A pretty little harbour to the west of the Isle of Wight, Yarmouth is also a bustling seaside town especially in the summer months and is the oldest town and seaport on the Island.
It stands, not surprisingly, on the western mouth of the river Yar, a tidal river that almost dissects the Island at this point, and there is a lovely walk along the former railway line ‘The Causeway’ that runs from here to Freshwater Bay. A large water mill stands at the Yarmouth end of this walkway and would have provided much of the town’s flour in days of yore.
The rampart walls of Yarmouth Castle guard the entrance to the harbour, a fortification that was built by Henry VIII in 1547 to curb the regular French raids on the town. Now in the care of English Heritage, the entrance is down an alleyway next to the George Hotel with which the castle shares some of its walls.
The George is one of the best hotels on the Island, dating back to the 17th century, with its ancient flagstone entrance hallway, wood panelled reception rooms and pretty garden overlooking the sea and the pier.
Yarmouth’s pier was opened in 1876 and it received Grade 2 listed status in 1975. Originally 685 ft (207.5m) long, it's now 609 ft (186m) but is still the longest timber pier in England open to the public, and is a docking point for the pleasure trip boats the MV Balmoral and PS Waverley.
In the town square stands the old town hall, which was rebuilt in 1763 and there is usually a market being held within its arches. The square has many quaint old buildings and interesting shops and hostelries within them such as a Yarmouth Deli, Harwoods Chandlery, Blue by the Sea boutique and the Bugle Coaching Inn. Up the High Street are some more interesting finds such as Anne Tom’s Yarmouth Gallery, gifts from around the world in Drift and The Beach Hut’s fashion options.
Round the back of the Town Hall is a grid of alleyways with quaint little shops, the Wheatsheaf pub, an ice cream parlour and a fossil and crystal shop. You can walk around to the King’s Head pub from here, which is opposite The George. Salty's is a popular haunt with a younger crowd and has a restaurant above it specialising in seafood.
Yarmouth is a gateway to the Island and the harbour is full of visiting boats in the summer months and is also a fishing port. The Yar Bridge crosses the mouth of the river and swings open to let taller boats in and out of the estuary.
Boasting many celebrations throughout the year, it is for The Old Gaffers that Yarmouth is best known: a weekend shindig to celebrate the beautiful Gaff-rigged boats that gather in the harbour.
- Yarmouth Castle was built by Henry VIII and was completed in 1547 to improve the security of the town. The castle is now owned and maintained by English Heritage; the rooms inside provide an insight into how the castle was used in the 16th century and there is an exhibition of the many ship wrecks found in the area. The Castle also provides an excellent picnic spot with views up and down the Solent.
- Wander the small high street and various alleyways, browsing the different shops offering everything from handmade crafts and local produce to marine equipment and lifestyle clothing.
- The Freshwater Way is a walking/cycling track along the old railway track that runs from Yarmouth all the way across to the west coast town of Freshwater. The track runs through woodland and alongside the river Yar before meandering through the countryside hamlet of Afton and into Freshwater.
- Take a boat trip from Yarmouth Harbour out into the Solent or down to the famous Needles rocks. There are several operators, and Yarmouth tourist office will have a list of phone numbers and prices.