If you are a parent of an active toddler, make sure that your next break is spent exploring the beautiful Isle of Wight. Half an hour away by ferry from the shores of England’s mainland lies an island with a Jurassic past, fabulous beaches and more attractions suitable for inquisitive little hands and minds than you can possibly cram in a short stay.
In the first part of this blog post, I shared with you two of my most favourite places on the Isle of Wight from a parent’s and toddler’s point of view. Click here to find out about them, if you haven’t already.
Today in lots of photos and text I will share my personal recommendations for two more such places plus I will add a little bonus suggestion at the end to tie you up on a rainy day (yes, it does rain sometimes even in the paradisaical Isle of Wight).
So, read on!
A strong and heady smell of garlic enveloped us as soon as we stepped through the gates of the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. Famished from a day of sightseeing with a toddler, we made a beeline for the Allium Cafe. Twenty minutes later and stuffed with garlic cheese toasties and cups of warm soup, we were ready to explore.
If you are a firm believer that children should know where food comes from, you will love the Garlic Farm! It is a working farm where garlic has been grown for over forty years and many garlic-flavoured dips, chutneys, sauces, condiments and even mayonnaise and jams are made. You can see it all in action – from the fields where the garlic grows to the tasting rooms where you can sample raw and smoked garlic plus different products based on it. Who knew that there are so many different types of garlic?! I was particularly impressed by the ‘elephant’ one, which, as the name implies, is enormous in size and has a fresh and crunchy bite to its cloves.
You can also attend a cooking demonstration or spend time just walking around and meeting the ponies, guinea pigs, the hens and the mighty rooster which inhabit the farm. There is a huge shop, too, selling the farm produce and many more garlic-related products. The restaurant looked amazing and it was bursting at the seams. We considered going there, as the menu was irresistible, but as we didn’t have much time on our hands, had to leave it for some other time.
From a toddler’s point of view, the highlights of visiting the Garlic Farm were meeting all the animals and having a scoop of ice-cream. Obviously, we couldn’t resist trying the black garlic flavoured ice-cream with chocolate chips. It sounds barmy, but it was quite nice with only a faint garlic flavour. Just bear in mind that we had already had toasties loaded with (it seemed!) as much garlic as cheese, so our taste buds were quite overwhelmed by the time the ice-cream arrived.
Visiting the premises of the farm is free of charge, however if you want to see the fields, you need to pay a small fee of £2.50 to take the tractor ride.
The Garlic Farm
Isle of Wight
Tel: +44 (0) 1983 865378
The Monkey Haven is a really special place. It provides a safe haven for monkeys who either have been abused by humans in the illegal wildlife trade or have been bullied by fellow monkeys in zoos and have had to be re-homed. Reading their stories on the panels in front of their enclosures and learning what they had gone through can bring a tear to your eye and will definitely make you ashamed of what people are capable of. I had seen the signs for the Monkey Haven several times on our previous visits to the Isle of Wight. A few years back, the place was called ‘The Monkeys and Owls Sanctuary’ (as it also houses wild birds and some other types of animals) and I kept wanting to visit it, but there was always something else to attend to and time was never enough.
I am so glad we finally made it to the Monkey Haven on our last visit to the island this summer. The work done there in relation to first saving and then providing a secure environment for the animals who have experienced such fear and pain is truly inspirational. Monkeys, traumatised by previous treatment and thus unable to return to the wild, can live a life surrounded by love, given the care they need and provided with all the food they could eat. There are over ten species of monkeys at the Monkey Haven both from the Old (Africa and Asia) and the New (Americas) Worlds. There are several Keeper Talks taking place during the day and giving you a chance to hear the keepers talk about the animals they look after. We arrived just as supper was being ‘dished’ out at 3 pm and had the opportunity to learn more about the monkeys, what they like and how they are being taken care of.
Everybody laughed when the keeper – a young girl who was talking about her charges with lots of love – told us that some of the monkeys love playing with pillow cases. They drape them on top of themselves and then walk around like ‘little ghosts’. Just then one of the rhesus macaques ran through the enclosure holding on to a pillow case which was almost shredded to ribbons and then proceeded to play with it in the funniest possible way. It was good to see that after some of these animals have been forced by heartless people to smoke cigarettes or live in cramped, stressful and noisy conditions, now they have a chance to simply enjoy themselves. Plus, each monkey at the haven has a birthday – a special day when they are given lots of treats and a low-fat low-sugar specially baked cake!
Something I loved about the Monkey Haven was seeing the woodturning studio of its founder Don Walser among the enclosures. He not only makes the cute wooden owls which you can see around the place, but also builds the homes of the animals his team is taking care of.
Our toddler loved seeing the monkeys and it was quite difficult to prise her away from their enclosures. Trying to spot the owls and other birds through the dense vegetation in their enclosures was also a lot of fun. The meerkats (also survivors of the illegal pet trade) were fascinating to watch. There were six of them, all named after the world’s deserts.
It costs £9.50 for an adult to visit the Monkey Haven on the Isle of Wight with discounts for children, senior and disabled visitors. You can return with the same ticket for the next seven days! Every pound spent or donated supports the good work of the haven and also its current Grivet Appeal. Please, click on the link and read about these beautiful monkeys who were horribly smuggled from Africa into Belgium wrapped in cloth and tape. £15 000 need to be raised for the grivets to be re-homed at Monkey Haven.
The Monkey Haven
5 Acres Farm
Isle of Wight
Tel: +44 (0) 1983 530885
I hope you enjoyed my four suggestions for fabulous places for you to visit with your toddler whilst you are exploring the beautiful Isle of Wight. Now, I will add a little bonus to help you keep your toddler entertained in case it rains. And no, it is not fun being stuck in your hotel, your B&B or your caravan with a very active toddler and not much to do.
If this happens, head over to Jungle Jim – an indoor play area on the seafront in the town of Shanklin. It is on two levels with a trampoline, several slides, a ball park and lots more for the little ones to burn some energy off. Parents have to go in with their toddlers and children up to 8 years old. After an active hour or two, stop at the nearby fish and chip shop and if it is still raining outside, watch the sea through the large windows and enjoy British summer at its best.