What’s going for it? Long before the climate emergency, those in the 19th century without a posting in Delhi or Singapore would come to Ventnor to experience the tropics. The town is a world apart, sunbathing alone beneath its own vast windbreak, St Boniface Down, with just the ocean for company. Its famed microclimate was catnip for Victorians. Consumptive patients desperately sucked in its warm, moist air at the Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest; botanists and ecologists chased its rare butterflies, lizards and odd flora, a lost world or Galápagos just south of Newport; thrill-seekers explored Blackgang Chine, Britain’s oldest theme park; and the rest of them hit the bandstand for tea, cake and a shimmy. It remains a defiantly Victorian place, but having had its dose of inevitable seaside decline, in recent years it has acquired a light hipster sheen. There’s a lot of upcycling, vintage and keeping-calm-and-carrying-on going on, a fair amount of William-Morris-meets-mid-century-modern and a cultural scene in rude health. Though I do worry for that microclimate. Might get a tad Saharan, now the rest of the UK is turning tropical.
The case against Barely a flat surface, it’s awfully steep pretty much everywhere. Despite recent improvements, it still suffers from a seasonal economy.
Well connected? A bit of a schlep. Trains: no, you’ll need to drive 15 minutes to Shanklin for the Island Line, every half hour to Ryde (about 20 minutes). Driving: 30 minutes to Ryde and Newport, 40 to Cowes. Also the small matter of crossing the Solent, if you want to island hop.
Schools Primaries: the only choice is St Francis Catholic & CofE, which was in special measures three years ago, but is now an academy; no inspection report yet, says Ofsted. Secondaries: The Island Free School is “good”.
Hang out at… Cantina is great for coffee, bread and lunches. I’m a sucker for the seaside pub, Spyglass, even if it has been decorated by Captain Pugwash. The locals drink at the Crab & Lobster. Crab Shed and Boathouse at Steephill Cove are the business, too.
Where to buy The town is strung out on hairpin bends winding down to the sea. It’s mostly a 19th-century affair, with some postwar detacheds. A wonderful line in gothic bargeboarded Victoriana, with large, often spectacular villas. Plenty of smaller cottages tucked down stone-walled alleys. Lots of oddities. Secluded Bonchurch is lovely, too, as are neighbouring St Lawrence and Niton. Large detacheds and townhouses, £450,000-£1.4m. Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £225,000-£450,000. Semis, £130,000-£450,000. Terraces and cottages, £150,000-£300,000. Flats, £100,000-£325,000. Rentals: a one-bedroom flat, £420-£520pcm; a three-bedroom house, £820-£920pcm.
Bargain of the week A dated, five-bedroom house with sea views, £365,000, with watsonbullporter.co.uk.
From the streets
Sarah Carter “Good bus service. The micro climate is fantastic.”
Ann Underwood “Buzzards, foxes, badgers, red squirrels and wall lizards. But finding some of Ottolenghi’s ingredients might be a challenge.”
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