What a weekend. I feel like I’ve just come back from a week abroad. We took a spontaneous trip over to the Isle of Wight on Bank Holiday Saturday as the weather was so perfect. We found the perfect Isle of Wight campsite, went orienteering (aka ‘mountain climbing’ according to my son), splashed at the beach, ate ice cream, and went for a bike ride in the New Forest on the way home. I am now completely in love with the Isle of Wight. Why haven’t I been before?
Bank holidays are usually a washout. Rainy days. Mediocre barbecues. Soft play. However, this May Day bank holiday was different. Sunshine forecast for the whole long weekend, so it would have been stupid not to make the most of it. I’m usually a massive planner, but this trip was completely off the cuff – and all the better for it!
The Isle of Wight has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I don’t know much about it, other than it’s a bit arty, a bit sporty and one of my favourite bloggers Junkaholique lives there. Staying there for the bank holiday appealed to me as I thought it would be less busy than staying on the mainland. We wanted to find somewhere to camp close to the beach, quiet and family-friendly. Oh and still free the evening before we travelled. Not much to ask for on a sunny bank holiday?!
Top Isle of Wight campsite
Well we lucked out and managed to book a tent pitch at Compton Farm, in the west of the island. Compton Farm is a family-run beef and arable farm. The owners, Anna and Neville, are extremely welcoming and friendly. Our son got a ride round the farm on an off-road buggy, which he loved. And our younger son adored playing on the old tractors dotted about the site and spotting the geese and chickens wandering about.The campsite is set behind the farmyard, on a flat section of a large rolling meadow. In the morning you wake to birdsong and look out onto a field of dandelion, clover and buttercups. It’s idyllic and safe for children to roam around in. Our youngest son was happy picking the dandelions (“bubbles”) and blowing them. The pitches are nice and large and there is plenty of room to still feel alone if you like that kind of thing. There are toilets, showers, water and washing facilities near to the yard, plus a small playground. No campfires on the grass are allowed.
The meadow looks up onto Compton Downs, National Trust land and across to the chalk cliffs of Compton Bay. We enjoyed both. Again we lucked out by visiting on a day an orienteering event was being held at the farm. Ever adventurous, we joined in.
Orienteering on the Isle of Wight
We were given a map, some clues and a scorecard. We had 75 minutes to find as many control points as we could in that time. Perfect for families. 75 minutes is doable, and our eldest could get involved with the stamping. The course was very steep to begin with, as we had to climb up Compton Downs, but was magical after that. Yellow cowslips and purple orchids dotted all over the fields we walked in and stunning views over the cliffs and sea to the West. Sunny weather. Happy children.
We rewarded ourselves with an ice cream and a trip to the beach to cool off. Compton Bay is also National Trust land. It faces south so gets the best of the afternoon sun. It’s also a great spot for surfers and paddleboarders. It’s also one of the best spots in the UK to find fossils.
Getting to the Isle of Wight
The ferry ride across to the Isle of Wight takes between 30-60 minutes and is good fun for the novelty factor. Travelling by ferry also gives a real holiday vibe to the trip. Plus it splits the journey up a little and children love it. You can travel from Portsmouth to Fishbourne (which we did), Lymington to Yarmouth (which we did on the way back), Southampton to Cowes or Portsmouth to Ryde (foot or bike only).
Coming into Fishbourne harbour, I felt like I’d arrived in a Swallows and Amazons story. Sailing boats bobbing about. Families with ice creams, and a castaway island feel. Our drive through the rural countryside to Compton Farm revealed rolling hills and fields of bright yellow oil seed rape. Gorgeous villages with picture-perfect houses.
Due to our off-the-cuff trip, we had to take the only ferry available back to the mainland, which left at 8:50am. Yikes! Undeterred, we decided to enjoy the New Forest before we headed home. We managed to hire bikes and spent an hour cycling through part of the forest. A good introduction to one of our mini adventures we will have later this year. And the Isle of Wight, we’ll be back. You are my favourite secret spot!