Thursday, 8 September 2016

Isle of Wight: A Weekend Away - Dog Friendly too

We have had a brilliant summer so far and with that I was really looking forward to our weekend visit to the Isle of Wight.  I haven’t been there for years and really fancied visiting for the same weekend that the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival was on.
Whenever we plan to go away our little dog Jonty gives us the big eyed look as soon as he sees any kind of suitcase or travel bag because usually he gets left with his babysitter or a family member.  You should have seen his face when we told him he was coming with us! Happy dog! 

The reason we were taking him was to check out how ‘dog friendly’ the Isle of Wight really was.  We were booked on the Red Funnel ferry crossing from Southampton to East Cowes.  Red Funnel are really dog friendly and instead of having to leave Jonty in the car during the crossing they have a lounge where dogs (and children) are made to feel right at home.  
There were 13 dogs on our outward crossing all sitting on the floor near their owners and not one caused any trouble or looked for attention.  Jonty was as good as gold sitting with Mr R!
I was advised that the bacon sandwiches on board were amazing however we had just had our breakfast and were too full up to try them – maybe next time!

Red Funnel Ferries make the 1 hour crossing to East Cowes with great precision resulting in a comfortable journey – unloading an incoming ferry and immediately loading us on even though the weather was really wet and foul.  My little mascot ‘Red Ted’ was so unimpressed with the weather he even put his hood up!
We disembarked with the same precision as we got on and headed towards the West of the island where we had booked into Sentry Mead hotel for our two night break.

The weather continued to be bleak however the weather forecast promised it would let up around 15:00 that afternoon.  We called into the New Inn pub in Shalfleet because they allowed dogs inside the pub.  We had wanted a light-ish lunch, Mr R ordered a Ploughman's
 and I had a Chicken Bacon Sandwich.
 They were anything but small!  Other plates coming out of the kitchen looked equally ample.

Upon reaching Sentry Meal hotel the sun had come out and the rain had stopped. There is ample parking out front.  We were welcomed by Sarah, who along with her husband Jean Pierre, has run this establishment for around 11 years.  The place is welcoming and spotlessly clean and Sarah wanted us to know nothing would be too much trouble.
Our room was one of 10, five on the first floor and five on the second.  We were on the first floor in Allum Room which is one of the largest because Sarah thought we would be more comfortable with the dog.  I will be telling you more about Sentry Mead in a forthcoming post so keep your eyes open for this.
The Isle of Wight has loads and loads of activities and places to visit for all of the family.  Some that we visited were …….

Farmer Jacks Farm Shop at Allerton Farms, Tapnell Farm which is also home to The Cow Co restaurant.  We were initially going to eat there but as Jonty wasn't very well on the trip we cut our stay short and got an earlier ferry crossing home Sunday afternoon.  

Tapnell Farm was once the home of the biggest dairy herd of cows on the Isle of Wight but is now home to the first and only 'Art Herd' in the UK.  The #Wightherd is a collection of live-sized and very colourful cows all designed by local businesses, groups and collectives.

The restaurant is definitely on my list for the next visit though.

We drove through Ryde to Bembridge to visit the famous "Best Dressed Crab" seafood café.  
We bought crab sandwiches to take away and eat in the car.  They were fantastic, thick with loads of crab and a salad as well.  Whilst I was waiting someone ordered the lobster plate which was a whole lobster on a bed of salad with a side of chips at £26.00 and someone had the full seafood platter which consisted of a full lobster split in half, two dressed crabs, mussels, shrimps, prawns and more for the reasonable price of £46.00.
We could have sat outside on this little floating barge with the dog but they were full which was why we got take-aways!

Despite the weather we visited the Garlic Festival on Saturday.  
I stocked up on products from The Garlic Farm which is located on the island and passionate as well as pioneering the growth of garlic and making garlic products.  
There was a garlic beer which I was advised not to drink but to make a lovely beef stew or casserole for a cold winter's eve! Think I will take the advice!
I also bought growing garlic bulbs and with the help of the sales person and a booklet on growing garlic hope to have a successful harvest next summer.

