The Isle of Wight has adopted a motto which declares: ‘All this beauty is of God’. It echoes the poet John Keats ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’, the first line of his poem Endymion which he wrote while staying on the island in the hope that its crisp country air would improve his health.
Other distinguished visitors have described Wight as ‘The Garden Isle’, and ‘England’s Madeira’ and about half of its 147 square miles have been designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. But it was quite late in the day before the island became popular as a resort. This was partly because for centuries, right up until the 1600s, the island was a first port of call for pestiferous French raiders who made the islanders’ lives a misery with their constant incursions. These attacks ceased following the Napoleonic wars but the turning point came in the 1840s when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought an estate near East Cowes. They demolished the existing house and Albert designed and built an Italianate mansion he named Osborne House. A few years later, the Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, bought Farringford on the eastern side of the island. Socially, the Isle of Wight had arrived. Tourists flock here in their thousands, and at peak times there are some 350 ferry crossings every day.
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