Wherever you walk on the Island, you follow in the footsteps of ancient people. Their legacy to us can be seen in the monuments and archaeological remains which pepper the landscape, a landscape which they themselves helped create.
The Romans named the Island "Vectis", meaning the place that rises up or divides. In their fine villas, the remains of which can be found at Newport and Brading, you can see the comforts and pleasures of a Roman way of life.
The fortifications of the Island provide a historic insight into the Island's strategic role. Carisbrooke Castle dates from Norman times and brings history alive to many thousands of visitors each year. Yarmouth Castle, the Needles Old Battery and Fort Victoria are of interest to the military historian as well as the casual visitor. Some manor grounds are historic landscapes in their own right, many containing walled gardens, fine plant collections and buildings of local and national significance.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert established a favourite residence at Osborne House in East Cowes. This royal stamp of approval brought many famous residents and visitors to visit and settle on the Island - Alfred Lord Tennyson (who bought Farringford House), Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Keats, Turner and Ruskin are just a few of the literary and artistic greats who were inspired by this "enchanted isle".
The Isle of Wight is one of Europe's finest sites for dinosaur remains. 120 million years ago there was no Isle of Wight, it was landlocked and part of a larger continent. In the muds and silts of ancient marshy environments, animals and plants were trapped and preserved as fossils. These can now be found in the cliffs and on the beaches around the Island's coast.
Giant casts of dinosaur footprints in stone are a famous feature at Hanover Point. Dinosaur fanatics will be fascinated by the exhibits on show at Dinosaur Isle, Sandown and the Dinosaur Farm along the Military Road.
The Island has also made great contributions to modern cultural history. The Isle of Wight Festivals have a legendary status, with those held between 1968 and 1970 being acknowledged as Europe's equivalent to Woodstock. In 1970 Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Free, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez and the Moody Blues, amongst others, played to over 600,000 people, the climax of a 5-day music extravaganza attracting an audience and artists from all over the world.
A more recent addition to the Island's cultural history is the Bestival, an award winning 3 day music festival set at Robin Hill - a beautiful leafy country park in the heart of the Isle of Wight. It was voted the 'Best Medium-to-Large Festival' for the 2005 and 2006 UK Festival Awards whilst also setting the world record for the Biggest Fancy Dress Parade (10,000 people dressed as Cowboys & Indians!). The Bestival continues to grow and add to the fine heritage of this cultural, historical and beautiful Island.
Isle of Wight residents past and present
The Island has attracted many famous visitors in search of inspiration, including John Keats, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Lewis Carroll, Longfellow, J.M.W. Turner, Alfred Lord Tennyson and J. B. Priestley.
Over the years, the Island has been a haven for artists, poets, the rich, the famous and the infamous. Here listed are a few that have put the Island on the map.
King Charles 1 (1647-1648) was held prisoner in Carisbrooke Castle prior to his execution in London.
Queen Victoria (1846-1901) first visited the Island as a princess in 1831, this was the beginning of a 70-year association with the Island. She and Prince Albert moved to the Island in 1864 and the Prince set about re-designing and re-building Osborne House. Princess Beatrice (1857-1944) was the youngest of Victoria and Albert's nine children. She married Prince Henry of Battenburg at Whippingham Church in 1885. In 1889, Prince Henry was made Governor of the Island. On his death in 1896, Princess Beatrice took over the position, which she retained until her own death in 1944.
Julia Margaret Cameron (1859-1875) the pioneering photographer, moved to the Island in 1859. She bought two cottages, which she converted into one calling it Dimbola, after the family's coffee plantation in Ceylon. This is now a museum and cafe called Dimbola Lodge.
Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1898) moved to the Island in 1897 to promote his work on wireless telegraphy, establishing the first wireless station in the world at Alum Bay.
Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1913-1920) was a cadet at Osborne Burma Naval School from 1913 to 1919. His father, Louis of Battenburg, retired to Kent House in East Cowes where he lived until his death in 1921. Earl Mountbatten was Governor of the Island from 1965-1979.
David Niven (1919-1933), the famous actor and film star, lived at Rose Cottage, Bembridge.
Sir Christopher Cockerell (1959-1961) lived on the Island whilst he was developing the first prototype of the hovercraft at Cowes.
Dame Ellen McArthur had her first sailing holiday to the Island at the age of 8, and moved here permanently in the late 90's.