5 years ago I went to Bestival with an argumentative ex-boyfriend. Attempting to erect our flimsy tent in gail force winds whilst cursing the rain and each other pretty much sums up that entire weekend. I’ve never had much of an inkling to return (to ‘the Isle of Shite’ as I then named it) since.
So when my good friend from University invited me to his Birthday weekend at his parents’ house on the Isle of Wight, mild panic swept through me. Public transport chaos and a festival-turned-mud-bath had awaited me last time, and that was in the height of the summer. When I think of Isle of Wight, it evokes memories of the pain-stakingly long queue for a ferry and the even-longer wait in the piss-pouring rain for a festival bus (moaning boyfriend in tow). But I accepted the invite and I’m so glad I did as thankfully the weather Gods were looking down on us this time (perhaps they felt bad for adding to the misery of my Bestival experience).
I arrived at Portsmouth and would have been quite content to stay there – basking in sunshine and the reflection of boats glittering in the harbour, it looked much more enticing than I remembered. I sat on the top deck with my foldable wayfarers, happily updating my instagram account, smug to be escaping London for the bank holiday weekend and trying to remember why I’d discounted this idyllic and conveniently situated little island on account of one weekend of crap British weather.
On arrival, I discovered there was one taxi and a smart-looking couple from London had already commandeered it. ‘Any chance you can call me another one?’, I asked the driver, aware that the pier was a long walk when you’re laden down with luggage. ‘Where you going?’, he asked. ‘Erm… (fumbling with iphone like proper tourist)…. Seaview? (can this be the name of an ACTUAL place?)… erm… the duvet?’ (the minute it escaped my mouth I was conscious that I was saying it wrong, dropping my ‘t’ as if asking if he’d drive me to a road padded with Hungarian goose down). He chortled, ‘you mean the DUVER, my love! Your mate must have been using predictive text’. Well done, Archie. The driver turned back to the smart London couple, giving them an enquiring glance on my behalf. They nodded. ‘Hop in, love, these two are going to the Seaview hotel just around the corner’. Bonus.
My driver, with his charming Isle of Wight accent, spent the journey trying to change my impression of his homeland. ‘Kate Moss actually has a house in Seaview, yeah, loads of celebrities go there’. Loads of celebrities went to Bestival, but I didn’t care for that much. Full of kids on ketamin and an disappointingly low standard of fancy dress, left me having a Bridget Jones moment in my skimpy Queen of Tarts outfit.
We arrived in Seaview and dropped off the kind couple who took pity on me, to my surprise, they paid £10 of the £11 fair. To my embarrassment, I only had a £20 on me so the driver refused my measly contribution and told me it was on him. Added bonus. Filled with joy because of my double dose of good luck, I swanned into the pub to meet my friends – gushing about my lovely taxi driver, the gorgeous weather, the stunning sea views in aptly named Seaview and optimistic that my previous impression of the place was completely ill-formed. It turns out the locals despite Bestival almost as much as me, so I was in good company for the weekend.
For a weekend away, Isle of Wight takes some beating when the sun is out – easily accessible from London, an abundance of quaint seaside-themed pubs and vast stretches of sandy beaches, it’s everything a British holiday should be. Our retreat for the weekend was a postcard-perfect blue and white house, complete with panoramic views from the decked sun terrace and rooms stuffed with monarchy memorabilia and shabby chic furniture.
I imagine if the weather wasn’t quite as glorious we would have consumed even MORE alcohol and food and perhaps only ventured from our cottage to the pub and back. But as luck would have it, the sun blazed down on us, forcing us to venture out to a rather over-competitive game of beach rounders (I really shouldn’t play competitive sports with strangers, it gives away my worst trait from the get-go). Sunburnt, sweaty and sandy, we ended the afternoon with an ice-cream outside a delightful little café called The Deli. Highly recommend the apple pie ice-cream.
Even when the rain finally did come, it couldn’t dampen our spirits. We donned waterproof jackets and hit the beach for a game of ‘ultimate frisbee’ (again, not the best sport of choice for someone who needs little excuse to get ferociously competitive). The rain thought it had beaten us, seeping through our jacket and cagools, but we laughed its face, stripped off and piled into the sea to continue our Frisbee game waste-deep in the English Channel. We felt triumphant, finally getting one-up on the weather fun-killers. In the end the wind got the better of us and we dragged our blue little bodies inside to warm up over a glass of red wine and some home-cooking.
My conclusion is, don’t think Bestival is the only reason to go to the Isle of Wight. Pile on the ferry with yoru mates and hire a beach house in Seaview for the weekend. You might get lucky with the weather, but even if you don’t – jump in the sea for a game of Frisbee, the rain only adds to the experience.