I was really fortunate to visit The Tomato Stall, part of Wight Salads.  They only produce tomatoes now but what a range.  
They have the science down to a fine art and along with a fantastic growing position (in a valley surrounded by the Downs which shelters them) and being so close to the seaside which reflects the light giving the plants extra light source they are practically self sufficient and ecologically producing plump, tasty and beautiful sizes and varieties of tomato!
I was on a mission to find some island honey and was directed to visit Quarr Abbey (pronounced kor) near Ryde. I am not a particularly religious person however as I got closer to the abbey it felt weirdly serene and calm.  

Quarr Abbey is a Catholic Benedictine Monastery. There is a gorgeous brick wall (I do love a brick wall) surrounding their cafe, kitchen garden and apiaries.  Unfortunately the bees were working and not available for interview!
I was especially drawn to their impressive asparagus bed, which I think I will replicate at our allotment!
Some other places we want to visit on a future trip (probably early summer next year) are ……

As the weather was really windy we were unable to get the cable car down to the beach at Alum Bay, famous for it's multi-coloured sands. A minor disappointment but definitely on the list.

There are quite a few wine and cider making places to visit like Rosemary Vineyard, Sharon Orchard, cider press shop & coffee house, Adgestone Vineyard.

West Wight Alpacas and Llamas (I love alpaca!), Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary - very popular with families.

There are many, many fun and interesting places to visit including Chessell Pottery Barns and for the really brave House of Chilli will tickle your taste buds!

As we drove around the island we discovered that it was much larger than we had previously expected and very, very rural in all but the most touristy places like Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor.  We would be driving around windy roads up hill and down dale and would suddenly come upon one of the attractions or places of interest.

There really was too much to try to do and see in a weekend but it gave us a taste and flavour of some of the attractions for a future trip.
Many thanks to Red Funnel Ferries for our ticket, The Garlic Festival and Sentry Mead.  I was not required to write a positive review and as usual all photos and opinions are my own.


  1. It sounds like a great weekend, pity about the weather.The garlic festival must have been fun.

    1. We did have a great time but it is just an intro to the fab food on the island.

  2. What a fun weekend and fab that woof came too! I love the Isle of Wight... only been once on a walking holiday with my mum but was bowled over by it.

    1. I hadn't been in years and found it a really vibrant foodie mecca - want to go for a week next year!

  3. I've always wanted to go to the Garlic Festival! Despite Jonty being unwell it still sounds like you made the best of your time - and so did your dog (And little Ted). I wish I wasn't so far away as the Isle of Wight really is a place I would love to visit. Their unique growing climate seems so different from the rest of the UK and I'd love to see all of the producers. One day!

  4. Sounds like a fantastic food filled trip. Love the sound of the garlic festival. Not so much the idea of garlic beer. Definitely best left for cooking.

    1. I look forward to a nice warming stew in a couple of months complete with my garlic beer!

  5. It is a fantastic place for growing and producing local food - you would love it!

  6. I have a friend on the Isle of Wight but I haven't visited since she moved there. Maybe I need to make an effort.

    1. Jac you should go, you would love it - there is so much going on!!

  7. The garlic festival looks amazing, would love to visit. I know my friend likes to take her dog on holiday and it's not always that easy, so nice to know that the Isle of Wight is so dog friendly

    1. There were loads of pubs and restaurants as well as attractions that allowed dogs - really refreshing

  8. Looks like you guys had so much fun! I wish there was a garlic festival somewhere near me :)

    1. I love festivals especially foodie ones. There is a chilli festival near Stevenage in august you should try.

  9. What a lovely write up of your trip! Throughly enjoyed it, not sure about the garlic beer though, I would love to know how did you use it :)

    1. Thanks, glad you liked the post - we did have a great weekend!