You may be forgiven for thinking that the Island ‘shuts up shop’ for the winter as the busy summer season comes to an end. You couldn’t be more wrong; there’s still so much to see and do during this glorious time of year.
While the Island is quieter it’s the perfect time to strap on those walking boots and explore our wonderful woodlands. With trees turning from green to gilded gold, when the sun shines through the canopy and bathes the woodland in its warm light you could easily think you’re in a Hallmark movie with scenery that rivals that of New England.
Parkhurst Forest in Newport and Brighstone Forest in the south west of the Island are two particularly beautiful spots to see and with trails winding through the treeline you can easily while away a couple of hours. You may even be lucky enough to see a famous Island resident, the red squirrel, scurrying around the forest floor burying nuts for the winter season. They may be harder to spot at this time of year as their russet-coloured fur perfectly blends with the changing foliage.
What’s better than a bracing, blustery walk and stopping off at a local pub to warm up by the fire with hearty food and a pint of local beer? With footpaths taking you all around the Island’s coastline and even more winding throughout the centre of the Island, passing through chocolate box villages and bustling towns, you’re never too far from a great pub. The coastal path from Brighstone to Niton (running alongside the famous Military Road) is around four miles. With The Wight Mouse in Chale enroute, along with two more pubs in Niton at the finish line (The White Lion and The Buddle Inn), your only problem will be choosing which one to stop at.
For a more relaxed walk pay a visit to Ventnor Botanic Garden. Sheltered by the Niton Undercliff, the garden grows plants here that won’t grow outdoors anywhere else in the UK due to its unique microclimate. The garden is split into sections dedicated to various countries from around the globe. You’ll notice how each tree, bush and plant reacts at this time of year – from the evergreen trees in the Australia garden keeping that youthful, green look to the deciduous trees in the Americas where they have the richest autumnal colour palette. If the sun shines, sit on the terrace with a cup of tea and slice of cake overlooking the majestic beauty of this ‘hot’ spot.
Autumn and winter bring dog-friendly beaches across the Island. Even though there are designated pooch-friendly beaches throughout the year, more open up to your four-legged pal in the cooler months. There’s nothing quite like a soggy doggy diving in and out of the surf and getting sandy fur, the pure enjoyment on their faces. Beaches such as Appley in Ryde and Compton towards the west of the Island are wonderfully long and sandy so you can enjoy the stroll as much as Fido. Remember to leave nothing behind but footprints and clean up after yourself and your dog.
If you’re more of an indoor person (which, depending on the traditional UK weather, may be a wise move) a number of attractions are ready to welcome you in from the cold. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway operates on various dates throughout October and there’s nothing quite like taking that vintage steam train through unspoiled countryside, passing fields and wooded areas ablaze in a multitude of autumnal reds, yellows, oranges and browns, you will feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Keep with the heritage feeling and visit Osborne, the palatial holiday home of Queen Victoria. Take in the opulent state rooms with gleaming gold furniture where the Queen entertained her important guests and the exquisite banqueting hall.
With an abundance of seasonal food from the field, farm, and sea you can sample what the Island has to offer at local pubs and restaurants. Staying in self-catering accommodation or want to take some items home to relive your holiday? No problem – there are a wealth of local farm shops dotted around the Island including Farmer Jack’s at Arreton Barns and Briddlesford Farm near Wootton.
*A version of this article first appeared in Wightlife Magazine, Winter 2021. To read more inspirational articles, visit our Wightlife page.