Getting to the Isle of Wight

Dear Ann

I read with interest your letter in the May edition of TTS regarding your going to England’s Isle of Wight for a family reunion, as I have family there too and it’s a frequent destination for us when we head ‘over the pond’.  With frequent car ferries from Portsmouth, it’s really easy to reach the island and Portsmouth itself can be reached via a few hours’ drive from Heathrow or Gatwick.

This summer, however, we had a visit to make en route to Portsmouth, so we decided – instead of rushing or having to keep an eye on time – to spend a night in Portsmouth itself and catch an early ferry to the Isle the following morning.

So, if others think they may like to make the Isle a destination, here are a couple of Portsmouth tips to ease your journey.  We stayed at the very pleasant Retreat Guest House in Southsea (the residential part of Portsmouth), close to restaurants and the ocean promenade.  Our host Mark gave us tips for an early evening walk that brought us to the historic part of Portsmouth and one of his recommended restaurants, the ABarbistro overlooking the inner harbour.  Happy crowds indicated this was a popular place and no wonder … after a short wait at the bar, a table was found for us and we enjoyed a delicious dinner.

We were up early the next day to catch our ferry but in time to enjoy Mark and Sian’s breakfast, but were rather disappointed not to have a little longer to explore historic Portsmouth.  Next time!  But this quick sojourn had been a very pleasant start to our vacation and is an itinerary we will follow in future.

We’d also like to urge readers to visit the Isle of Wight.  It has gentle scenery, famous walks, a lot of maritime history and even Queen Victoria’s favourite summer home – Osborne House – and the place where she died.  (On our recent visit we were interested to hear that flowers and herbs from the gardens at Osborne were included in Kate Middleton’s wedding bouquet.)  The house is open to the public.  Do go and enjoy this lovely part of England!

A few details:

The Retreat Guesthouse, 35 Grove Road South, Southsea, Hampshire, tel: [011 44] 23 9235 3701, e-mail: [email protected], 

ABarbistro in Old Portsmouth, tel: 23 9281 1585, 

Portsmouth Tourism: 

Isle of Wight ferries: (Note: some island properties include the ferry fare in their rates, so check before you book.)

Isle of Wight Tourism: and many other sites.

Osborne House:…/osborne-house/  

Julie Stevenson
Toronto, ON


Ed’s note:  I was so pleased to receive this letter, Julie, and to hear how much you enjoy the Isle of Wight and getting there!  I had hoped to have a story for everyone, but we were participating in my husband’s family’s reunion – all 41 of us! – over two days and there just wasn’t time for research.  But yes, it’s a lovely spot and the ferries are easy to use and efficient.  I can add a couple of tips … we stayed in The George Hotel in historic Yarmouth as it was close to the reunion home.  Very pleasant, old and typically English, but rather expensive we thought.  It seemed to be THE place in tiny Yarmouth and was close to everything, including popular Salty’s Restaurant and Pub right next door where the young people in our party ‘partied’ one night. – AW

Breakfast room at the Retreat Guesthouse (JS)The Retreat Guesthouse (JS)View of the George Hotel over their oceanside garden (AW)A glimpse of Portsmouth from the ferry with the Isle of Wight in the distance (AW)