Hot Spot: Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Cheaper than Cowes, and bursting with 'old-fashioned Englishness', the second-home set is catching on to the charms of this balmy seaside resort, says Robert Liebman

No Vacancies. That was the welcome that public relations consultant Debbie Morrall and her business partner Amanda Purves found at and around Newport when their party of 12 attended a pop music festival in early summer. Tight accommodation forced them to venture from the Solent side of the island to the relatively obscure, balmy south coast.

No Vacancies. That was the welcome that public relations consultant Debbie Morrall and her business partner Amanda Purves found at and around Newport when their party of 12 attended a pop music festival in early summer. Tight accommodation forced them to venture from the Solent side of the island to the relatively obscure, balmy south coast.

"It was our first time on the island. We explored all of the south coast and came upon lots of really nice villages," says Morrall. "I fell in love with Ventnor, which is quaint, has a proper beach and reasonable property prices. The Solent is home to the sailing community and is wealthy and upmarket. The south side is ploughman's lunch.

"Ventnor has lots of local shops, pubs and cafés, and feels like a nice little community. Its old-fashioned niceness reminds me of England when I was a kid, of the house my family had in Bournemouth about 25 years ago."

London-based Morrall and her architect boyfriend John Thompson became smitten with the seaside town and decided to buy a second home there. Independently, but at the same time, Amanda Purves and her boyfriend made the same decision.

"We did our sums and in the long run it makes financial sense because it is so much cheaper than Brighton, for example, or elsewhere on the south coast," Morrall says. "Even with the cost of the ferry, the extra expense is offset because you get more for your money. The ferry adds to the holiday appeal of the place, making it seem more of a getaway retreat."

A family resort during the summer, Ventnor's property market primarily consists of holiday homes, retirees and the island market, says Jonathan McCarty of Whitehouse Porter. "Ventnor's schools are quite good and we also get families from the mainland wanting a different lifestyle."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

Ventnor is about 15 miles from Cowes. Some 350 daily ferry crossings link several mainland ports with the Isle of Wight, whose various towns are connected by bus. Ryde and Shanklin are linked by train. High-speed passenger ferries operate between Portsmouth and Ryde (15 mins), Southsea and Ryde (10 mins) and Southampton and West Cowes (22 mins). Car ferries link Portsmouth with Fishbourne and Lymington with Yarmouth (30 minutes), and Southampton with East Cowes (about an hour).

Attractions

Sheltered by steep hills, Ventnor enjoys a mild, sub-tropical microclimate. Its 22-acre Botanic Garden features Southern Hemisphere specimens from Zimbabwe, Tasmania and, in particular, New Zealand. Nearby is the Victorian village of Bonchurch, where Charles Dickens wrote much of David Copperfield. Next week sees the start of a two-week, island-wide cycling festival, and next April Ventnor hosts the Jazz Divas festival.

Starting out

Around the £100,000 mark are a three-bed, second-storey conversion flat on £99,950, and a one-bed conversion with parking on £104,500 at Pittis & Son. A two-bed, purpose-built, ground-floor flat in a four-storey block costs £125,000. A two-bed, two-reception semi with sea views, a paved courtyard and a long attic room conversion is £155,000. Similarly priced on £160,000 is a two-bed purpose-built flat with balcony on a hill overlooking the harbour; Whitehouse Porter.

Nearby

In St Lawrence, Whitehouse Porter are selling a two-bed attic flat on £129,000. Watson Bull & Porter are selling a large detached bungalow for £325,000, and large modern bungalows for between £340,000 and £350,000. In Shanklin, a penthouse with pillared parapet in a seventeenth-century manor house is £395,000 at Watson Bull. In Whitwell, which is slightly inland, a two-bed ground-floor flat is £139,950 at Whitehouse.

Houses

A two-bed two-reception detached house is £204,950, and a three-bed two-reception detached house with large garden and sea views is £210,000 at Watson Bull. A stone-built four-bed is £360,000 at Watson Bull, and a three-bed thatched cottage with downstairs shower room and upstairs bathroom, £385,000 at Pittis.

Beds mean business

A period property with a ground-floor garden flat and six bedsitting rooms each with a kitchen (they share three bathrooms and four WCs), £324,950, at Pittis.

New

Kingsview is a new Art Deco-inspired development overlooking the beach. Several flats, some with south-east or south-west-facing terraces, are available from £199,500. Offers are invited for the two penthouses: one with an L-shaped north-facing terrace and a southwest-facing balcony, and the other with a vast terrace that wraps around three sides and is adjacent to both bedrooms, the living room and kitchen. Luxury flats and penthouses are also available in Algernon House; from £155,000. Whitehouse Porter is the agent for both.

Estate agents

Pittis & Son, 01983 868777; Watson Bull & Porter, 01983 852021; Whitehouse and Porter, 01983 854545.

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