Time to scrap the ‘Eight Wonders of the Isle of Wight’

Isle of Wight Guru, Robbie Lane, feels the ‘Eight Wonders’ campaign is a little ripe, going as far as saying it’s naff and gimmicky. What do you think? See if you agree with his alternative suggestion.

Ryde Pier

Ryde, where you walk (unless you catch the train, hovercraft, bus or cycle obviously…)

Isle of Wight Guru, Robbie Lane, shares his take on the ‘eight wonders of the Isle of Wight’. Guest opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication. Ed

There’s a crusty old tourism campaign called the ‘Eight wonders of the Isle of Wight’.

You’ve probably seen it on faded postcards with the edges curled up in seaside esplanade souvenir shops. There’s even an odd CBBC sketch about it.

Eight Wonders of the Isle of Wight

It starts off with the fairly witty ‘Needles you cannot thread’ and ‘Cowes you cannot milk’ before slowly running out of steam and sounding like someone is making up the last few off the top of their head.

“Umm…Winkle Street where there are no winkles?”

“Errr…Newtown which is old?”

“Brading, where this is no braiding?”

Obviously I made that last one up.

Name eight Richards
It reminds me of a game played by Richard Herring on his Leicester Square Theatre podcast where guests have to name eight people called Richard they’d like to live on a desert island with.

Everyone starts off with witty answers for the first three and then runs out of ideas by about number five or six and the whole thing peters out.

A little ripe?
According to this guide, the ‘eight wonders’ of the Isle of Wight date back to at least 1908, so I’m going to risk controversy and trolling by suggesting that it might be getting a bit ripe by now.

I cringed a little bit when I heard it during an (otherwise excellent) open top bus tour this summer.

Gimmicky and naff
As an early 20th century postcard aimed at gentlemen with top hats it’s quite witty, but surely we can think of something that will actually draw people to the Isle of Wight rather than a few weak puns which just tell you that there isn’t any water in Lake (which doesn’t actually make sense for a seaside town).

It makes the Isle of Wight sound a bit gimmicky and naff, rather than highlighting the amazing coastline, the royal history, the dinosaur discoveries or the summertime festivals.

A compact version of the UK
I’m a much bigger fan of promoting the Isle of Wight as a compact version of the UK.

Now, I know that’s not an especially new idea either but it’s a real selling point that you can have half a dozen very different days out during a week’s holiday.

Most English resorts offer you just one stretch of fairly similar coastline to explore over a week. The Isle of Wight has a much bigger range, all of which are within 25 minutes if you stay in the middle of Island and don’t get stuck behind a tractor or burst a tyre in a pothole.

Worlds apart
Beaches which are only a few miles apart feel like completely different places. Tourists should be encouraged to visit Shanklin or Appley on a busy day and then one of the isolated South Wight bays the next.

And so, I was rather pleased to see this cheeky bit of marketing from Visit Isle of Wight:

OK, so perhaps Carisbrooke Castle isn’t quite the Tower of London and our hills aren’t as dramatic and rolling as the Peak District, but if you’re a foreign visitor to the UK with a couple of weeks to explore, it’s an appealing idea to get a taste of several counties in one go.

More to offer
There are others too.

Seaview and Appley at low tide always reminds me of Lincolnshire’s east coast with its big windswept beaches.

Steephill Cove and Castlehaven/Reeth Bay feel like small Cornish fishing bays.

Shanklin has the sunshine of Eastbourne (allegedly).

Priory Bay and Whitecliff Bay on the right day look like… actually, I can’t think of anywhere in England that looks quite so paradisaical.

And, of course, we’ve got the red squirrels of Brownsea Island and the Lake District.

Surely that’s more appealing to potential visitors than ‘Lake where is no water?’

Isle of Wight Guru is an independent guide to days out and places to stay.

Image: Eight Wonders postcard © Wight Index
Image: Ryde Pier © Isle of Wight Guru

Opinion Piece

Thursday, 29th December, 2016 3:14pm


ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2eRJ

Filed under: Island-wide, Isle of Wight Opinion Pieces, Tourism

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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. Eloise Heal

    29.Dec.2016 3:27pm

    Ugh this is way too boring and serious, lighten up. The ‘wonders’ are a bit of lighthearted fun. They’re not used as a way to draw tourists to the island and you’re an idiot if you listen to them and think they’re an astounding work of genius.

    And by the way, the ‘wonder’ for Lake is actually: ‘Lake you can walk through without wetting your feet’, so you got that one a little wrong actually. It doesn’t suggest there is absolutely no water in Lake. Nice attempt to be clever but that’s the traditional riddle :)

    • Eloise Heal

      29.Dec.2016 3:30pm

      Obviously I’m not suggesting the parts of the island highlighted are unimportant – I know that my island home is beautiful and appreciate it beyond belief, but tourists know this too. They don’t base their holidays on ‘the eight wonders of the Isle of Wight’ as if they’re another wonder of the world. The wonders are a bit of islander fun, not to be taken so seriously.

      Sorry, it irks me when it’s taken so seriously 😂

    • Was only ever 7 wonders Cowes u can’t milk ryde we’re u walk lake were it is dry Newport u can’t bottle new church wich is old needles u can thread freshwater u can’t drink no winkle street or brading

    • mark francis wdp

      30.Dec.2016 10:56am

      Although until comparatively recently Lake used to regularly flood during heavy rainfall.

  2. rosemarycs

    29.Dec.2016 6:10pm

    When I was a girl in the 1940/50’s it was only 6 simple Wonders. Newport you can’t bottle, Ryde where you walk, Needles you can’t thread, Lake you can walk through, Freshwater you can’t drink, Cowes you can’t milk. Later they found two more for some reason. All a bit of fun! We can keep them and have something else as well.

  3. There’s always one person who wants to change tradition. The wonders have been fun for years, not tired or crusty, children love them, it’s fun visiting all the places and they’re unique to the island rather than likening them to other attractions on the mainland. What people love about the island is its uniqueness, in a world of change it’s a little part of England which remains much the same. To quote the obvious, if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

  4. I think it’s possible to enjoy the old rhymes and come up with new ideas too. I agree that the original rhymes, well, they’re.a little old hat, but on the other hand, they have a charm and value that works for many people – including me!. Tourist boards, if they know what they’re doing, try to build on these true-isms whilst coming up with new ideas. I can live in a world where new innovative ideas sit alongside traditional and cultural rhymes that work – it’s all one orchestra, the important thing is to work together so that we stand out from the crowd.

  5. philip storey

    30.Dec.2016 8:36am

    Anything that promotes the Isle has got to be beneficial in the right place , these 8 wonders , not sure , perhaps kept for the postcards or the tour bus. The isle of wight as we have found these last 5 years is just a beautiful island from coast to coast . Boast about it first then add the humour.

  6. Robert Jones

    30.Dec.2016 10:46am

    Since this hasn’t been an advertising campaign for decades, even if the lazier tour guide resorts to it when filling in an awkward moment when he can’t remember any interesting facts about the places he’s describing, it’s a touch hard to see why anyone is bothering with it. I don’t think much of Visit Isle of Wight’s efforts, but even they aren’t employing turn-of-the-20th-century doggerel to promote the place. At least, I hope they’re not – I agree in fact that it’s the sort of picture-postcard naffness which typifies any area as dependent on tourism as we are – penned in this case by a copywriter working for Nigh’s, I’ve always assumed…. it will have served its purpose at the time.

    Guru, back to your ashram if you think it needs discarding or updating, and write something better – remarking on a resemblance between Reeth Bay and a Cornish fishing bay might however leave the visitor feeling slightly short-changed.

  7. mark francis wdp

    30.Dec.2016 11:04am

    Reeth Bay derived from “Wraith” meaning dead body because all the stiffs from the shipwrecks along the Back of the Wight used to drift into it. So perhaps – “Reeth Bay where there are no decomposing corpses” ?

    That might well appeal to tourists of the Goth persuasion.

    OR… as part of a campaign against knife crime “Shanklin – where you don’t get shanked (very often)”

    I think I missed my vocation…

  8. If you’ve lived on the Island for many years, you may find the ‘Wonders’ a tiring concept, but for first-time visitors, young and old, it can be a novel and quaint idea and give them a laugh. I am not, however, suggesting that we base a tourism marketing strategy on it. Nor would I suggest focusing solely on the Island as a microcosm of the landscape and landmarks of England. Each of our tourist attractions has its own unique story to tell, and those stories will make our visitors’ experiences memorable: from the idiosyncrasies of royalty at Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle to the shipwrecks off our wild rocky shores and the forts and radar stations demonstrating that the Island was for centuries on the front line for invasion by sea.

    The Island still has many secrets to reveal about its recent and far-distant past, secrets that we’ve kept to ourselves for too long. I suggest marketing these in themes, such as Great Island Inventions, Great Writers on the Isle of Wight. Yet Island talent is not confined to the past. Why not have tours to see what Island businesses and entrepreneurs are producing today and help them reach more customers? Let’s try and attract a wider range of tourists, not just the bucket-and-spade seaside holiday-makers of yore and the coachloads of elderly folk staying in budget hotels. These are welcome, of course, but we need to attract those interested in history and literature, geology and wildlife, shipbuilding and technology. And we may as well cash in on the pioneering tidal energy installation when it arrives, as well as the rocket launching testing site, Marconi’s wireless testing sites, Saunders Roe,
    J S White’s hammerhead crane. We’ve neglected them for too long.Let’s salvage what we can and use the sites to tell the stories of these many great pioneers on the Isle of Wight.

    Marketing the I W as a Green Island seems an excellent idea, especially as we are currently faced with several major threats to our beautiful landscape and environment: from housing developments and oil exploration/fracking. Attracting more walkers, cyclists, wildlife enthusiasts to spend holidays here will surely boost support for our campaigns to save the Island from these destructive threats.

  9. I have a friend who works in the tourism sector and any t-towels / postcards depicting the 8 Wonders sell well. People have a laugh and god knows we could all do with one.

  10. Ferries that don’t sail would be a strong candidate, especially for those who believe in living in a bygone era

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