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Having achieved county status after years of being lumped in with Hampshire, the Isle of Wight still has difficulty in shaking off its image as a mere adjunct of rural southern England - comfortably off, scrupulously tidy and desperately unadventurous.
Yet the island, which measures less than 23 miles at its widest point, packs a surprising variety of landscapes and coastal scenery within its bounds. North of the chalk ridge that runs across its centre, the terrain is low-lying woodland and pasture, deeply cut by meandering rivers, while southwards is open chalky downland fringed by high cliffs.
Two Heritage Coast paths follow the best of the shoreline, while several historic buildings and a splendid array of well-preserved Victoriana provide added interest. Chief of these is Osborne House, near Cowes, originally designed as a summer retreat for Victoria and the royal family, later the queen's permanent home after Albert died.
The Isle of Wight is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing break, at any time of year. For the energetic, there are plenty of sports facilities, including windsurfing, sailing and paragliding. And for those who prefer to unwind & explore, there's much to discover.