Why It’s Great to Take a Holiday on the Wonderful Isle of Wight

If you like to stay at home in the UK for your family holidays but the idea of getting on a boat and crossing the water still appeals, you could do worse than spend some time on the Isle of Wight, sometimes referred to as Britain’s Sunshine Isle. When you are on the Island you are blessed with that feeling of having left the rat race behind, and yet you are still in England immersed in the familiarity of your culture, currency and cuisine.

But the Isle of Wight is far from being a mere extension of the mainland, albeit cut off by a small expanse of sea. On the contrary, it has a “feel” all of its own and a vibe that belongs perhaps to simpler and more innocent times. Those who are of a certain age may be overcome by a certain sense of nostalgia when they step off the ferry or the hovercraft for the first time and visit some of the shops and arcades along the seafront. And yet the Island is by no means stuck in the 1960s, and if you care to look around it has pretty much everything that the rest of us have come to know – it just somehow manages to keep everything in its place and retain a sense of perspective.

A unique blend of history and modernity

The largest town is Ryde, on the north-east coast, and it is here that the Island’s unique blend of history and modernity is at its most evident. When you leave the esplanade and climb the steep streets which head back inland you will encounter an interesting range of small, independent shops interspersed with others belonging to some of the big chains with which we are all familiar. Some of the pubs have a traditional seafront ambience whilst there are others more likely to appeal to the younger market.

As you head around the coast you will happen upon the beautiful marine community of Bembridge before arriving at Sandown, with its pier and coastal walk fronted by some of the Island’s larger hotels. From there it is a short drive, or for those of a more energetic bent a mere walk, to Shanklin with its seaside shops and crazy golf, and then to the quaint resort of Ventnor which rests at the foot of a sheer slope which is ever so slightly scary when attempting to negotiate it by car.

Hotels and popular holiday parks

Over at West Wight are the resorts of Yarmouth and Freshwater, out on their own but with Alum Bay and the famous Needles located between. It is always a joyous experience to spend some time at the Landmark Attraction (previously known as the Needles Pleasure Park) and, for the courageous of spirit, to take the chairlift over the cliffs and down to the beach.

The county town of the Isle of Wight is Newport, the only fairly large town on the Island which isn’t situated by the sea. Here once again the shopping experience is one where culture meets progress and the store chains compete with the more traditional outlets for the custom of locals and visitors alike.

The Isle of Wight boasts a number of quite comfortable hotels, a great many smaller bed and breakfast establishments and several popular holiday parks comprising lodges and caravans. It’s a great place to get away to for a week or two, or even just a weekend.

Things to Do Around Moab Utah

One thing for sure, Moab has more going for it, than just the two National Parks. The 40-mile La Sal Mountain Loop road travels from the desert plateaus to the forested covered mountains. As the road winds its way up and down the mountain side, the serene landscapes are spectacular. Before the final decent down use one of the pullovers to enjoy the panoramic views of the Moab area and the Canyon Lands with the mesas carved into the landscape. The finale decent around the swirling switchbacks back to the desert floor leads through the powerful Castle Valley area where the towering mesas provide awesome photography opportunities.

Highway 128 extends from I-70 to just North of Moab to highway 191 which provides some spectacular scenery from desert land to towering red-rock cliffs. Leaving the ghost town of Cisco, the highway passes through 15 miles of open desert land before reaching the Colorado River Gorge where the highway and the mighty Colorado River run parallel to each other for the next 30 miles. As they enter into the narrow gorge passing by the historic suspension Dewey Bridge, the highway and river turns and twists their way through the gorge hugging the walls of the towering red-faced cliffs before finally reaching the Northern section of Castle Valley. As the gorge widens into the valley, scenes from many famous westerns as well as commercials have been filmed in this area. Along this stretch of highway is a viewpoint of one of the grandest views in the West, the red rock spires with the snow-covered peaks of the La Sal Mountains as the backdrop. Leaving the valley for the last 13-miles the highway runs parallel with the river within a narrow section of the gorge which only allows enough room for the highway and river where the towering red-faced cliffs and the river provide breathtaking views.

