The Isle of Wight, with its stunning coastline and beautiful beaches, has long had a reputation for being a holiday destination aimed at families who want a budget summer holiday close to home. The result is that the island has also gained the reputation as offering nothing more than beaches and amusement arcades.
Is there more to the Isle of Wight than Amusement Arcades and Sandy Beaches ?
I wanted to find out if there was anything more to the Isle of Wight, and to explore its reputation as a foodie destination, so with a group of friends we visited one weekend to sample its locally-grown and produced food and drink. We were not disappointed!
From mainland England, the Isle of Wight is easily accessible by car ferry from three southern ports; Lymington, Portsmouth and Southampton, as well as by fast foot-passenger only services from Southampton and Portsmouth/Southsea. All crossings range from 10 minutes on the hovercraft to 1 hour on the car ferry. With Portsmouth being only 40 minutes from my home we were there in no time!
Our first stop of the day was ‘The Garlic Farm’. I think the name says it all as everything produced here is garlic-related, from sauces, chutneys and condiments to pork scratchings, popcorn and even beer. The Garlic Farm grows over 20 varieties of garlic, with bulbs sourced from throughout Europe and as far away as Kazakhstan and Central Asia. All these bulbs have been growing successfully on the island now for many years.
The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight
The Garlic Farm is a family-run business, that has grown garlic on the island for over 50 years. Their friendly, helpful staff make you feel welcome and they are happy to answer any questions you may have about the farm. The shop is stocked with their whole range of garlic-related products, as well as a restaurant and heritage centre. They also offer tastings and workshops as well as tours of the farm.
When you arrive in the tasting room they offer you a small tub of crackers to dip into all their products, and there are three tables full of delicious products. Some of my favourites were the ‘Hot Garlic Pickle’, the ‘Garlic and Basil Pesto’ and the ‘Horseradish Mustard’. Jars of all of these were in my basket when I got to the checkout.
Foolishly we had lunch before we had visited The Garlic Farm, and so missed the chance to have lunch in the restaurant. The sharing platters looked to die for, so I would recommend trying these. The heritage centre is also worth a visit, and as well as showing the farms history, it displays historic objects found on the land and gives a good account of the history of the area.
Our next stop was at Rosemary Vineyard, just a short 10-minute drive from The Garlic Farm. Yes, after all that garlic we needed something to wash it down! Rosemary vineyard has been established for almost 30 years and produces award-winning wines, ciders, fruit wines, liqueurs and juices. The vineyard offers tastings of all its products, tours of the winery and the vineyard, as well as a video of the process from vine to wine.
On arrival at Rosemary Vineyard we were offered a map of the vineyard so that we could walk around and explore at our own pace. There is a route on the map which you can follow, so we did just this. Along the route there are information points which provide history, information and facts about the all the vines that you can see. These were very interesting to read, and helped prepare us for the wine tasting. I tried almost all the wines and liqueurs they had to offer but my personal favourites were the medium white and also their Ashey Mist, this was a blend of white wine and blackberry and lime juice – very refreshing. I was also very partial to their Cherry Liqueur. After a lot of tasting I was relieved not to be the designated driver! We left laden with several boxes of wine and liqueurs.
Our last stop of the day was the Sharon Orchard cider farm, a family-run business growing many varieties of apples, and producing ciders, juices, cider vinegars, and my favourite… spiced cider. They also produce jams, chutneys, pickles, mustards, relishes as well as honey produced by bees from the orchard. They also have a range of wonderful gift ideas ranging from single bottles of juice and cider presented in gift bags, to their two litre flagons and multi-bottle gift sets, all of which make lovely gifts.
Sharon Orchard offers tastings of its ciders and juices as well as tours. Unfortunately we arrived too late in the day to take the tour, but this will be a great excuse to make a repeat visit. We left Sharon Orchard with a healthy supply of cider, as well as some of their cider vinegar and a two litre flagon of spiced cider, which I will be putting away for Christmas.
There are still many more foodie stops that we were unable to visit during this trip. Places such as Quarr Abbey that makes its own range of honey, Wheelers Crab Shed for their renowned crab pasties, Adgestone Vineyard and the Godshill Cider Company, to name just a few!
The next trip is already in the pipeline so we can sample more of the incredible tastes of the Isle of Wight.