Monday, July 15, 2024

‘I spent one weekend on the Isle of Wight and now I’m hooked’

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My one previous visit to the Isle of Wight came about when I was in my late 20s and headed to the annual rock music festival with friends under the pretence of work.

The music and atmosphere were great, obviously, but it rained pretty much the entire weekend and so my starkest memory from the trip was sitting on the ferry home to England, cold and wet, my jeans literally frothing because the denim was so sodden (who knew!).

Maybe it’s one of the reasons I’ve never particularly considered myself an island enthusiast. Give me the choice and I’ll take swimming pool over sandy beach every time. So it’s all the more surprising that I spent the homeward journey of this trip googling house prices on the Isle of Wight and messaging my friends to tell them I’ve found my ideal holiday spot for summers forevermore.

This change of heart is down to a stay at Pinkmead Estate, a 24-acre estate overlooking the River Medina chockfull of natural charm and clever touches that promise to delight your inner kid. With only excitable bird chatter to penetrate the calm silence, you could absolutely treat your time there as nothing-but-downtime, moving only to eat and sleep. But, with my husband and three-year-old son in tow, we decided to make the most of all Pinkmead has to offer.

From hopping on the estate’s vintage-style bikes to cycle the surrounding area and swaying in the garden hammock, to laughingly tootling around the estate and vineyard in the Pinkmead golf buggy and swinging back and forth on the old-school tree swing, I was transported to the summers of my childhood, where I thought of nothing other than how much fun I was having in any given moment.

What’s it like inside?

pinkmead estate bedroom with a bathtub

Pinkmead Estate

Cosy without feeling cluttered, stylish without seeming try hard. The decor is rustic countryside neutrals with a few well-placed nods to the nautical aspect of island living, such as traditional weather barometers sitting on the entryway table and local seascape art hanging on the walls. Walking into the retreat house, which boasts three spacious double bedrooms (the fanciest one of which has a freestanding bath), a shower room, kitchen and cosy living room, our eyes were immediately drawn to the vast dining conservatory towards the back of the house which was flooded with light.

platter at pink mead estate

Victoria Joy

Waiting for us was a delicious platter of meats, cheeses and fruits by local company Isle Graze, which meant we could lazily reach for dinner that first evening – plus there was enough fruit left over to enjoy it over yoghurt and granola the next morning, looking out through the expansive glass panes of the dining room towards the countless white boats bobbing on the jetty, sunshine streaming onto our faces.

pinkmead estate on the isle of wight

Pinkmead Estate

With a preschooler who seems to do his best work pre-6am, I wouldn’t say I begin every day feeling well rested, but the house’s combination of thick curtains and shutters deliver complete blackout, so we slept blissfully and enjoyed a lengthier lie-in than usual, even with the summer sun rising early doors.

And if that isn’t relaxing enough…

Nicky, Pinkmead’s director, is on-hand via WhatsApp before and during your stay in case you want to add any wellness extras to your experience without having to engage your own brain or leave the estate. She organised an incredible massage treatment in the large light and airy garden kitchen (shout out to Laura from Be Calmed in Cowes with the magic hands) and a morning yoga flow with another island-based small business Balance + Glo, which we did outdoors near the jetty, gazing up at the clear azure sky in the gentle breeze. The homemade date balls afterwards got a thumbs up from my three-year-old son, the harshest of snack critics.

On the subject of food

It might surprise you, as it did me, to learn that the IOW is something of a foodie destination. Due to its unique microclimate (a local told us the southerly coast enjoys the most sunshine of anywhere in the UK, though I’m yet to fully fact-check the claim), the island is famous for producing ingredients you’d otherwise expect to find further towards the Med; notably tomatoes, garlic and wine. And then of course, being an island, there’s a daily abundance of fresh-off-the-boat seafood.

a couple of pasties at crab shack on the isle of wight

Victoria Joy

Perching on a hot bench in the beaming sunshine of Steephill Cove, we polished off piping hot pasties from The Crab Shed, biting through the buttery flaky pastry to enjoy one packed with sweet, spicy crab and another filled with herby salmon. Rumours have it the mackerel pasty is the tastiest of all but it wasn’t on the menu the day we visited.

Another simple but stellar meal was courtesy of The Beach Hut in Bembridge, where I ordered a pint of prawns served up with fresh brown bread and Marie Rose sauce. Peeling and eating the super-fresh prawns, washed down with a tall glass of the island’s own Mermaid Pink Gin and tonic while watching the shimmering water drift back and forth onto the shingle beach, I felt like there was nowhere I’d rather be.

Sweet tooth? Don’t miss Toni’s Tea Room, where you can enjoy a cream tea or one of their scrumptious homemade bakes sitting outside on Ventnor’s promenade.

a deck with tables and chairs on it next to a body of water

The Best Dressed Crab

Take note: while the island’s vibe might be relaxed, take a laissez faire approach to eating out and you’ll probably find yourself missing out. A lot of the restaurants and cafes have limited opening hours, closing between lunch and dinner even during the high season. Never not thinking about food, I’d done some online research pre-trip and top of the list was The Best Dressed Crab. Not only did it feature in series 2 of LOL comedy The Cockfields (if you haven’t watched it, you MUST) but the menu’s crab sandwiches look beyond tasty. Sadly, despite a few days of calling the reservations number and even chancing our luck in person, we didn’t manage to bag a space. Yet another reason to plan a return trip ASAP.

Anything else?

Not ones to shy away from a challenge, Nicky and her team put most people’s lockdown hobbies to shame (we celebrate you, banana bread bakers and sourdough makers) by planting the estate’s first vineyard in 2020. Though they’ve had a few mini harvests since, the hope is that by 2026 Pinkmead will be producing its own organic English sparkling and Rose wines, as well as putting the by-product grape skins to use in a skincare range. What better drink to sip while sitting on the lawn looking out at the boats than a cool glass of Pinkmead’s own vino.

Go there

Exclusive residency of Pinkmead Estate, including use of the main house, separate garden kitchen and yoga studio, is priced per week; from £3,500 low season to £4,000 in high season, BOOK NOW Ferries cross the Solent regularly throughout the day from various UK ports including Southampton and Portsmouth; WIGHTLINK is Pinkmead’s preferred ferry link.

More weekend break ideas…

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Victoria Joy is a qualified coach who helps people take back control of their everyday life, cutting through the overwhelm to create helpful habits and consistent routines to make life feel easier.

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