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Wight Bells Glamping
When glacial melt water severed the Isle of Wight from the mainland around 7,000 years ago, it sculpted a diverse and fascinating landscape. Only a short ferry journey away, this island escapes the frantic pace of the rest of the UK in favour of a laid-back, friendly atmosphere amid some of England's finest scenery. Steep, chalky cliffs dominate the coast, splintering into the famous Needles of the west, while inland over half the island is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The county's motto proclaims, “all this beauty is of God”. And when it comes to camping, it seems the big man well and truly blessed this idyllic island.
The warm, welcoming ambience of the UK's smallest county has been captured by Wight Bells, a glampsite in the south-east of the island. Here, three wonderfully furnished, retro styled bell tents create a quiet haven with all the comforts you could desire. Each tent sits atop a raised deck and comes complete with electricity powering the fairy lights and kettle, a double bed (including pillows & duvets), a double futon, drawers and storage; all decorated with an eye for perfection. Beneath the light cotton canvas you’ll be warm and dry, while just around the corner lie toilet and shower facilities, shared with Old Barn Park, an adjoining family campsite. Unsurprisingly the neighbour’s name comes from a building at the entrance to the site – a thatched 17th century barn that houses a TV and games room that are perfect for the kids if the weather hasn't read the script.
From the campsite, take a long walk (or short drive) into Shanklin – a seafront settlement with an alluring old town centre boasting a pleasant collection of independent shops, lined along two main streets. Below steep chalk cliffs lies a separate part of the town that's best accessed by a stroll down the Shanklin Chine – a deep ravine descending to the beach beyond. The angled walkway weaves through the rich flora accompanied by the natural soundtrack of tumbling waterfalls. The sandy beach here is just one of a multitude on the island. Whether it’s the striped cliffs of Alum Bay, or the greenery of Tennyson Down, the coast is rightfully a winning feature of this captivating island.
At certain times of the year however, such natural attractions are overshadowed by a more man-made affair. Some of the UK's finest festivals are hosted here, including the famous Cowes sailing week, the Isle of Wight music festival and the more independent, Bestival.
With such a treasure trove of attractions scattered around the island, there are few better places to settle than in Wight Bells. As well as the convenience of its unbeatable location, the campsite is a real family affair, run by three local sisters who are happy to give the inside scoop on where to go. Growing up on the island, they know this place like the back of their collective hand and appreciate all the beauty and charm it holds. Something timeless and unique, a charm you can only understand once you get there. The only thing that remains, then, is to pack the car and book the ferry!
3 pre-pitched bell tents all with electricity located on the edge of Old Barn Park, a small neighbouring campsite with 60 pitches for caravans or tents. Wight Bells shares the toilet and shower facilities with this campsite and there is also a dishwashing room and laundry. Bell tents are fully furnished with beds and furniture. The campsite has a small children's playground and a Grade II listed barn, used as a TV and games room with table tennis and pool tables. There is also an enclosed pond onsite, home to ducks and geese.
Couples, families and groups. Dogs are welcome, but not inside the tents.
The Isle of Wight has got something for all and is overflowing natural wonders, from The Needles and Alum Bay to the Hamstead Heritage Coast. There's wealth of outdoors activities with particularly good walks, plenty of cycling routes, kayaking and water sports along the coast and even paragliding (01983 731611) high above the island. During Cowes Sailing Week (01983 295744) the north of the island is rammed with sailing fanatics, while through the rest of the summer other festivals, including Bestival (020 3327 4810), the Isle of Wight Literary Festival and the Isle of Wight Music Festival, keep the villages bustling. Amazon World Zoo Park (01983 867122) and Dinosaur Isle (01983 404344) are two rainy day attractions ideal for families, while Brading Roman Villa (01983 406223) is one of the finest Roman archaeological sites in the UK and also boasts excellent views of Sandown Bay. Of course, the main attraction for most is simply to walk the pleasant streets of the charming villages that have escaped the chain stores of mainland England. Most overlook the sea with spots like Ventnor and Freshwater boasting stunning beaches, while nearby Shanklin Chine (01983 866432) offers an interesting route down to the waterside.
Food & Drink
Each bell tent comes equipped with a kettle, camping stove, crockery, glasses, pans and cooking utensils. There are also BBQs available. Opposite the campsite is a garden centre with café great for breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas. The nearest supermarket is on the edge of Shanklin (and within walking distance), while within the town there are a host of decent eateries. Closest at hand is The Merrie Garden (01983 405997), a newly built family-friendly pub with good food, while The Fisherman's Cottage (01983 863882), tucked down on the waterfront, is the place to go for authentic Isle of Wight seafood dishes. The Garlic Farm (01983 867333) is 10 minutes away and ideal for grabbing the freshest local produce in its shop and café.
May - September.
The campsite is about 25 minutes from the ports of East Cowes (for ferry crossings from Southampton) or Fishbourne (for ferry crossings from Portsmouth). Wightlink (0871 376 1000) operates the Ferry service from Portsmouth and Lymington, while Red Funnel Ferrys (0844 844 9988) runs from Southampton. Wight Bells is located on the road from Newport to Sandown.
There is a bus stop about 5 minutes walk from the campsite for the local buses (01983 827 000) serving Newport, Sandown and Ryde. The nearest train station is Shanklin which is a 5 minute taxi journey.
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