‘Dancing Jim’ is VisitEngland’s tourism superstar – and an ambassador for holidays on the Isle of Wight. Samantha Mayling explores what is on offer

Best foot

on the Isle of Wight. ‘Dancing Jim’ O’Reilly was crowned


‘Tourism Superstar’ at a VisitEngland award ceremony (pictured top right), after he won a Daily Mirror poll. He was nominated by Visit Isle of Wight, the island’s destination management organisation, and received his awards from TV personality Kirstie Allsopp. Will Myles, Visit Isle of Wight chief

executive, said: “I just wish I could bottle half of what he’s got and give it round to everyone. Visit Isle of Wight is really proud of Jim; he is a Tourism Superstar in every sense of the word.”

� FLAGSHIP RETURNS As well as celebrating their superstar, Red Funnel staff have welcomed back their flagship Red Eagle to the Southampton-East Cowes route following a £3 million refit.

FESTIVAL FACT BOX � The Isle of Wight Festival (June 21-24) � Take Pride (July 21)

� Lendy Cowes Week (August 4-11) � Jousts at Carisbrooke Castle (selected dates in August)

� Ventnor Fringe (August 7-12)

� Isle of Wight Literary Festival (October 11-14)

14 TravelGBI | June 2018

Red Funnel ferry marshall who dances while he greets motorists is helping to highlight holidays

I just wish I could bottle half of what he’s got and give it round to everyone


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Each year, Red Funnel carries 2.3 million passengers and more than 800,000 vehicles between Southampton and East Cowes, and 1.1 million passengers between Southampton and West Cowes on its Red Jet Hi-Speed service.

Meanwhile, Wightlink’s new flagship

Victoria of Wight is taking shape and is set to start sailing on the Solent this summer. Keith Greenfield, Wightlink chief

executive, said: “The arrival of Victoria of Wight will herald a new era of cross-Solent travel and increases our capacity to carry more people and freight to and from the Isle of Wight. This marks the completion of our £45 million project to improve the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route.”

� BEAR HUNTS Elsewhere, Parkdean Resorts has pledged to spend almost £3 million to enhance its four parks on the Isle of Wight this year. This includes £750,000 at Nodes

Point in St Helens and £300,0000 at Landguard in Shanklin. The island is also promoting ‘Isle of Wight Bear Hunts’ with a new adventure trail guide, based on the book and Channel 4 film We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. Visitors can go rock-pooling at Bembridge Ledge; search for dinosaur footprint casts at Compton Bay; cycle along the seafront from Cowes to Gurnard; or picnic on the sandy beach at St Helen’s Duver.



� Explore by bike. There are many places to hire bikes including electric ones. � Walk! Try a coastal path or country trail such as the Tennyson Trail. The Isle of Wight Ramblers have a year-round diary of walks, guided by locals. � Use a Freedom Ticket from Southern Vectis: £10 for 24 hours, £15 for 48 hours. The Needles Breezer is one of the most spectacular bus rides in the UK, and the climax is the point high above the Needles Rocks and Lighthouse. � Famous parades and carnivals. The island is hosting UK Pride in Ryde in July, and I really enjoy Cowes Week in August. � West Cowes has a fantastic live music scene. One of my favourite places is The Anchor. If you head over on a Friday or Saturday night you may see me dancing. � We’re the biggest island in England and there’s a huge variety of attractions – two that are near and dear to me are Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill. � Beaches on the island are stunning. For families, I recommend the long, sandy beaches in Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin. For peaceful walks, my secret spots are Seagrove Bay between Bembridge and St Helen’s. I also love Steephill Cove in Ventnor. I go for long walks with my dog, or swim in the summer. � There’s a lot to eat! My favourite place is The Mill Bay Inn, Ventnor, and the Watersedge Beach Café in Gurnard, the Wonky Café in Bembridge and The Waterfront at Totland Bay are must visits. � The island’s history – Compton Bay was a stomping ground for dinosaurs, and kings and queens lived at Osborne and Carisbrooke Castle. � Come year-round. Visiting in winter is a great way to avoid the crowds and take advantage of lower accommodation and ferry rates.

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