Great Day Out: Yarmouth
For an island escape like no other, look to the Isle of Wight. It offers, within its 150 square miles, a huge range of landscapes and habitats, so your break can be as action-packed or relaxing as you like. And nowhere encapsulates that variety like Yarmouth, the town on its north-western coast.
Start your day out here by parking in the large car park off the A3054. From here, you have a choice of where to go next – do you fancy seaside chic or wild escape? I’d recommend both to get a true flavour of Yarmouth, but, if it’s nearly lunchtime, I’d turn right.
Just a five-minute walk from the car park lies the old railway line. Most lines across the island were closed, and just one service remains – a London Underground train that rattles its way between Ryde and Shanklin, on the southern coast. But the others have not been forgotten – the Yarmouth line is now a well-kept path, popular with cyclists (bikes can be hired here) and dog walkers.
And along this path sits the old station building, converted into the charming Off the Rails café, decorated in keeping with its railway roots – traditional painted signs are everywhere and the menu is themed around station life.
My folks and I sat on the benches outside on one of the first days of spring, and as we tucked into our delicious, generously filled sandwiches, finally feeling the sun on our faces, we realised there was a fantastic view to enjoy, too.
Thorley Brook, a tributary of the River Yar (from which the town gets its name, of course) gently ambles along beside the railway line. Its marshes attract plenty of birdlife, and we spotted swans, ducks and geese hoping for handouts from cafe patrons. Further up the river, away from the coast, there are more opportunities for quiet birdwatching and peaceful picnic spots. It’s not long before you feel like you’re a million miles from anywhere.
However, Yarmouth is a seaside town and doesn’t disappoint when it comes to tradition. So if an ice cream
on the pier is more your sort of thing, wander back through the pretty streets of the town and its old-world collection of gift and book shops, towards Pier Street. Head to the Gossips Café – treating yourself to an ice cream from their hatch – and along the Grade-II listed pier, opened in 1876.
Look out for the ferries coming in and out, and the other boats cruising the Solent. On a clear day you can see across it, taking in big blue skies as a breeze whips around your ears. Blissful.