The Isle of Wight’s largest town offers Solent views, beaches, good transport links and handsome period architecture. Words: Lesley Gillilan
Although it’s more or less the first port of call for most travellers arriving on the Isle of Wight, Ryde is often by-passed in favour of the island’s south coast resorts. That’s perfectly understandable if you’re looking for a beach holiday, but for those who are planning to stay on the island a lot longer, Wight’s largest town is worth a closer look.
At one time, it started to look a little shabby, but things are looking up for Ryde. And it’s got a lot going for it. ‘It’s still quite old-fashioned,’ says local estate agent Susan Payne. ‘But the High Street has really improved, there are lots of facilities and nice places to eat and the transport links are very good.’
One of the attractions, she adds, is its wealth of beautiful houses, a legacy perhaps of Queen Victoria, who made the Isle of Wight fashionable in the 1850s when she chose nearby Osborne House as her summer home. On Ryde’s Esplanade, where grand villas gaze across the Solent to Portsmouth Harbour, you can enjoy the views that Prince Albert once compared to the Bay of Naples. There are long sand and pebble beaches on the doorstep, seafront gardens flanking a long pier and, next door, pretty Seaview, the aptly named village on the outskirts of Ryde, adds another attraction.
WHERE TO BUY
Anywhere with a sea view, and in Ryde – with its Esplanade and hilly streets – that leaves plenty of scope. For fine views and splendid houses head for Westfield Park, Spencer Road or along the Strand, the latter right on the seafront within an easy walk of Ryde Esplanade station. There are some lovely period townhouses on Melville, Nelson or Dover streets (think white stucco, pediments, pillars and a whiff of West London). In Seaview, many of the properties live up the village’s name – including a row of impressive houses on that sit right on the beach. The prices are as eye-watering as the views.
There are pockets of millionaire properties, but in general, Ryde is less expensive than the mainland and below average for the island (cheaper than, say, Ventnor, Cowes or Yarmouth) and you get a lot of house for your money: five-bedroom properties for under £500,000; roomy three-bed semis for around £300,000; and two- or even three-bedroom terraces for under £200,000. For rentals, expect to pay around £500 a month for an apartment and between £600-£1,000 for a family house.
Sailing on the Solent is the obvious pastime, but there are other things to do: golf, walking, cycling and making the most of the lovely local beaches (the best include Ryde’s Appley Beach or Seaview’s Seagrove). Take the children to the Esplanade playground, Ryde Boating Lake or the bowling alley. The town doesn’t do much in the way of night-life, but there’s a cinema, a thriving live-music scene and some decent places to eat: try the Mediterranean-influenced menu at Olivo (olivorestaurant.co.uk), cocktails, Prosecco and jazz at Artisan Bar (artisanbars.co.uk/) or fine dining at the Seaview Hotel (seaviewhotel.co.uk).
Given the off-shore location, it’s a relatively easy commute to London (from Ryde Pier Head to Waterloo is less than three hours, via a Fast Cat passenger service to Portsmouth Harbour station). By Hovercraft (on the oldest hover service in the world) you can whizz over to Southsea in less than 10 minutes. Wightlink car ferries from Fishbourne to Portsmouth take around 40 minutes. Newport – the island’s county town – is a 20-minute drive from Ryde, and you can catch a cute former London Underground train to Shanklin. The nearest international airport is Southampton.
The options are Ryde Academy (which is rated by Ofsted as Good) or Ryde School, the island’s only fee-paying independent school, which is deemed ‘outstanding’.
PAY A VISIT
The Boathouse (01983 873572, theboathouseiow.co.uk)
An Inn of Distinction on the edge of Seaview, this chic seaside pub offers light, comfortable rooms decorated in boaty blues, nautical stripes and crisp white linens on Shaker-style beds. Some of the rooms have views of the Solent. The nautical theme continues downstairs to the bar and restaurant, hailed for fine ales and excellent food – much of the fresh, fishy menu is gluten-free.
From £99 for a double room.
For those who want to make regular visits to the mainland, the downside is the high cost of travel, although both Wight Link and Red Funnel ferries offer discounted fares for island residents. Living in Ryde, however, means you are closer to transport departure points than anywhere else on the island.
In research undertaken by Savills, Ryde was recently identified as an ‘emerging prime coastal location’ – one of a nationwide hot-list of seaside places which are on the up. The towns on the list were said be in high demand but prices still have room for growth.