We sailed from Southampton to East Cowes. We saw a huge cruise ship in the dock, and a massive container ship being helped in by tug boats.
We had a couple of hours to kill before we could get into the caravan, so we went to Gurnard beach for a picnic and some ice cream (the first of many!).
The holiday park was great. It had an indoor and an outdoor pool - both very clean and well looked after. There was a shop, a take away, a pool room, table tennis, small playground.
We had a couple of frustrating issues with the caravan itself (faulty oven and fridge) but the staff more or less sorted things out for us.
We went to a beach every day. On our first full day, we went to Totland Bay. The tide was high when we arrived, but there was enough sand for the kids to play on for a while.
When the tide receded a little, we made a camp. Picnic, ice cream, knitting, sandcastles, paddling.
On Sunday we had a very busy day. First was a visit to the IOW Military History Museum. The museum closed last year, and has very recently been reopened by new owners. They are still sorting through what was left, and trying to get new items to exhibit, and only asked for a donation instead of an entrance fee.
Fred and Rob *loved* it. It's right up Rob's street anyway, and Fred was fascinated by the army clothing and the weapons.
After that we went to the donkey sanctuary. Betsy was interested to hear about the first donkey called Dillon (he has a memorial tree and a sign). She spent some of her pocket money on a little cuddly donkey and called him Dillon too.
Then we headed to Ventnor. It's a bit stinky here, but it's such a lovely beach. It has very fine shingle that doesn't hurt to walk on. Freddie got the girls to bury him, than they wanted to be buried too.
Lastly we went to a pub on the way back to the holiday park, and had a rare meal out. The pub is very family friendly, with a free bouncy castle, crazy golf and playground.
I'd arranged a free visit to Carisbrooke Castle on Monday (English Heritage do free entrance for home educators if you book a week in advance in term times).
I loved it. I'm very interested in 17th century England, especially the Charles I and the English civil war.
Charles I was held here for several months, and not long after was taken to the Tower of London where he was beheaded. He attempted to escape from his bedroom at the castle, but got stuck in the bars of the window. His bedroom forms part of the museum. The museum was fascinating, and there were lots of things the kids could pick up and explore.
You can go into his bedroom (though the furniture is not the original), and the night cap he wore the night before his execution is on display.
Model of the castle as it would have looked.
A model trebuchet that fires coins.
Outside, the kids liked the large guns.
We went to a talk about the Carisbrooke donkeys. Donkeys were used to lift water up from the well, by walking on a large wooden wheel. Previously, prisoners were used for the task.
Now they have four donkeys who take it in turns to show visitors how the wheel works.
Betsy and I walked along the castle walls.
Then we headed back to Ventnor, this time with our swimmers. Fred and I swam for ages. We saw a paddling pool in the shape of the Island, so the kids spent some time in there on the way back to the car.
After two very busy days, the kids were keen to have some time to hang out at the holiday park. So on Tuesday we spent most of the day either in the pool, or playing in the caravan. I'd booked us on a fossil hunt later that afternoon, but it was pretty close to where we were staying (unlike Ventnor, which was 40 minutes away).
The fossil hunt was excellent. We met with the guide at Brook Chine car park. She talked through the kinds of things we'd be looking for.
We walked slowly down the beach, picking up rocks and taking them to the guide. Most of mine weren't fossils, and I eventually got a bit better at working it out for myself. Rob proved to be a very competent fossil hunter, and found loads.
Between the five of us, we found various types of fossilised remains - shell bed (fossilised shells), sponge imprints, fish scales, sea urchin, wood, and very excitingly one piece of dinosaur bone, probably Iguanodon.
The guide showed us some footprint casts. Amazing. It was a brilliant couple of hours.
The next day we spent at the Compton Bay, a little further along the coast from where we had been fossil hunting. We arrived at exactly high tide, and waited a while at the top of the cliff.
It's a fantastic beach. Sandy, wild, beautiful. No shops, just an ice cream van in the car park.
On Thursday we went to Bembridge lifeboat station. There is a new boat house set out at sea, linked to the land by a long bridge. They had lots of interesting material for the kids - magazines, a magnetic game, leaflets, colouring sheets. We brought lots back with us!
Back the caravan via Marks and Spencers for an afternoon of swimming (Rob and the kids) and packing (me).
Our return home. We had some time to kill after leaving the caravan, and popped to Ryde for another ice cream. We sat next to the hovercraft terminal, and were all excited to see one come in and set off again.
Then it was goodbye to the Island, and hello home. It was good to be home.
It was a great holiday. We'll definitely go back to the Isle of Wight again. It's beautiful, and there's so much to do. And the beaches! Heaven.