As the Colorado river flows underneath highway 191, the river runs parallel to highway 279 where both enters into a valley for the next few miles before entering into another narrow gorge. Along this section can be seen petroglyphs, rock climbing, a walking trail to an arch, and photo opportunities of the Colorado River with the cliff walls as a backdrop. After 14 miles the highway turns to graveled dirt winding its way through the mesa’s to Canyonlands National Park.

25 miles South of Moab is a rare occasion where one can see an arch right beside the highway. Wilson Arch was named after a dry pioneer, Joe Wilson. This large Entrada Sandstone arch, stretches 91 feet across and is 45 feet high. The spectacular view from the pull-off frames the blue sky in picture-perfect fashion. The quarter mile steep hike to the arch is over loose sand and rocks with 90-feet in elevation change. The strenuous hike to the elliptical-shaped opening is very rewarding with the scenic perch to take in the fins and formations of the incredible landscape. Sitting underneath the arch offers a lovely view of the graceful lines of this large rock structure, which has been sculpted by wind, water, and time

Just South of Moab is the hole in the rock, not really, it’s a 5,000 square foot home carved into the hard-red sandstone rock by Albert Christensen which began in the 1940’s. For twelve years he dug, blasted and carved into the rock before his family finally moved in, with one room being set as a unique dinner for desert passersby’s. Unfortunately, Albert only lived in the home for five years before his death in the late 50’s. To tour the inside of this rock home is truly amazing. The 14-room home is arranged around huge pillars with shelves carved right into the rock right down to the rock bathtub. Being a historical site, the home is just the way Gladys left it when she died in the 1970’s, Gladys and Albert are buried underneath a small alcove, they called home.

Arches National Park is a wonderland in itself with 1000’s of arches to towering spires, pinnacles and balanced rocks perched atop seemingly inadequate bases. Although many of these features can be seen while driving the 25 miles of the Arches Scenic Drive, the hiking trails provides one a closeup encounter where one can actually enter some of the arches, while the overlooks provides spectacular views of the canyon floor as well as astounding rock formations and arches in the distance.

The Park Avenue one-mile trail, one way descends 320 feet to the narrow canyon floor made of slick rock and loose sand with the towering cliff walls on either side, high above the canyon floor balanced rocks can be found throughout the canyon. The.3-mile roundtrip Balanced Rock trail is best viewed in the early morning when the sun is behind the rock radiating an orangish glow. From this trail off in the distance arches can be seen.

The parking lot at the end of the Windows road provides two excellent hiking trails. The 1-mile round trip Windows trail contains a half-mile loop which leads to three magnificent arches. To the East is Turret Arch where one can climb the steep cliff wall and enter into the arch with spectacular views of the canyon. Further around the trail is South Window Arch which sits high up a slick cliff wall. Last but not least is the North Window Arch where an easy climb allows one to enter into the arch, where rock formations can be viewed behind the arch. On the opposite side of the parking lot is the.5-mile round trip Double Arch trail. From a distance these arches appear to be one inside of the other one when actually one is located just behind the first one, just much smaller. An easy climb allows one to enter into the first arch and a much stepper and difficult climb enters into the second arch.

Driving Delicate Arch road down into the canyon is the 3-mile round trip trail with an elevation change of 480-feet to Delicate Arch, the only free-standing arch in the park. A few hundred feet into the trail, one will pass historic Wolfe Ranch built in the early 1900’s where a family lived in an underground home before building a slightly bigger home next to it above ground. Here a short side trail leads by a wall of petroglyphs. At the end of Delicate road is an overlook of Delicate Arch for ones not wanting to hike the trail.

The.3-mile round trip Sand Dune Arch trail is a wonder in itself. After a short walk the trail enters a small wooded section then passes through a narrow trail through towering cliff walls where the cliff walls widen to about 25 feet where deep loose brown sand covers the canyon floor, fit for any beach. In between the cliff walls are serval short rock formations where kids climb to the top and jump into the soft sand. Watching the children play gives one the feeling of being in a narrow and long sand box. About 200-feet in is the spectacular Sand Dune Arch with the base sitting on the sand floor.

To get a close-up view of the Skyline Arch, one must hike a.4-mile round trip over rocks and loose sand. Along the trail are rock formations, Junipers, and desert vegetation. The arch is at the top of the cliff with rock formations on both sides.

