Visitors to the Isle of Wight now have a new beach to explore and it’s even more unique because it has only just opened after being closed to the general public for the last 150 years.
Situated on the north shore of the Isle of Wight near Osborne house, Osborne Beach is where Queen Victoria took her first seawater swim and spent many happy family holidays. Since then it has been used as naval academy and a military training ground until it finally opened to the public last month.
English Heritage marked the opening of the Osborne Beach last month with an 1850s-style Punch and Judy show and a new cafe. The beach is accessed via the park at Osborne House and admission is £13 (adults) and £7.80 per child. However, don’t expect soft Caribbean style white sand because it’s a shingle beach so sandals or flip-flops are required.
When Queen Victoria first set eyes on the bay she commented, “It’s impossible to imagine a prettier spot” during a visit to Osborne House which was her favourite royal palace. Sadly, Prince Albert passed away just 10 years after the royal couple completed work on Osborne House, and after his death Queen Victoria spent many years in quiet solitude here.
Commenting on the opening of Osborne Beach last month, Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “Queen Victoria is fixed in many people’s minds as the grandmother of Europe, a queen who spent most of her reign in mourning for her husband.
“Opening her beach at Osborne lets us show another side to her – this was a Queen who collected sea shells with her children, who sketched the changing sea, and who swam sometimes twice a day. Osborne was her seaside retreat from the formalities of Buckingham Palace – now people can visit that seaside.”
The beach has an interesting history. At the turn of the century in 1902, Edward VII gave Osborne to the nation as a memorial to his mother and a section of Osborne House became a convalescent home for officers. During the Second World War, Osborne Bay was used to train soldiers ahead of the D-Day landings but during training the historic pavilion as well as the bathing and landing piers were all badly damaged.
Now, though, the beach will be welcoming members of the public who’ll be able to get a glimpse of what it must have been like in Queen Victoria’s day, a place for the Royal Family to enjoy some peace and privacy and a place the public can now enjoy, too.
Osborne Beach is open from 10 AM until 6 PM every day until September 30. It is reached through the park at Osborne House which is about one and a half miles south-east of Cowes. For more details go to www.english-heritage.org.uk/osborne