I love visiting gardens, they are the perfect mix of running around outside for the Little Bear, whilst still being an enjoyable place for the adults to wander and soak up the peace, there is usually some good wildlife as well.
So when I heard about Ventnor Botanic Garden, near where we were staying on the Isle of Wight, which are also the start of a lovely walk down to a picturesque cove – obviously I couldn’t resist.
I don’t think I have ever been anywhere that feels quite so tropical whilst staying in the UK. It helped we went on a sunny day, but these are the hottest gardens in the country thanks to their sheltered position on the ‘Undercliff’. Stepping into them is basically nipping to a more Mediterranean climate for the day, but in the South of England. The architecture of the main building felt more like something you’d stumble on in the Caribbean with a high veranda and palm trees.
The Bear loved stomping about looking at the fish and terrapins in the pond by the visitor centre. The grown ups managed to have a nice walk looking at the amazing display of flowers whilst she napped. There was also a small playground, with a very large slide, that was a popular hit.
We were all enchanted by the wall lizards, even Little Bear managed to get good views despite generally only noticing what we were all staring at as she scared them away. There is a little bit of a debate about whether these lizards are an non-native introduction to the Isle of Wight, as they are a European species, or whether they have found their way naturally. They are starting to establish all over the UK due to releases of captive animals, and thanks to climate change they are thriving. You can see the Ventnor lizards on the wall just past the entrance to the visitor centre or in the Mediterranean garden. You can even sit in the cafe and watch them with a coffee (it’s a very nice cafe, with very good coffee, which helps).
The botanic gardens are also parking for the walk down to Steephill Cove, a mainly car free gorgeously picturesque beach with some lovely cafes for lunch, right next to the sea, again feeling like we were somewhere much more exotic than the Isle of Wight. The only place I’ve managed to eat with the waves almost lapping at my feet is the Caribbean. Steephill does live up to the name though – what a shame it was Will’s turn to push the buggy back up the hill at the end!
Our visit was a thoroughly wonderful sunshine infused day, and I think the cove, the gardens and the shimmering sea are going to be one of the images I most remember from the Isle of Wight.
We visited twice as your entrance fee of £9.50 per adult, £5 for children over five or £20 for a family allows an additional day of parking and entrance to the gardens – a great idea for a week long holiday that more attractions should emulate I think. You can also just pay for parking to walk down to the cove for £5. (Prices correct as of January 2018)
To get to the cove from the gardens I recommend ignoring the map they give you and use the road. I’m still not quite sure how we managed to go wrong within the Botanic Gardens when trying to get to the coast path to get down to the cove, the map was not the clearest. We ended up climbing under a fence. In future I would come out of the Botantic Gardens onto the pavement by the road and turn right then left down Loves Lane. We came back this way and it was a lot easier.
The Botantic Gardens have a lovely cafe serving snacks on the top floor, and equally lovely restaurant on the ground floor with full meals. Both were excellent. Steephill Cove has a number of lovely looking places to eat. We ate at The Beach Shack – Will especially recommends the crab soup. The staff were really friendly despite us being really annoying trying to get the buggy stowed away and blocking their kitchen door. We were a pain but they were still so helpful and friendly.
Have you ever been somewhere that totally surprised you?
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