Isle of Wight Guru

5 Fabulous Festivals on the Isle of Wight

Many visitors to Shanklin’s hotels and guest houses combine a visit with one of the Isle of Wight's many festivals and carnivals, meaning they can enjoy the event in comfort. We asked the Isle of Wight Guru* to give us his take on five of the best

1. Isle of Wight Festival (early June, 9 miles from Shanklin)

I'm convinced that there are several hippies living on the Island who didn't get around to leaving after one of the early Isle of Wight pop festivals. The 1970 festival supposedly attracted 600,000 people, although you do feel that the estimate gets bumped up slightly with every passing year. After a pretty wild weekend, the shell-shocked council imposed a ban on big public gatherings, which lasted until the 'relaunch' of the Festival in 2002. 

Nowadays, it is a much more civilized and family-friendly experience, to the extent that I end up bumping into my old school teachers who were there with their grandchildren. Despite that, it's a great weekend and has recently been headlined by artists that even my mum has heard of, including Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones and Sir Paul McCartney. Needless to say, Macca did a drawn out Hey Jude sing-along.

2. Bestival (early September, 5 miles from Shanklin)

Bestival takes place in the rather bizarre location of a children's adventure park, meaning that you can have a ride on a toboggan run and a time machine before picking up your glow sticks and raving the night away. It does attract big names (Elton John and Stevie Wonder in the last few years) but the music is only about half of the entertainment, with quirky things to stumble across like inflatable churches, tents for breastfeeding (Breastival) and cinemas in the middle of woodland. 

The trendy kids who attend also put a huge amount of effort into fancy dress costumes on the Saturday night. I've seen people dressed as a pack of Crayola pencils and The Needles Lighthouse, but don't turn up in your ordinary clothes or you'll look like a right weirdo. 





3. Isle of Wight Walking Festival (May, Islandwide)

The two week walking festival is pretty massive now with dozens of walks, including some that even I could manage without whining - like a two mile stroll along a beach. At the other end of the spectrum is a 24 hour trek around the Island's coastal path which requires a) good quality shoes and b) a slightly maniacal streak. Several walks take in Shanklin’s old village and esplanade.

10,000 people attempt to 'Walk the Wight', which involves raising money for the local hospice by walking half or all of the 26 mile route from Bembridge to Alum Bay.

4. Isle of Wight Cycling Festival (September, Islandwide)

The Isle of Wight in September is awash with lyrca-clad bottom wigglers who take part in rides with silly names like 'Chevy Chase' and the 'Hills Killer'. I must admit it’s been some time since I took to the saddle, thanks in part to a teenage cycling encounter with a bed of stinging nettles. 

Anyway, I might just be persuaded with various appealing routes on offer and Lonely Planet recently declaring the Island to be one of the world’s top 10 locations for cycling.

5. Carnivals (mostly August, Islandwide)

Islanders sure do love parading through seaside towns on the back of a tractor whilst wearing sequins. There are big carnivals in most of the coastal towns, with many putting on a main parade, an illuminated parade, a children's parade and a cats and dogs parade (that last one may not be true). Shanklin's Carnival has been going since Queen Victoria was still living at Osborne House. It remains one of the most popular and usually takes place in early August. 


*Isle of Wight Guru is an independent website which gives advice to holidaymakers planning an Isle of Wight Holiday. 


5 reasons to visit Shanklin

Here at Visit Shanklin we obviously think the town is the perfect spot for a holiday, with its sandy beach, high quality accommodation and loads of fun things to do.


But we decided to ask the Isle of Wight Guru* to give us his views on our town, and his top 5 reasons to visit Shanklin:

1. Shanklin's sunny weather

Tourism bosses frequently come to blows over which is the UK's sunniest spot.  Shanklin likes to claim such things and it has a strong argument with more than 2000 hours of sunshine in an average year (that’s a lot for the UK, by the way).


Of course, there are numerous ways to measure such things. One town claims it is sunnier because it has more days when the sun shines for at least a few minutes, another claims it had the most sunny days in August, and so it goes on.

Personally I think the whole thing should be settled with a tug of war between guest house owners of rival resorts. Until that happens, you can be pretty confident that Shanklin is a suntrap and if you want a tan alongside the convenience of a UK holiday then the town is a good choice. July and August are the hottest months (22C/72F average high) with June and September close behind (20C/68F and 19C/66F).



2. Shanklin's sandy beach

Just in case you didn't realise, there is a beach in Shanklin - it's the sandy bit between the water and the esplanade. The Isle of Wight's south east coastline (which includes Shanklin) is its busiest stretch on a sunny day, largely because it has the sandiest beaches, probably the best coastline for swimming and the best facilities for families. Shanklin has pedalos and kayaks for older children to try out, decent toilets, lots of parking and cafes selling chips on the esplanade which are ideal for bribing toddlers back into the car.

3. Shanklin's relaxed pace

If you want mega-sized theme parks with terrifying rollercoasters, gaudy Disney parades and all-night raves then...I wouldn't visit Shanklin. However, if you want to take a step back to a slower, quieter, simpler time then it's a good choice. There are family-friendly activities to consume an afternoon, like minigolf on the seafront or Shanklin Chine with its woodland and waterfalls. There are lots of pubs and restaurants in the pretty thatched village for those who want to eat something other than ice cream all week.


There’s also the Island’s biggest theatre – unsurprisingly called ‘Shanklin Theatre’ - which seats 600 and runs shows all year round. Expect to see tribute acts, some drama and some household names on the national circuit (Ross Noble, Russell Watson and Alan Davies in 2015 for example).



4. Shanklin's range of accommodation

Based on my scientific technique of driving-around-and-looking-out-the-window, I'd say that Shanklin has the biggest choice of accommodation on the Isle of Wight. There are campsites for those who enjoy being woken up at 4am by the summer sunrise, or there is accommodation with walls for the rest of us.


There are a couple of big caravan sites, which are well equipped with things like indoor swimming pools for a wet day, and are ideal for families with noisy children (by which I mean all families, including mine). There are self-catering cottages, which tend to work well if you're in a big group and can share out the cooking.


There are also loads of decent guest houses and bed and breakfast - some of which offer the traditional seaside guest house experience with tea served in china cups with tiny handles. Others have a more contemporary style which is more akin to a small hotel.




5. Shanklin's travel connections

Large parts of the Isle of Wight rely on buses thanks to the decision to remove nearly all of the railway lines in the 1960s. Thankfully, the line which runs from Ryde Pierhead survived and still connects Shanklin to the rest of the world. You can get a direct train from London to Portsmouth Harbour in about 90 minutes, walk about 50 metres to the 20 minute passenger ferry and then get a 20 minute train to the centre of Shanklin. Door to door from London should take about 3 hours, which is roughly how long you'd spend sitting on an uncomfortable chair at Stansted Airport waiting for your flight to the Costa del Grot.

*Isle of Wight Guru is an independent website which gives advice to holidaymakers planning an Isle of Wight Holiday.