique insight into the daily life of the royal family.

By following in Victoria's footsteps and choosing to spend some of the festive period on the island, holidaymakers can enjoy an "intimate glimpse" into the life of one of Britain's best-loved monarchs, Mr Flower suggested.

"Throughout December you can discover how Queen Victoria celebrated Christmas on a festive guided tour of Osborne House," he explained.

Guests can explore the impressive estates surrounding the property as well as the gardens and private beach the royal family used to enjoy their privacy when holidaying on the Isle of Wight, which the queen admired for its scenery.

She is reported as saying that it would be hard to imagine a prettier spot upon visiting the island for the first time, while her husband Prince Albert compared the view over the Solent to that seen from the Bay of Naples.

Highlights of the site include the miniature Swiss Cottage, which was built as somewhere the royal children could use to learn the art of household management.

Guests can also explore the private bedchambers of Victoria and Albert, and look at the Queen's bathing machine - a device used in the 18th and 19th centuries to allow women to change out of sight, before being rolled down to the sea ensuring the bather could make her way into the water with the utmost delicacy.

In addition to Osbourne House, there are plenty of historic buildings for visitors interested in learning more about the Isle of Wight's storied past.

"At Carisbrooke Castle you can explore medieval towers, climb ramparts and walls, discover a genteel garden and delightful donkeys. The castle has secured the Isle of Wight for 1,000 years," Mr Flower declared.

This site dates from Norman times, having been built by William the Conqueror following his invasion and settling of Britain. The island's relationship with the mainland dates back further than that, however, having suffered from Viking raids in the Saxon period and then taken over as a base by the Danish from which to harass England.

Yarmouth Castle, built by Henry VIII to guard one of the gateways to the island, also offers impressive views over the bustling waters of the Solent.

For history buffs, there is no doubt that visiting the Isle of Wight is an opportunity to learn more about Britain's past and see some remarkable heritage sites providing a unique insight into the island.

With the opportunity to see manor houses, castles, dinosaur bones and ancient burial grounds all in one place, travellers may want to plan a long trip if they want to fit it all in.

Posted by Jon NobleADNFCR-3083-ID-801497570-ADNFCR

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