THE Isle of Wight has something to offer visitors at any time of the year and with lots of festive events in the lead up to Christmas, this November and December are an especially magical time to visit.
Many of the Island’s major attractions host special events such as A Victorian Christmas (21/22 November) at Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s holiday home by the sea, which will be decked out with Victorian festive decorations for visitors to enjoy in the weeks leading up to and during Christmas (www.english-heritage.org.uk).
Community-inspired festivals and fayres are also much in evidence at this time of the year. These include the Christmas Tree Festival in the delightful village of Brighstone (9 December), a real show-stopper with around 100 themed and decorated trees on display (www.iwight.com/visiting/events). Also in Brighstone, the National Trust shop and village museum is hosting two special Christmas Shopping events with complimentary mulled wine and mince pies on Sunday 6 and Sunday 13 December (www.nationaltrust.org).
With its decorated cafes, shops and boutiques, the market town of Newport is well worth visiting particularly on Saturday 21 November when the Christmas lights will be switched on and the town will celebrate with Carol singers, a marching band and a colourful array of craft and produce stalls (www.iwight.com). Christmas-themed events include:
A VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS AT OSBORNE HOUSE 21/22 November, 10am - 5pm Osborne House, East Cowes, Isle of Wight PO32 6JX.
Experience the spirit of a traditional Victorian Christmas at Queen Victoria’s holiday-haven, with magic and illusion, side-shows and a travelling theatre. Enjoy Carol singing and the chance to meet Queen Victorian herself. Cost: Adults £11.80, Concessions £10.10, Children £5.90, Family Ticket £29.20. English Heritage Members: Adults £1.60, Concessions £1.40, Children £0.80, Family Ticket £4.00.
Pre-booking recommended – call 0870 333 1181, www.english-heritage.org.uk From November, visitors can enjoy guided tours of the ground floor rooms of the Royal Apartments looking at how the queen and her family celebrated a traditional Victoria Christmas at Osborne. From January until March guided tours then focus on how the royal household holidayed at the house and its lovely grounds. www.english-heritage.org.uk
THE BIG CHRISTMAS POTTERY DECORATING WEEKENDS 27-29 November & 4-6 December Chessell Pottery Barns, near Calbourne, Isle of Wight, PO41 0UE Let the kids have a go at decorating their own pottery gifts using a range of Christmas decorating sponges including Snowflakes, Christmas Trees and Nativity characters. Or browse the well-stocked Gift Barn with the Island's largest range of Emma Bridgewater pottery, as well as the pottery's own Chessell Ware.
Take a break at the newly refurbished Courtyard Café which will be serving Hot (Isle of Wight) Pork rolls with home made Apple Sauce as well as freshly made mince pies with clotted cream from the local farm. The Courtyard Café is also the home of the 'Ultimate Island Cream Tea', and the Christmas version of this will include lightly spiced Christmassy cinnamon scones.
Cost: Pottery items to decorate from £4.95, plus studio fee £4.95 per person – covers all materials and glazing/firing of all items decorated per person that session. Fired items will be ready to collect within the week. All ages are welcome.
Tel. 01983 531248, www.chessellpotterybarns.co.uk Chessell Pottery is also offering 3-night 'Christmas Pottery Breaks' at its stylish barn conversion, Little Stables, which sleeps 6 people and is available 26-29 November and 5-8 December. This stylish, 4-star barn conversion is located in the beautiful West Wight countryside, ideal for walking to the Needles along the Tennyson Trail and for visiting the lovely ancient harbour town of Yarmouth with its pubs, shops and castle. The 3-night Christmas Pottery Breaks cost £299 and include a £50 pottery decorating voucher for use in the studio. For more information or to book, call 01983 531503, www.littlestables.co.uk)
CHRISTMAS OPEN STUDIOS WEEKEND 5/6 December, 10am to 4pm Islandwide Every December, Isle of Wight artists and makers throw open their homes and studios giving you the opportunity to meet them in their working environment and should you choose, make a purchase direct from the artist. Choose from handmade bags, cushions and hangings, paintings and sculptures, intricate beaded jewellery and much more. On Saturday, 5 December, the Isle of Wight Studio Glass in St Lawrence is hosting a Christmas Hospitality Day with free mulled wine, mince pies and tea and coffee for all visitors. Tel. 01983 853526, (www.isleofwightstudioglass.co.uk).
Cost: FREE to visit studios etc.
More information: www.isleofwightarts.com/open_studios.php For details on how to get to the Isle of Wight, where to stay and what to see and do, visit www.islandbreaks.co.uk or telephone 01983 813813.