There’s no need to jet off to far flung places when you can get golden beaches, luxury hotels and gorgeous countryside right on your doorstep, in the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has never been hotter. With a massive resurgence in UK honeymoons, thanks to eco chic and the credit crunch, couples are looking closer to home for a magical getaway. This pretty island, just a short ferry ride from Portsmouth in the English Channel, has all the essentials you could need for a fun and romantic break: a fabulous coast path to explore, quaint villages, gourmet restaurants and lovely stretches of golden sand.
What to see & do
Couples should head to Ventnor on the east of the island, home to a picturesque bay complete with colourful beach huts, seafood restaurants and little harbour from where you can take fun day trips to catch a glimpse of seals and dolphins. It’s also home to the wonderfully located Spyglass Inn, a cosy pub, which has tables overlooking the beach, and Minghella’s, an ice-cream parlour serving up huge dollops of delicious flavoured ice, owned by the late Hollywood film director Anthony Minghella’s parents.
Another big attraction in this area is the stunning stretch of coastline, part of the island’s 500 miles of snaking trails. A highly enjoyable walk is one from Ventnor to Steephill Cove, via meadows filled with native flowers and sparkling rock pools. When you reach Steephill, you’ll be enchanted by the step-back-in-time feel of the rustic houses, stacks of faded lobster pots and gentle curve of beach. Treat yourselves to a mouth-watering fish lunch and glass of crisp white wine at the glorious Boathouse, a faded wooden-fronted hotel and restaurant that looks like something from an Elle Decoration photo shoot. Just above Steephill lie the beautiful Botanic Gardens, where the tropical micro-climate enables a vast array of colourful flowers and shrubs to flourish.
The island has some grand old hotels, but The Hambrough is the top boutique retreat, with all the trimmings you’d expect from a hotel at the top of its game. Set in a double-fronted villa overlooking Ventnor bay, it has just seven, large rooms; honeymooners should book one of the two studio suites for the large balconies with sea views. The neutral décor of creams and browns is sophisticated but doesn’t feel contrived, and the big bathrooms with Molton Brown toiletries are suitably swish. There are some fun extras too, the most impressive being the funky espresso coffee machine.
Dining here is a treat and of an unusually high standard considering the size of the hotel. All becomes clear when the chefs are revealed: Robert Thompson was awarded a Michelin star aged just 23, and Johan Brouckaert has worked at Le Gavroche – no wonder islanders and guests alike flock here. There’s also a small bar for pre (and post!) dinner cocktails and the staff are incredibly chatty and friendly, instantly putting guests at ease. Nothing is too much trouble here; although there isn’t a spa, it can be arranged for a therapist to give an in-room treatment allowing guests to gaze at the sea through an open window while being gently massaged. Bliss.
Top tip: the hotel does have a car park, but it’s a five minute walk away, so drop your luggage off first.
Wight Link Ferries offers routes from Portsmouth to Fishbourne, Portsmouth to Ryde or Lymington to Yarmouth. Prices start from £45.