Luccombe - A Hidden Gem on the Isle of Wight
by Ben Farrelly
Luccombe is the little hidden away cliff top village that is also a suburb of the holiday town Shanklin. It has become well known for its parks, natural beauty and of course its incredible sunrise that wakes the sleepy little hamlet every morning. It also hosts nature such as caterpillars and other insects that can only be found in this area as well as being part of the journey of the Shanklin Chine that draws minerals from the Ventnor Downs, that helps nourish the soil, and helps make Luccombe the flowering and green area that it is. If you happen to be staying at the homely and friendly Luccombe Hall Hotel on the cliffs overlooking Sandown Bay you will soon realise there is much to discover in Luccombe. After a hearty cooked breakfast why don't you and your partner or family take a stroll through the gardens and step into the fairy-tale Rylstone Gardens. Hidden away behind a blanket of trees and teetering on the cliffs of Shanklin, Rylstone Gardens is a real hidden gem. Home to a traditional round of crazy golf as well as a band stand and a delightful little tea garden the area is also a sun trap with plenty of trees to sit under for protection from the mid-day sun. During the summer months many a brass band can be heard coming from the park as well as the applause from the people soaking up the ambience as they enjoy a glass of wine or a picnic. It is a place of rest and relaxation and the benches are often filled with people escaping the hubbub of their holiday and sneaking in a chapter or two of their books as the red squirrels frolic in the trees around them.
Taking a left turn out of the Luccombe Hall Country House Hotel will set you on a steep walk along the coast towards Bonchurch and then Ventnor. It is a walk filled with more hidden treasures such as the Devils Chimney, Luccombe Chine, the wishing chair, hidden caves and of course constant glimpses of that incredible view. Through copses and winding paths every corner turned gives a new view that has been steeped in history from the Roman settlements,100 years' war through to the days of the smugglers and of course World War 2. Incredibly the area is still hugely untouched and only nature has left its impressive mark as coastal erosion and landslides have left an indelible landscape. Towards the end of your walk the soil turns to pavement once again and the unmistakably characteristic Bonchurch becomes the next destination. Once a holiday home to some of the world's greatest poets and playwrights the area is un-mistakenly inspiring and will surely continue to help many writers beat their writing blocks over the coming years. Strolling the quiet and leafy streets of Bonchurch will leave you feeling like you have taken a step back in time and the Victorian feel of the place is an emotion that will stay with you for some time.
Continuing along the costal walk will soon bring you into the town of Ventnor. Filled with subtropical plants, its own micro climate, gecko's and abundance of local music and of course its fantastic cuisine, Ventnor is a must for a day out. Built into a cliff face and regarded along with Shanklin as the warmest area in Britain, Ventnor is a very unique place. From the pubs serving delicious local ales to winding the day away exploring the impressive Botanical Gardens you cannot leave without trying the crab on chips served on the seafront in the Ventnor Fish Haven. If the local fresh crab doesn't grab your fancy don't worry, there are numerous establishments serving fantastic dishes and even more options become available during the warm Ventnor evenings. Make sure to check out La Cantina, The Spyglass Inn, Foggs, El Toro Contento, The Royal Hotel and The Boat House as well as many other lovely places to eat. Food options are not an issue in Ventnor and neither is great quality.
After filling yourself it is unlikely that you will want to take that walk back to Luccombe, so hop on a bus or into a taxi for a short and inexpensive trip back to Luccombe. The evening awaits and a freshly cooked four course meal awaits you at Luccombe Hall. You could always follow this with a walk down the cliff steps to enjoy another glass of ale in The Fisherman's Cottage situated at the foot of the cliff. With the stars above you, a local musician or band playing as well as the sea lapping at the shore just a few feet away from you surely there is no better way to end the day?
And let's not forget you have to get up nice and early to catch that sunrise as it climbs over the Channel. You would be crazy to miss it before another day exploring the Garden Isle.