I remember going to the Isle of Wight when I was a child, but it was nothing like the summer I imagine Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spent there. Osborne House, in East Cowes, was built between 1845 and 1851 as a summer home and rural retreat for the family. What a treat that must have been! There’s a private beach, acres of gardens and a beautiful Swiss cottage ‘playhouse’ at the side where the children learnt to cook in the child-size kitchen.
The private beach, quite a trek down through the land at the rear of the house, is beautiful. It’s recorded that Queen Victoria regularly bathed in the sea and this was where her children learned to swim. “We have quite a charming beach to ourselves,” Victoria wrote in 1845.
The allure and charm of the Swiss cottage is spectacular – beats my days of washing dolls clothes in my plastic Wendy House! There’s a beautiful garden surrounding the wooden-clad building, enclosed by tall elegant rows of trees. You really do feel like you’re in a different era walking around these grounds – such a treat for your imagination.
And then there’s The Walled Garden. What a feast for botanical-loving eyes, full of lavendar and arches of trailing roses and fruit trees. No vegetables were grown in here because the area was too small to feed the entire family. Instead, the garden was used for growing cut flowers as Queen Victoria demanded that the house was to be decorated with floral displays whenever she was in residence.