Idyllic few dates in Ventnor IOW with Hastings Battleaxe

Idyllic? That’s quite a strong statement from Battleaxe. But yes,  it was a wonderful few days. Weather was totally perfect, hot and sunny but also fresh and clear with a cooling breeze, so we could still walk about and enjoy the outdoors. We just loved Ventnor, a cross between Sorrento, Malvern and St Ives. We partly decided to go because at Christmas, Philosopher adopted a donkey for me at the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary, and we wanted to visit our donkey before his year’s sponsorship finished. More about that later. Readers may remember that we have been to the Isle of Wight a few times. We always stayed in the same lovely little house right on the banks of the River Medina in East Cowes, which is now, unfortunately, no longer available for rent. So, our enthusiasm for going was slightly reduced, and we only chose Ventnor because it is near the donkey place. Am so glad we did…

Sunset – view from just above our front door

We crossed over on the ferry on Saturday, and at first, were drawn back down into East Cowes… the excuse was a visit to Waitrose. We ate our sandwich on the quiet, quirky East Cowes Esplanade, and watched the boats bustling back and forth. We used to see some great sights from our balcony overlooking the Medina, like this – a huge blade for a wind turbine, travelling across to Southampton.

We also saw the paddle steamer Waverley, on a round the Island trip. In fact, she appeared several times during our stay. We actually booked to go on it last year, but never did – I can’t remember what intervened, Philosopher’s illness, or one of us had Covid or something. Anyway, was quite glad we gave it a miss, because look at the heaving masses packed onto the deck in this photo – not our scene at all.


I had booked us an apartment in Alexandra Gardens in Ventnor, a gracious old terrace of once-grand villas in its own private road just up from the Cascades Gardens and the Esplanade, and round the corner from the shops. Coincidentally, we discovered that Mr and Mrs Edward Elgar had spent their honeymoon in one of the villas – we have just recently watched the Ken Russell Elgar. Our place was on the ground floor of the last house in the row – oh luxury it had its own parking space just outside the door. It suited us just fine, but its position meant the sea was pretty much hidden behind trees and plants. But look, we have a sea view at home, and just a few yards away was an open patch of green with incredible views along the bay. So, we didn’t mind. Apartments in the terrace with direct sea views are more expensive, rarely available, and probably noisier.

Alexandra Gardens. Ours was the ground floor on the right.
Philosopher photographs the Elgar plaque…

Ventnor is built on a steep hillside running down to the sea, with many Italianate Victorian villas – hence the Sorrento flavour – built on steep, terraced roads.  We were lucky that our place was on the same level as the town, otherwise we would have been faced with gut-busting climbs up or down…

The Ventnor Esplanade was typical old-fashioned seaside resort in the sea-sparkly sun… ice-creams, deckchairs, sand castles… I hadn’t brought my swimming things, which was annoying…

Sun, sea, sand…


On our first full day we went on a really wonderful walk – I think, for me, one of the best ever, and that is saying something… we walked to the Botanical Gardens, passing incredible views down to the sea and amazing houses.


We cut through the park, which is peaceful and beautifully kept, with old-fashioned floral displays. We noticed it had a Victorian putting green with a cafe in it… more about that later!

Ventnor Park

We have been to the Botanic Gardens before. I wanted some more of their famous Echium seeds – readers will remember I have grown several monster plants  from the seeds I got a few years ago, but none have reproduced. We had coffee and scones outside on the cafe terrace, and then enjoyed a wander through the gardens, which of course were gorgeous. Here are a few pics, including one of a Ventnor Wall lizard – they only live in Ventnor, apparently…

We zig-zagged down through the gardens and then up out the other side onto the coast path, which wound through woods along the cliff top. Then we plunged down incredibly steep steps into the aptly-named Steephill Cove. The path brought us down right outside the Beach Shack Cafe – famous for its crab sandwiches… and an empty table just for two.

Lunch at the Beach Shack
Steephill Cove

We sat for a long time eating and drinking, and watching dogs and children playing at the water’s edge, then set off back along the coast path to Ventnor. Of course, looking at Google Maps, the terrain had looked flat, but there were a couple of short, but very steep, ascents. We were glad to arrive back and eat ice creams on the Esplanade.

Next day we went to the Donkey Sanctuary. Now, I’m not going to moan at the excellent work they do rescuing and caring for all those lovely donks, and of course every donkey probably has loads of adopters, but I will be writing them a letter. It was not nothing, what Philosopher paid. I wasn’t expecting the red carpet… but. When we arrived I told the two blokes sitting by the entrance that we had come to see Bear, our adopted donkey. They pointed to a distant paddock containing a large herd of donkeys. ‘He’s over there’.

‘How will I recognise him?’

‘He’s quite a small donkey… he’s in there somewhere…’

‘Will he come if I call his name?’


Somewhat discouraged, we wandered over to the paddock. Clearly some were too big, too dark in colour, but Bear could have been any one of four or five…. We watched them  for a bit, thinking that was it, but then totally by chance, a couple of staff members appeared in the paddock to put ointment on one creature’s leg. I shouted across to them. The woman was very helpful. She pointed out Bear, and rattled a bucket so he came across to the railings and reluctantly stood for about 10 seconds, while I stroked him. Then he hurried back to the hay rack containing his breakfast.

Bear makes a brief, slightly reluctant appearance, and…


Returns to his breakfast….

As I say, I didn’t expect the red carpet, but maybe the sponsorship deal could include ‘quality time’ with your donk if you visited.  You could book a five minute slot… We agreed we would pay extra for that…. As I say, I will be writing with some marketing suggestions.

Then we headed back to Ventnor, and walked to the putting green in the park. It was gentle, green and shady – perfect. We had lunch – more crab sandwiches for me, then tackled the golf, along with a few genteel older townspeople… I could have indeed been a Victorian lady in a white dress with a lacy parasol, but unfortunately my language marked me firmly as Battleaxe. ‘F**k’, ‘Bu***r’, ‘S**t’, I exclaimed in frustration. Philosopher cast anguished looks at our fellow players and vainly tried to shush me. Needless to say, he won, but for the record, I did get a hole in one! After, we headed down to the Esplanade for a pint sitting outside the Spyglass Inn…

Lunch by the peaceful putting green

Next day, our ferry wasn’t until 4.30pm so we went to Ryde. There is a new pedestrian walkway along the Pier, which we tried, then headed to one of our favourite spots, the Chocolate Apothecary. Their chilli hot chocolate is ferocious, but to die for.

Chocolate Apothecary
New walkway on Ryde Pier

Ryde has great little shops. Clothes, antiques, vintage, arty stuff, a crazy haberdashery shop… all had to be thoroughly visited. One of the classiest clothes shops, the House of Zabre, has a ‘secret’ garden cafe out the back, where we had our lunch. I thought my purchases would be modest, a black jacket from a charity shop – but then we bought a picture…

Secret Garden cafe….
That haberdashery shop…

All in all, a great few days. We’ll be back to Ventnor next year!




1 Comment

  1. Heather
    September 7, 2023 / 5:59 pm

    You are NEVER home!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.