Arches scenic drive ends at the Devils Garden section of the park, where the Devils Garden Trail is located, the longest and most difficult hike in the park. Only seasoned hikers take on this challenge. Part of this trail takes one to Landscape arch, the longest arch in the park with a span of 290 feet. which is a 1.6-mile round trip hike over a smooth walking path with small elevation gains.

With the Green and Colorado Rivers running through the Canyonlands National Park and no bridges over either one, the park was divided into three sections. One must do a lot of driving to experience what the park has to offer, with most of the park doable by back country roads only. The Needles district is 35 miles West from highway 191 with most of this a very scenic drive with the highway winding around the base of mesas and through the valley with towering mesas along both sides of the highway. 12-miles in, one should stop at Newspaper Rock where 100’s of Petroglyphs have been carved into one large boulder. The 6.5 miles scenic drive inside the park has several overlooks and ends at Big Spring Canyon Overlook. The hiking trails range from.3 miles to 11 miles. The.3-mile level loop trail leads to a pueblo ruin set back in a small alcove used for storage. A 1-mile dirt road ends at the Cave Spring hiking trail. This.6-mile loop travels under sheer rock where a historic 1800’s cowboy camp still remains to the top where prehistoric rock paintings can be viewed. The.6-mile Pothole Point loop travels over uneven slickrock with excellent views of the needles.

Island in the Sky district is about a 40-mile drive from Moab where the Grand View Point scenic road is a 12-mile drive one way across the top of the mesa with overlooks of scenic views of the canyonlands and ends at Grand View Point overlook where a vast and dreamy landscape emerges with views of the towers, gorges, and plains tells why Utah is such a beautiful State. The Shafer Canyon overlook has awesome views of the Shafer road as it winds its way down the mesa into the canyon floor. The candlestick Towers overlook provides excellent views of the cliff walls where rock spirals can be seen towering above the canyon floor. Buck Canyon overlook provides scenic views of the Colorado River gorge and views of sweeping vistas of mesas.

Along the way is upheaval dome road with a side road which leads to an overlook of the Green River winding its way through a gorge to merge with the Colorado River. At the end of upheaval road is a.8-mile round trip steep hiking trail to the top of a mesa where a crater can be viewed which is believed to be formed from a meteorite impact. The half mile round trip hiking trail to Mesa arch is well worth the effort. The arch sits right on the edge of the cliff wall where views of the canyon floor are spectacular.

Visiting Colorado Four Corners Area

Over 170,000 acres in the Southwest corner of Colorado is now protected land under the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, where 1,000’s of communities of our Pueblo Ancestors lived. The visitor center is located just West of Delores at the Anasazi Heritage Center, which includes a research facility with over 3 million artifacts and samples. In addition, the museum inside the facility is quite impressive. The half mile paved walkway with an elevation gain of 200 feet leads to the Escalante Pueblo located on top of the hill behind the visitor center, which provides a spectacular 360-degree view of the La Plata Mountains, Montezuma Valley, McPhee Reservoir, and Mesa Verde.

Just North of Pagosa Springs at the foot of a mountain pass is Treasure Falls which cascades 105 feet into Falls Creek in route to the San Juan River. The top portion of the falls is visible from the pullout, but to get a view of the entire falls, one must hike a quarter-mile up a switchback trail with an elevation gain of 300 feet. At the end of the trail is a wooden bridge which suspends over Falls Creek about 25-feet from the base of the falls. Be prepared to get a little wet from the mist.

In the Southwest corner of Colorado is 236 miles of nothing but inspiring beauty, known as the San Juan Skyway with an elevation range of 6,200 feet to just over 11,000 feet. The skyway starts and ends in the towns of Cortez and Durango and travels North through the San Juan National Forest, where the three highways which make up the skyway takes one through steep winding mountain passes and down through the valleys just below impressive mountain peaks which soar some 14,000 feet into the clear blue skies. With the segment of highway between Ouray and Silverton known as the “Million Dollar Highway”, one will see why this part is really priceless, with sheer mountain walls on one side and straight drop-offs on the other side displaying the beauty of alpine peaks and the lush valley below. As a bonus, the road passes through the old mining towns of Rico, Telluride, Ouray, and Silverton, where each town hosts many historic buildings as well as activities, shopping and dining.

