Isle of Wight: One isle, two holidays - all three end up happy

The parents get to relax while their son is kept busy at an all-action holiday camp. It doesn't get much better, says Matthew Lorenzo

Something happens on the ferry. I've been thinking about it for a week and it definitely happens on the ferry. You drive on at Southampton, pick up a cup of tea and watch the Solent drift past. An hour later and you're in different place in time. A place where Kenneth More and Just William would have been happy, where they probably still make ginger beer, where picture postcards depict rose-tinted England with thatched cottages, sandy beaches, towering chalk cliffs, old pubs and steam trains.

Well, the steam trains are misleading. There's only one, a glorious five-mile renaissance line that starts near Ryde and this year celebrates its 40th birthday.

The island railways started to die out in the 1950s when they had become financially unsustainable and most were killed off by the 1960s as part of Dr Beeching's cuts. But the trainspotter's misfortune is the cyclist's delight. My wife, Susan, and I re-discovered the merits of the bicycle on the leafy cycle paths that replaced the railway lines, taking our bikes all over the west of the island from our base at the West Bay Club near Yarmouth.

Arriving at this New England-style village had been the second highlight of our trip. The first had been dumping our beloved 15-year-old James at Camp Beaumont, situated – handily – on the other side of the island in Bembridge. James was keen to sample go-karting, kayaking, tree climbing and to get stuck into all manner of adolescent pursuits. Sue and I gave badly-disguised yelps of delight as we headed across the island to Yarmouth.

This was to be James's first holiday without us and Camp Beaumont came highly recommended: more a place for young people to have fun than a holding pen for teenagers. We met some of the team leaders, signed him in, and he barely spared us a backward glance as he headed towards his new digs. Ahead of him lay five days without us; I didn't know who would crack first, him or his mother.

Still, we had plenty to distract us too. The West Bay Club sits in beautiful grounds just outside the tiny harbour town of Yarmouth and boasts all manner of leisure pursuits.

We tried tennis and cycling, and one of us raved for hours about the facial and massage succumbed to in the spa. The other borrowed some golf clubs and drove to Osborne House, Queen Victoria's palatial holiday home near Cowes, and venue for a nine-hole course that winds its way through trees and hills towards the Solent.

Barely five miles south west of Osborne House is Carisbrooke Castle. That's the nice thing about the Isle of Wight, diversions are never more than half an hour away. It's more than 800 years old and a real motte and bailey affair, a term which still resonates from my school days. It made me smile to think that James was probably clambering on some climbing frame at the other end of the island while I was doing more or less the same thing along the battlements, envisaging invaders below. As we left, we passed the window where Charles I got stuck, half in half out, in a failed escape attempt.

He lost his head. We lost ourselves in the charm of an afternoon tea at the Royal Hotel in Ventnor. It is "Royal" because Queen Victoria popped in regularly, royal too in the extent of the tea: £17.50 each bought us locally-grown strawberries, clotted cream and scones, piles of sandwiches, six choices of tea and another notch gone on the belt. Ventnor became a spa town around 1830, where the well-heeled would come to take the air. We settled back in front of the geraniums which cover the hotel's front walls, and fell asleep; it was bliss.

Beneath us a winding road led to Ventnor Esplanade. We had a deal to work off, and the beachfront was worth the trip. The beach is sandy and uncluttered and even the amusement arcade is understated and seemingly unwilling to break the spell. We continued west and up along the cliffs to Steephill Cove. Inaccessible by car, it is one of the most picturesque bays on the island, where a few shacks offer crab lunches, kids play in the sand and cricket holds sway when the tide is out.

From Ventnor, the drive back to the West Bay took us along Military Road, built to ease the movement of troops in anticipation of a Napoleonic invasion that never came. Bonaparte's loss was our gain. The views across the Channel were incredible. And we had them, even at peak season, almost to ourselves: towering cliffs, rugged heath and dipping pastures.

