Isle of Wight – Fabulous Food and Drink

Leaving Portsmouth Harbour aboard Wight Link ferry

Wightlink offer two vehicle ferry crossing routes to the Isle of Wight.  We chose to travel from Portsmout to Fishbourne and return from Yarmouth to Lymington.

Efficient, cheerful crew loaded us quickly, giving us special treatment because of our height and length.  Just be sure to follow the signs for motor caravans rather than cars when you approach the check-in. 

Departure was on time and St Clare made her way sedately over smooth waters to the island port of Fishbourne.  The onboard café, with its servings of island produce, provided an auspicious tasting of good food to come.  45 minutes later, having disembarked, we were driving along island roads heading for the first of our island overnight stops.

Wight Link ferry

There are no shortages of diversions we could have taken on our way, and indeed, we took a few!  Not far from the ferry port was Quarr Abbey, a delightful oasis of peace, quiet and tranquillity.  Here Benedictine monks carry on with the devotional duties and care for their surroundings while inviting the likes of us to enjoy them without charge.  There’s plenty to do and see here from feeding the pigs farmed by the monks to visiting the fascinating museum which explains, so well, how the monks came to be here in the first place. 

Quaar abby on the Isle of white
Visit to Quarr Abbey

Don’t forget to visit the Abbey farm shop for a selection of wonderful island food stuffs.  It was in the shop that we got our second glimpse into the wide range of locally produced foods, wines and spirits that are available on the Isle of Wight.  Here indeed was proof that the island is truly a foodie’s paradise and, over the days that followed as our journey progressed, that favourable impression was reinforced at almost every stop.

Condiments and drink made and sold at Quarr Abbey

Not far from the Abbey, is the Wishing Well Inn.  On the surface, a well patronised public house.  Step inside however, and you will find the pub is in fact, home to a gin distillery producing Mermaid Gin the islands very own, and rather special, spirit.  Get your timing right and you can get to taste their signature gin, a salted vodka and the Royal Navy approved overproofed rum that has been infused with timbers from one of Britain’s most famous warships HMS Victory.  

Mermaid Gin
Mermaid Distillery at the Wishing Well Inn

Our own personal favourite was the Mermaid Pink Gin in its gloriously distinctive glass bottle.  Aromatic and refreshing, infused with fresh Island strawberries, it has a smooth yet complex taste with a hint of lemon zestand a tickle of rock samphire.  Served with quality tonic it supplies a taste of summertime at any time of the year.  Nearby, the town of Ryde provides seaside fun for all the family and offers the chance of a train ride to the end of what is the second longest pier in the United Kingdom. (The longest is in Essex at Southend.)

Garlic Farm
Visit to the Garlic Farm

Don’t dismiss the appeal of visiting a garlic farm. Taste, smell, look, learn, and discover. The Boswell family have been growing garlic here for over 30 years but judging by the relics, ruins, and archaeological finds hereabouts, it is evident that man has been farming this part of the island for the last 6000 years.

Our food quest continued with visits to the Isle of Wight deer farm, Goddards Brewery, The Isle of Wight Cheese Company and the Green Barn where Michelle and Richard Stevens keep and milk a herd of goats. These goats produce delightful cheeses, milk, and Kefir.  The on-site, eclectically stocked gift shop even sells goats milk soap that Michelle makes herself.  If you have time, get their son Josh to make you a pizza using his wood fired oven.  Topped with mum and dads’ cheese, it is delicious.

Goat milk products made from goat’s milk produce at The Green Barn

If you’re still hungry then head over to the Briddlesford Farm dairy where they make butter and cheese, using milk from a herd of pedigree Guernsey cows.  The quality and flavour of which is so good it came to the attention of TV celebrity chef James Martin who was so inspired by the farm and its produce that he created recipes that especially feature them. 

Isle of Wight food and drink
Platter of Cheddar, Gouda and Feta style cheese made at Briddlesford Lodge Farm with book by James Martin

The Griffin family run a delightful farm shop and a stonkingly good restaurant called bluebells.  We can recommend the veal burger and veal lasagne.  Time your visit right and you can eat lunch before watching the cows being milked and if you have to wait for that to happen, the farms very own museum showing dairy farming through the ages is well worth a visit.

By now, you will have noticed that we have tasted island dairy produce, venison, veal, beers and spirits and you may be wondering why we have not yet sipped a glass of wine.  We put that wrong to right at the Adgestone winery located in the island’s highlands.  Here, at what is, the U.K.’s longest continually worked vineyard, there are over 10,000 vines lovingly cared for by Russ and Philippa Broughton who, with their family and friends, create an amazing selection of wines that are truly excellent. 

Russ, a gifted entrepreneurial engineer by training
Russ Broughton with a bottle of his Something Blue at Adgestone Vineyard

Russ, a gifted entrepreneurial engineer by training, has turned his talents to winemaking but in doing so, has not forgotten his past. His less than conventional approach to his new career has ruffled a few establishment feathers, but the wines that he has produced as a result are staggeringly splendid.  In the season Russ hosts a 40 minute vineyard tour followed by a 25 minute tutored tasting for just £18.  We think for the one and a half hour experience, that is money well spent.

Visit the Isle of Wight using Wightlink ferries
Voyager at Adgestone Vineyard

Driving on the island is easy. Roads are well signed and, in most cases, well maintained but, drivers intimidated by single track road with passing places may find it difficult to visit all of the attractions mentioned here.  Driving Voyager, our long wheel-based Ducato, proved to be a problem free, but larger motorhomes may have more of a problem.  The island and its people welcome tourists and certainly make those who visit driving a motorcaravan most welcome.