Telluride sits just a few miles off the byway in a box canyon in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains where some of the old mining Victorian homes are still standing with a walking trail along the San Miguel River. High above Telluride is the world-famous Telluride Ski and Golf Resort. Other than Ouray being an old mining town, they are a few treats for visitors passing through. The Cascade Waterfalls at the end of 8th street showcases a spectacular water fall dropping over 100-feet created from snow melt from the Cascade Mountains. A quarter mile steep and rough trail leads to the base of the falls, where one can walk under and behind the falls. At the other end of town is Box Canyon Falls. After a short 400-foot walk, the trail enters the narrow box canyon where a grated walkway next to the cliff wall leads 100 feet to the back of the canyon where the 85-foot water fall can be viewed. Down a fifty-foot staircase takes one to the base of the falls. Silverton at an elevation of 9,318 feet is located in the valley of the Southern end of the San Juan Mountains and is very rich in its history as the old mining town of the early 19th century.

In the late 1800’s what is known is Cliff Palace was discovered by Wetherill and his son-n-law. Over the next 18 years visitors to this dwelling carried off artifacts, burnt roof timbers for campfires and defaced some of the walls. For whatever reason, there is no mention of any destruction at the site known as Balcony House which was discovered a few years earlier by prospector’s led by S.E. Osborn. In 1906 these two locations and 1,000’s of acres became protected as Mesa Verde National Park. These two locations along with Long House which was excavated in mid-19th century can only be viewed up close by park ranger guides.

Entering the park, one must drive about 18 miles to reach the 6-mile Cliff Palace loop, with the first 15 miles over a steep winding road with switchbacks that leads over and around Mesa’s and Questa’s. Along the way are several overlooks for spectacular views of Mancos valley, Montezuma valley, Geologic overlook and Park Point which is the highest point in the park at 8,572 feet. A.2-mile walk leads one to an overlook with a 360-degree view of the Parks Mesa’s and Questa’s with mountains in the far distance. From here one can see natural structures in the four states that make up the four corners region.

As the highway passes by the Far View Lodge the road becomes level along the Chapin Mesa top, where the Far View community sites are located, which was the most populated with 50 villages within a half square mile. Here a one-mile level loop trail leads one to the Pipe Shrine House, Town Center, Coyote Village, Megalithic House, Far View Tower, and the community reservoir.

The six-mile Mesa Top loop drive has many stops where one can walk a short distance to the Pit House, Mesa top sites, Sun Pueblo, a 300-yard walk to the overlook of Square Tower, and Sun Temple which also provides an excellent view of Cliff Palace sitting in the alcove across the valley.

With Mesa Verde having over 600 alcoves with the best preserved and most notable cliff dwellings in North America makes these sites the most popular. Along the six-mile Cliff Palace loop drive one can reach the Cliff Palace guided tour, an overlook of Balcony House and the Balcony House guided tour. Cliff Palace the largest cliff dwelling with 150 rooms and 23 kivas can be viewed up close by a quarter mile round trip hike with an elevation change of 100 feet. With just 40 rooms, Balcony House is considered a medium size cliff dwelling; however, to reach the site is the most challenging where the quarter mile loop takes one up a 32-foot ladder, through a small 12-foot tunnel, an 18-inch wide crawl through with a 5-foot ladder and to exit the dwelling up a 60-foot open cliff wall with small stone steps and two-ten foot ladders.

The 12-mile Wetherill road with steep grades and switchbacks over and around the mesas will come to an end at the Long House site, the 2nd largest cliff dwelling. The guided tour is a 2.25-mile round trip hike with the first mile being over a pretty much level asphalt walkway and a steep elevation change of 130 feet along the cliff wall to reach the dwelling.

Unfortunately, the 3rd largest cliff dwelling, Spruce Tree House can no longer be viewed up close due to the possibility of falling boulders from the cliff walls; however, an excellent view of the dwelling can be seen from just behind the museum.

In addition, they are many hiking trails which lead to other ruins and smaller dwelling for one’s enjoyment. With a doubt, to really experience what Mesa Verde has to offer, one needs to plan on at least two full days.