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The great escape

The Isle of Wight

Jason Swain/Getty Images

The Isle of Wight is “the best that England has to offer, in less than 150 square miles”, says Oliver Spencer in Tatler. It has white cliffs, sandy beaches and rolling green fields that give way to farmland and woods, with seaside promenades, quaint villages and a social boating scene for “a dose of nostalgic charm”.

Places of note Tennyson Down, overlooking Freshwater Bay, is “the most sensational spot on the Isle of Wight”. Ventnor Botanic Garden is “heavenly” and many of the beaches are “unmissable” – try surfer-friendly Compton Bay, wild Chilton Chine, Priory Bay for swimming or Newtown Creek for sundowners on your boat.

Weather The Isle of Wight gets seven hours more sunshine a week than the national average and is 1C-2C warmer than the mainland.

Famous faces Hendrix and the Who played the Isle of Wight Festival in its psychedelic heyday; this year the festival has Liam Gallagher and Duran Duran among the headliners. Jeremy Irons and Benedict Cumberbatch are big fans of the island, as were Queen Victoria, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, Keats, Dickens, Darwin, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.

To eat Head to the Crab Shed in Steephill Cove, near Ventnor, for the best crab pasties on the island, or the Hut for fresh fish as the sun sets over Colwell Bay. Off the Rails, in Yarmouth, is in a former station and serves playfully named dishes such as “Portillo’s waffles”. The best traditional pub lunches can be found at the Sun Inn, near Compton Bay, and the Taverners in Godshill.

1 To stay

Cosy North House is a Grade II listed hotel with sea views in the heart of Cowes. The vibe is laid-back luxury – fireplaces, chesterfields, a library, a restaurant and a swimming pool on the terrace. Doubles from £145 a night, B&B.

2 To rent

The Ark is a cute cottage for two by the beach and sailing club in the village of Gurnard, within walking distance of the restaurants and shops in Cowes. It has sea views, sunlit rooms with coastal décor and a terrace for al fresco dining. From £595 a week.

3 To Airbnb

This flat sleeping four is in a Victorian villa overlooking Ventnor’s beach, on a road that’s closed to traffic. It has a decked veranda and a private courtyard, and you can stroll into town for provisions or to browse the vintage and antiques shops. From £287 for two nights.

4 To buy

This converted watermill is in the South Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a mile from the village of Whitwell, home to the island’s oldest pub. It has four bedrooms, a conservatory and 15 acres of gardens and grounds, with a stream, a kitchen garden, an orchard, outbuildings and paddocks. £1.49m.