The Art Of Being An Islander


Sitting in my favourite seafront cafe, pad on lap and pen in hand, I watch the people pass by …..

Visiting families stroll down to the beach. The children dash and dart, relishing the freedom to shout and skim pebbles in the ocean, sketching huge faces in the sand and glass hunting amongst the shingle. 

Parents glance around, wondering who they should pay for the deckchairs that have been dotted around. 

Eventually they shrug, put down their canvas beach bags and sink down into the stripy seats. It isn’t long before a weather beaten little man in a navy cap, shuffles out of the crab shack to collect his fare, exchanges a few words, then hobbles back again.

Then there are the couples. They stroll along hand in hand, feeling the sea breeze on their faces and taking in the world through their dark designer shades. You can always tell the tourists by the way they stroll to the end of the esplanade, stop, glance around, then stroll back looking for a coffee shop as if that was their intention all along. Here they sit, peer at menus and check prices, then settle back to absorb the peaceful way of life.

Sometimes you overhear them saying what a wonderful place this would be to live and I completely agree with them.

The Isle of Wight isn’t a very big place. At just 37 km by 21km, it’s the smallest county in the UK.

It came into it’s own during the Victorian era when Queen Victoria decided to make it her summer residence. Osborne House was built and quite suddenly, with the endorsement of Her Royal Highness, this little island became The Place To Be. From that point onwards, many notable people such as Tennyson, Dickens, Keats all came and lived here for periods of time. 

Breathtaking mansions grew up between the woodland terraces and there was talk of a climate, so mild it even had healing properties and a great TB Hospital was built on the land which is now the Botanical Gardens. The Victorian eye for splendour and fairytale mansions has left an atmosphere of romanticism amongst the rock strewn lanes and secluded coves, which after time, fell quiet once more ….

Then in the 1970’s, like some colourful dragon awakening, the Isle of Wight Festival happened. It was the biggest music event of it’s time. Hendrix and Joni Mitchell graced the island along with many other notable musicians. Hundreds of thousands of half naked, flower adorned hippies swarmed in to Freshwater to have the time of their lives – much to the growing horror of the local community.

Once the dragon had subsided and the music festivals came to an end,  it’s imprint was left. A handful of the hippies and bohemians decided to settle here and now their families season the island with yet another layer of vibrancy, flavour, and an artistic community that is still present today.

I love this place.

It certainly takes time to sink down, beneath the pretty landscapes and winding lanes, into the slow, deliberate way of life. You begin to discover that within this island are smaller islands … little pockets of community within the larger community. Jobs are sparse, there are no theatres or great cultural events beyond the Jazz Festival or other music festivals which have made a return, yet sitting in my beach front cafe, listening to visitors say “let’s move here. Let’s come to live on an island,” I feel grateful to the Gods that I do.     


Have you ever dreamed about simplifying your life and moving somewhere near the sea?


Here are some of the best reasons I have come across for living on an island.


* Gorgeous Houses … Whether you’d like to live in a bright, pastel coloured fisherman’s cottage or a light, elegant Victorian townhouse, many coastal towns and villages are abundant with interesting properties. The gardens aren’t always big, but the beaches are always close by as well as stunning coastal walks.


* Rich outdoor life … If you enjoy being outside and exploring new places, islands are stitched with interesting walks and trails. Besides walking, the roads are usually quiet which makes cycling safe and enjoyable and many of the beaches offer great conditions for surfers.


* Warm, welcoming communities … there’s a certain art to living in an island community. Unlike cities where you are unlikely to see the same person twice in the street, island families and friends are deeply intertwined. Everyone you get to know will know someone who knows you! For some people this feels suffocating and overwhelming, but once you are used to it, there’s a deep sense of warmth and belonging that brings a wonderful quality of life.   



One thought on “The Art Of Being An Islander

  1. What a wonderful way to spend the day…Amazing photos Bethan, and your description of the island made me want to move there tomorrow! I hope I’ll get to visit The Isle of Wight next year when I come to UK…
    We have many islands, very close to Istanbul, since the city is divided by the sea… And I always dreamed of living in one; where there are no cars allowed, only horse carriage, no pollution of any kind and waking up to the smell of the sea every morning… would be a dream come true 🙂

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