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village, Carisbrooke was once the capital of the island, but when Fortibus, the last of the lords of Wight, sold the regalities to the English crown, in 1291, Newport rose into importance and usurped its position. The old church, containing some curious specimens of sculpture, is supposed to have been erected on the exact site of a Saxon church, built a few centuries before the Norman Conquest, and pleasantly called “the Church of the Manor of the Fair Valley.” Adjoining are the ruins of a Cistercian priory, founded by Fitz-Osborne, Earl of Hereford, soon after the Norman Conquest; but of this once stately edifice scarcely enough remains to make a respectable ruin. But not so, fortunately, with the castle, which, on a much higher eminence, stands nearly opposite, and mingles tower, keep, and barbican, battlements and ramparts, with 'sufficient of the poetry of ruin about them to charm all lovers of the romantic and picturesque. From its origin as a Saxon fortress, early in the sixth century, constant additions were made by succeeding monarchs, the last being by Queen Elizabeth, who caused the outer walls to enclose nearly twenty acres of land. It is almost superfluous to remind the reader that here Charles I. was confined, after having fled thither from Hampton Court, in the hope of finding a safe retreat. Many unsuccessful attempts were made by the King to escape, and part of the chamber he occupied, and the grated window through which the unfortanate monarch tried to pass, are still shown at the left-hand side of the first court. The great entrance is over two bridges, through a strong gate, on the western side of the structure. The view from the keep's summit is one of the loveliest and most extensive that can be imagined. Among the curiosities of the place pointed out to the stranger are two
wells, one in the centre of the keep, said to have been three hundred feet deep, but now partially filled up; the other in the castle yard, of nearly the same depth, whence water, pure and crystalline, is drawn up by means of a large tread-wheel, worked by an ass. A predecessor of this animal is recorded to have fulfilled this office for fifty years, and even then to have died by accident; whilst another for many years enjoyed the boon of a penny loaf per diem, granted by the Duke of Gloucester, uncle of George III. A pebble thrown into the well occupies four seconds in its descent to the bottom, and then produces a singular echo.
Proceeding onwards to Newport, the tourist will find in this, the capital of the island, some excellent hotels, and all the most prominent characteristics of a busy and prosperous town. In the High-street a famous three days' fair is annually held at Whitsuntide. The oldest building remaining perfect in the island may be here seen in the Grammar-school, which was built in 1619; the school-room, fifty-three feet in length, is memorable as having been the scene of the last conference between Charles I. and the Parliamentary Commissioners.
On the way from Newport to Cowes, a pleasant walk of five miles, the Albany Barracks will be passed, now under the familiar title of the Parkhurst Reformatory, serving an important object in the reformation of juvenile offenders, who here are made to fulfil various useful duties.
West Cowes, the principal port of the island, is advantageously situated at the mouth of the river Medina, on the declivity of a hill, and though the streets are steep and narrow, the houses and shops are good, and the whole appearance of the place lively and bustling. The harbour, in front of the town, forms a fine spacious anchorage for shipping, and for this reason, combined with its beauty and safety, it was selected in 1812 as the head-quarters of the Royal Yacht Squadron. Though not of very ancient date, a castle is here to be found, being one of that chain of fortresses erected about 1540 for the defence of the coast.
East Cowes, on the opposite shore of the Medina, can be reached by a short ferry, for which one-halfpenny is charged as fare, and is by far the more elegant and inviting town. To the great improvements that have been recently made here, and the exquisite villas that now stud the shelving banks in every direction, the circumstance of this vicinity having become the chosen residence of royalty must have chiefly contributed. Osborne House, the marine mansion of her Majesty, occupies the most delightful situation on the island.
The alterations in the structure, now completed, render the attractions imparted by art almost as unrivalled as those by which it has been so richly endowed from the hand of nature. For the convenience of embarkation at all states of the tide, & new pier has been constructed, and, when seen from the sea, the royal domains not only form of themselves a striking and commanding object, but constitute a really artistic addition to the general scenery of the coast. .
The distance from Cowes to Southampton is fifteen miles, and the passage is frequently made by the packets in one hour and-a-half. It is by this route that we recommend all who have crossed from Portsmouth to Ryde to return home. Adopting the course we have indicated, the whole beauties of the island may be seen, at a very moderate cost, in three days. The more time that a traveller can spare for their investigation, the longer, of course, will his enjoyments be prolonged; but in the period we have above named, and in the rotation of the places above enumerated, a most delightful trip may be insured, with scarcely any other condition than that of fine weather. Vehicles of every kind are easily to be obtained at the chief inns; but, if at all practicable, the best mode of surveying the charms of the isle will be to turn pedestrian, and, with early rising, make a resolution to achieve some
fifteen miles per day. Those partial to aquatic excursions · may take boats from point to point. Steamers from Ryde and Cowes make the voyage round the island in from eight to twelve hours. From Ryde, Newport, and Cowes, stage-coaches · depart daily for the various places of resort, and a constant
communication is thus kept up between the different parts of the island. For the above itinerary we have left the tourist, as likely to be influenced by circumstances, to divide the excursions of each day after his own fashion. To those, however, who would rather avail themselves of the routes hereunto annexed, we would briefly hint, that Ryde, Shanklin, Ventnor, Brixton, Yarmouth, Newport, and Cowes, will either of them be found excellent halting places
for the night. . . * A very speedy, but we cannot say a very satisfactory, mode
of seeing the external beauties of the island is occasionally offered by the South-Western Company, who, providing a special train early to Southampton, have a steamer in readiness for the trip round the Wight; and enable the excursionist to get back to town the same evening. This is a plan, however, we can only conscientiously recommend for those to whom time is more important than money. Proceeding down the
Southampton Water, the voyager will find a panorama of : varied beauty continually in prospect, and should be certainly
chosen as the route either for going out or the return home
the latter, we think, being preferable. As the Solent Sea is crossed (deriving its appellation, probably, from Solvendo, to dissolve), the tourist will see that the tradition of an isthmus once having connected it with the main land is far from improbable. It is historically alleged that the Carthaginians had settlements in the Scilly Islands, and that buying up the tin of Cornwall, they conveyed it by this isthmus to the south of the Isle of Wight, thence transporting it into Gaul, and various other parts of the Continent. But whatever doubt may be attached to this part of our subject, there cannot be any to another, namely, that by adopting the modes we have indicated, a delightful tour of three days, or more, may be made in this charming nook, until satiated curiosity leads the wanderer back with a happy, gratified, and contented spirit to his own home in the busy regions of the metropolis, and the “ pleasures of hope" are exchanged for the “pleasures of memory.*
THREE DAYS' TOUR FROM COWES.
Miles. Allum Bay........ 3 To Newport ...... 5 Shanklin to Luccombe 2 Wooton ......
Bonchurch........ 1 Total ...... 29 Ryde ........ 3 Ventnor .......... Brading ...... Steephill......
THIRD DAY. Sandown ..
St. Lawrence.. 1 Allum Bay to FreshLake ...... 1 Niton ..........
311 water ...... Shanklin ..
Black Gang ......
2 Yarmouth ......
Brixton ...... 2 Parkhurst ...
Total ...... 20