The Isle of Wight holiday home of Queen Victoria and her large family will be familiar to anyone who has seen the movie Mrs Brown: it was filmed there. As well as exploring its beautifully preserved state rooms, royal apartments and servants' quarters, there are Italianate terraced gardens to enjoy and more than 300 acres of landscaped grounds.
A ride through the park in a horse-drawn open carriage like a prince or princess should prove a winner. And the Swiss Cottage, a life-size playhouse built for the children and grandchildren, should amuse. Each child had a plot of land to grow flowers and vegetables on. Their little wheelbarrows are lined up in their allotment shed, each bearing the name of a child. Prince Albert wanted the young royals to learn about life beyond the palace gates. There is a replica fort that the princes built and a "believe it or not" museum with curios from the empire. There is a playground of climbing frames and slide.
The tour of the main house is a fairly grown-up affair. Both downstairs and upstairs are on display. Being directed through the house feels a bit like being moved across an enormous Cluedo board; you pass through a splendid drawing room, billiard room, horn room and dining room. When the Queen was older she had a lift installed that was hand-operated by a servant in the basement. Last stop is the magnificent Durbar Room, built as a banqueting hall, where elaborate Indian gifts such as ivory replica palaces are now set out with interactive displays about the places they were made and the craft techniques used to create them. After all this regal solemnity take in some sea air with a stroll through the gardens, which have open views across the Solent.
There is a licensed restaurant, The Terrace. At the Swiss Cottage you can get drinks, cakes and ice creams. There is a café at the visitor centre.
There are adapted toilets, and four wheelchairs are available. However, only the ground floor of the house and part of the gardens are accessible to wheelchair users. There are facilities to take wheelchairs to the Swiss Cottage.
Open daily 10am-5pm (gardens close at 6pm) until 30 September. Adults £9.50, children (5-15) £4.80. Family tickets (two adults, three children) £22.40. Free for English Heritage members. Carriage rides cost £2.50 for adults, £1.25 for children.
How to get there
Osborne House, Isle of Wight (01983 200022; english- heritage.co.uk). By car: off the A3031 one mile south-east of East Cowes. By public transport: bus routes 4 and 5.
Natalie Holmes travelled from Portsmouth to Fishbourne with Wightlink Ferries (0870-582 7744; wightlink.co.uk), which offers return fares and Osborne House tickets from £63 for up to four travelling together. She stayed at the Seaview Hotel, Seaview (01983 612711; seaview hotel.co.uk) where a two-night spring break costs from £112 per person, based on two sharing, with breakfast and return crossings with WightlinkReuse content