The beauty was more tranquil in Shanklin's Old Village. Here, Paul and Susan De Vere bought Vernon Cottage 18 months ago, the classic leap from the rat race to one of the prettiest corners of the country. They have rapidly developed a reputation for offering one of the best seafood platters on the island. I hate to think what London restaurants would charge for lobster, tiger prawns, smoked salmon, mackerel and more – but none could offer fresh produce and serve it in the unspoilt garden of a centuries-old thatched cottage for £30 for two.

I don't know what happened the following morning because Sue took a Zumba class at the West Bay and I wasn't allowed to observe. I am reliably informed that Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance fitness programme which requires a good sense of rhythm, a lot of wobbling and shaking, and then several hours of bed rest.

Consequently, we took the final day off ahead of our last meal on the island: dinner at Salty's, which occupies a converted boathouse in Yarmouth. Chairs hanging from the ceiling were graced by Princes William and Harry on one visit (I'm assured they were on the floor at the time); downstairs every other visitor seems to have scribbled their signature, while upstairs the restaurant offers "Salty's Formidable Fish and Chips". The plate buckles under the weight. Preceded by mussels and washed down by a bottle of house white, while staring out at a hundred masts glinting in the dying sunlight, this was the perfect way to end our trip.

James ended his trip being ambushed by new-found friends, proffering pens, scraps of paper and, no doubt Facebook details, as he made the long trip down the path to join us.

Conversation with a 15-year-old is never easy, but we deciphered the grunts and smiles as proof that his first holiday alone had worked well. And we'd been just as content without him. We knew he was safe and happy and doing what he wanted. And we'd definitely do it again next year. Together, but apart, if you see what I mean.

Travel essentials: Isle of Wight

Getting there

* The writer travelled with Red Funnel Ferries (0844 844 9988; redfunnel.co.uk) from Southampton to East Cowes. Car ferries are also operated by Wightlink (0871 376 1000; wightlink.co.uk) from Portsmouth to Fishbourne and Lymington to Yarmouth.

* There are also faster foot-passenger sailings from Southampton to Cowes and Portsmouth to Ryde, and a hovercraft service from Southsea to Ryde.

Staying there

* West Bay Club, Yarmouth (01983 760355; westbayclub.co.uk). Three-night breaks start at £284 for two, room only.

* Royal Hotel, Ventnor (01983 852186; royalhoteliow.co.uk). Doubles start at £175, including breakfast.

* Camp Beaumont's "The Island", Bembridge (0800 655 6560; campbeaumont.co.uk). Seven-night holidays for 7-17 year olds from £399, full board. Childcare vouchers accepted. The remaining holidays for summer start on 13, 20 and 27 August.

Eating there

* Vernon Cottage, Shanklin Old Village(01983 865411; vernoncottage.co.uk).

* Salty's, Yarmouth(01983 761550; saltysrestaurant.co.uk).

More information

* Isle of Wight Tourism: 01983 813 813; www.islandbreaks.co.uk

Camp Beaumont – The Island

By James Lorenzo, aged 15

I arrived at "The Island" with apprehension, having faced day camps with instructors who made you cringe at their attempts to be "cool", and camp rules that made them seem more like school. My fears, however, were soon quelled.

Immediately, I was included in activities, began making friends, and most importantly, I began having fun. My fellow campers came from all over the world, but that was no barrier for making friends. I shared a room with Javier from Spain, met Sophia from Russia and hung out with Alex from London. And I hope we stay friends for a long time, and perhaps even meet up next year.

The instructors became our friends too. They picked up on our interests quickly, and were able to gauge whether it was worth pressing on with an activity. In our group, volleyball was a favourite. That said, there were rules, and the instructors always kept us in check.

The activities were different from the sports I had expected – there was nothing that was targeted at just boys or just girls. From orienteering, a trip to the beach, to the 3G Swing – a thrilling ride which hurls you at three times the force of gravity up and down again – there was something for everyone. My favourite was go-karting — followed by the zip wire.

Camp Beaumont is the best summer holiday destination and I would return next year – but with eager anticipation, rather than nervous apprehension.

Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker