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In the 1830s, visitors flocked from England to Ventnor for its almost Madeira-like micro-climate. A small sleepy fishing village on the southern coast of the Isle of Wight suddenly became a bustling pioneer of health tourism. Land prices shot up from £100 to £1,000 per acre. Ventnor filled with crinolines, penny farthings and mutton-chop sideburns.

Fishers, a grand four storey hotel complete with lacy wrought-iron veranda, was built in 1832. The architecture reflected the Georgians’ love affair with the classical symmetry of Ancient Rome.

On her visits to the Isle of Wight, a young Victoria, enjoying the freedom of the years before becoming Queen, loved calling in to that hotel for afternoon tea. In honour of her patronage, the hotel became The Royal.

Two needle-thin cypress trees frame The Royal’s entrance, embracing the Mediterranean tradition of a symbolic welcome. Immaculately coiffured bay and olive trees, along with spiky succulents, add to the Med ambience.

The welcome

Parking can be challenging in vertiginous Ventnor but The Royal has two car parks. Ample, flat parking is available.

As we have checked-in online, we are immediately given our very traditional and hefty brass-fobbed key. Again quaintly ignoring the arrival of digital technology, we are offered a wake-up call and a paper newspaper. A porter takes our luggage.

The room

Our classic sea-view room with an ornate and floral mini-chandelier, dripping pendant crystals, recalls the hotel’s regal history.
The wide bed has royal dimensions and faces towards both a flatscreen television and the view.

Decor features a simple seascape palette of summer blues with restrained Regency stripe curtains. A tall in-built wardrobe has ample hanging space for evening attire. Another section of the wardrobe houses the tea and coffee facilities.

The bathroom

With white on white, gleaming chrome, silver chains and a wide mirror this is a bathroom that Victorians would recognise. Early morning sunlight floods across the combined deep bath and rainfall shower.

Though Era toiletries of white tea and jasmine would not have been in the Victorian bathroom repertoire.


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The facilities

For over a quarter of a century, The Royal’s high-ceilinged Geranium Restaurant has held two AA rosettes. A dozen chandeliers, a Greco-Roman styled frieze, classical busts and Regency-stripe wallpaper recall the hotel’s Georgian heritage. Whilst a royal blue carpet of heraldic crests celebrates the regal traditions. Tall and hefty floral brocade curtains, with ties thick enough to serve as maritime ropes, add to the grandeur.

A Gallybagger soufflé, the lightest of soufflés, made from an island cheese, has gained a reputation as The Geranium Restaurant’s signature starter.

Main courses come with creative flair. Bitter nettle pesto contrasts with a rich rump of lamb. Roasted purple potato works well with the fish of the day. While both lime pickle and Kashmiri chilli accompany paneer beignet. There are more glances towards the Orient with a fish-crammed Malaysian laska.

Surrounded by palm trees and voluptuous planting with sub-tropical hints, the outdoor heated swimming pool attracts swimmers earlier and later in the year than many mainland pools.


Wightlink ferries whisk cars and foot-passengers from Portsmouth to Fishbourne with a relaxing cruise of around half-an-hour.

A six-minute downhill stroll from The Royal takes guests to a spectacular stretch of the Isle of Wight’s coastal walk through bee and pyramid orchids, past adonis blue butterflies and along the shore-hugging path.

Two English Heritage properties are the island’s headline attractions. Carisbrooke Castle has been far more than a strategically significant fortress over the centuries. It has also served as a mansion, museum, royal home, seat of government and, most famously, a prison for deposed King Charles ll. Then there are the descendants of the donkeys who hauled buckets of water from the deep well for up-to 12 hours a day.

Prince Albert designed many of the architectural and landscape features of Osborne House, today curated and cared for by English Heritage. As a grand summer holiday home for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children, the family had their own private beach. Later, the house became a peaceful sanctuary for the mourning Queen.

Remarkably, for a diamond-shaped island of only 147 square miles, the Isle of Wight once had 33 railway stations. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway based at Havenstreet Station tells the story of the railways and nostalgically runs steam engine trips.

Even though food at The Royal is superb it is worth heading out to picturesque Godshill to the beamed and flagstone floored Taverners in Godshill. This warmly welcoming hostelry has in the past been a bakehouse and a post office but has now found its true niche as a gastropub with a blackboard filled with the day’s specials.

Other nice touches

Decor in reception, with a programmed grand piano providing a sophisticated jazzy soundtrack, and an exhibition of black-and-white photographs of well-dressed couples dining and romancing, creates an elegant ambience.

Similarly, a collection of black-and-white motor racing photographs displayed in the bar celebrate a heroic era when racing was more about the drivers’ skills than the latest technology.

Across the road from the hotel and up a flight of step stone steps, The Riviera Terrace provides spectacular coastal views. Ask the kitchen and they will prepare a picnic hamper.


Bed and breakfast for a single room begins from £150. Premier double rooms, with breakfast, start at £325.

The best bit

Matt Egan is The Royal’s executive chef who likes to push boundaries, using island resources, to create a foodie heaven.

On selected dates, Se7en offers a seven course tasting menu with wine pairings for up to 18 guests in a separate intimate setting.

The final verdict

There is a discreet Old-World grandeur to this 51 room hotel with its Lloyd Loom chairs waiting on the terrace. Staff wearing black waistcoats and immaculately pressed white blouses or shirts provide impeccable service.

To dine in The Geranium Restaurant is a privileged pleasure. A hall so grandly opulent that it could have hosted the Pride and Prejudice wedding breakfast of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.

Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by The Royal Hotel and our cruise to the Isle of Wight was sponsored by Wightlink.