My magical time in the Isle Of Wight is thanks to transport courtesy of Wightlink however all of the activities mentioned in this series are not sponsored
One of my favourite and must-see destinations of all is Osborne House, the beautiful royal residence of Queen Victoria.
The stunning Osborne House was designed by Prince Albert in the Italian style that was a much loved seaside home of Victoria and Albert and their nine children.
Although a regal building, it feels very much a family home and was Queen Victoria’s favourite place to be and she continued to manage her affairs of state from here. It’s strange to think she ruled her worldwide empire from a seaside palace on a small Island, but after visiting, I can absolutely understand why she was so in love!
The beautiful Osborne House was built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat. Prince Albert designed the house himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo, and it truly does feel like a palace that could be found in the sun-drenched countries of southern Europe.
The builder was Thomas Cubitt, the London architect and builder whose company built the main façade of Buckingham Palace for the royal couple in 1847. An earlier smaller house on the site was demolished to make way for a new and far larger house, though the original entrance portico survives as the main gateway to the walled garden.
Osborne House Gardens
Aside from the sublime facade and interior, part of what makes Osborne House so majestic is the garden setting that looks over from East Cowes to the mainland and to Portsmouth and the Solent. This view reminding Prince Albert of the Bay Of Naples.
From both the palace to the gardens, Osborne House is a truly beautiful example of the Victorian Italian Style that both Victoria and Albert so admired. On arriving at Osborne House, the estate had an 18th-century garden when it was purchased by Queen Victoria. This included the walled kitchen-garden and pleasure ground.
Walking around the gardens, on this beautiful sunny autumn day, was such a joy. I can only begin to imagine how special it was for Victoria and Albert to be in this safe, beautiful haven of picturesque beauty. In fact, so much of my day reminded me of being at Peterhof in St Petersburg I visited last year. Don’t the estates seem very similar?
Prince Albert himself took a personal interest in gardening, involving himself with the planting influenced by his family home in Rosenau, Germany and helped by Ludwig Gruner.
Osborne House Rooms
Although a regal building, Osborne House feels very much a family home and was Queen Victoria’s favourite place to be and she continued to manage her affairs of state from here. In fact, it is strange to think she ruled her worldwide empire from a seaside palace on a small Island!
As you walk along the grand corridor you come to the Council room where Queen Victoria met her privy council of ministers with its audience room.
The staterooms include the dining room with the famous portrait of the family and were Victoria’s body lay in state in 1901. My favorite room was the magnificent drawing room in gold with her ornate piano which is simply magnificent.
From the Billiard room, you climb up a lot of stairs which I assume were the servants’ to the top of the house to visit the nursery. Everything is beautifully laid out as if they were still there with all the cots and tiny chairs.
Descending the main staircase you visit the dressing rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms of Albert and Victoria. Queen Victoria’s sitting room, with the desks they both used seemed so familiar, probably because I’ve seen it so often on TV and films about her.
You even see a lift that was installed in 1893 and operated by hand so the ageing queen could access these rooms.
However for me one of the jewels of Osborne House is the Durbar Room, a magnificent state reception hall in the Indian style of architecture. You get wonderful views of the gardens from the house but it is worth enjoying the various terraces and the clear view over to Portsmouth.
After you’ve explored Osborne House through the house and gardens I highly recommend you then venture to the secret enchanted Swiss Cottage with a free shuttle bus directly from Osborne House.
This Alpine cottage was Prince Albert’s idea to teach the children useful skills such as gardening and cooking. It is an adorable chalet where everything is on a small scale and must have been wonderful for the children.
At Swiss Cottage, you can discover the interests and personalities of each of the nine princes and princesses in the ‘Childhood at Osborne’ exhibition. It’s just so special to step back in time to 1861 as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert join their offspring for afternoon tea. And truly what makes this spot so special is its timeless nature of a secret hideaway I’m sure any child in any generation or time would just adore.
Outside of the sweet cottage, you can then wander in between the royal children’s vegetable plots; and enjoy a wildlife trail on your way to the beach.
Queen Victoria’s Beach Hut
“We have quite a charming beach to ourselves,” as Victoria wrote in 1845, and it was here at Osborne beach that the Queen regularly bathed and her children learned to swim. And all just a brisk 10 minutes walk from Swiss Cottage.
With the same idyllic, tranquil views across the Solent, it was here that Queen Victoria would sketch and write letters.
In addition to experiencing somewhere so meditative and special to Queen Victoria, you can even see her bathing machine with its own changing room and plumbed-in toilet. Isn’t the turquoise shade so colourful and charming?!
My Mum and I had a truly beautiful day at Osborne House in an enchanting spot steeped in so much of our history.
Address: Osborne House, York Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6JT
Opening times: All year. Daily except for closed Mondays and Tuesdays from November to March. Open 10am to 6pm (4pm October to March)
Entrance fee: Adult House & Garden £9.80, Garden only £5.90