We haven’t braved a short break since our honeymoon back in July. I say brave because if your kid’s anything like mine they don’t sleep in new surroundings and you often come back from your holiday declaring it to be anything but a ‘break’ and swear to your partner that you’ll just staycation at home next time to save the drama and the expense. Then times passes and you forget the sleepless nights and domestics and have romantic notions of new adventures with your family, punctuated by Kodak moments, joyous laughter and just growing generally as a person as a result of the life experience (see above pic).
When our mates kindly invited us to gatecrash their half term jaunt to the Isle of Wight with the promise of good company, other kids for Archie to play with, loads of good home cooked meals and board games we were all over it. My one stipulation was ‘no board games mate’. I’m a terrible loser plus I’m really dyslexic so find the whole wrapping my head around game rules, patterns and strategies mind boggling. Literally. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
We were booked in to stay in at Stockbridge cottage on the edge of Tapnell Farm in Tapnell which features a farmyard complete with… animals, a play barn with toy tractors, a soft play, a climbing wall, a cafe, a massive ‘jumping pillow’ aka trampoline, go karts, a zip wire and a restaurant. What more could you need for a toddler? The cottage has 4 doubles, two living rooms and a huge kitchen. Perfect for 4 adults and 4 kids under 7. There’s also loads of other accommodation on the farm from glamping to an eco lodge and cottages.
Friday - Day 1:
Having left our ferry booking a bit late, our plan to detour at Peppa Pig World en route was thwarted so we headed straight to Lymington to catch the ferry mid morning and hit the white isle. The ferry was a lot of fun with Archie and, despite hitting the road at an ungodly 6.30am, he was pretty lively by the time we got to the ferry ride (waiting in the queue was a different matter).
The crossing was really quick, forty mins, and the transfer to the cottage took just fifteen minutes from the port. Since we were too early to check-in, we stopped for a quick bite at the Farm’s restaurant The Cow Co. I had an awesome steak sandwich with a side of mac cheese which was Archie's but he refused to touch it as he was too distracted by all the cows - both real and not. Fine by me kiddo. The veggie got a grown-up portion of mac cheese the size of a football and was elated.
As Stockbridge cottage isn’t actually on the farm complex but on the main road just before it and the map was slightly confusing for two tired, carb heavy adults with a screaming toddler in tow, it took us a while to find it. When we did, it still wasn’t quite ready since check in is 3pm but they let us drop off some supplies that needed to go in the fridge before we then set off to do one of my favourite things when on hols – hit the local supermarket and check out what was on offer. We discovered the poshest CO-OP I've ever seen and I was loving my life. With CO-OP’s best wares safely nestled in our overflowing boot, we headed back to the cottage to explore and unpack.
Stockbridge is really cosy but spacious, stocked with toys (the owners have kids) and has a climbing frame in the garden so Arch was happy bombing around exploring until our mates arrived with their crew fresh from Peppa Pig World. After a short respite, we headed up to the farm park to explore and tire the kids out.
We were really impressed with the set-up. It’s really well thought out with something for the smallest (1) to the oldest (7). It’s hard to narrow down what caused the most amount of meltdowns when we attempted to prize the kids away but the soft play, play tractor track and peddle go-karts were responsible for a lot of laughter and tears. I personally had a ball on the zip wire and highly recommend it. Archie couldn’t quite find his feet on the jumping pillow, literally, but loved the tractors and soft play. He was a bit small for the go-karts although he insisted on attempting to peddle/drag one around the track, parking it in the middle in everyone’s way until dad was forced to push him around it for half an hour. Gold star for the veggie.
Exhausted after the early start we rolled into bed early in the hope that all the fresh air would result in everyone getting some serious sleep.
Saturday - Day 2:
True to form, Archie woke up several times in the night. We set off to explore The Needles and Alum Bay first thing a little slow and grumpy for lack of sleep.
Famed for its colourful cliffs and sands, chairlift, view of the Needles, rides and amusements it's a unique wonder. Frayed around the edges, it is your typical, slightly dated, seaside amusement park that as a kid I adored and I now see that my parents suffered solely for my benefit. Payback time. Pester power is real and suffice to say Alum Bay will have your offspring relieving you of your last hard earned pound within minutes of stepping foot through the gates. Under 5’s/Under 1 meter must be accompanied by a paying adult which quickly burns through your tokens.
I took my first ever chairlift ride down to the beach. As we descending to the beach I was holding on rather too tightly to a very chilled child (he’d done this before see) with worst case scenarios running on a constant loop through my head. I’m scared of heights so god knows why I signed up for this but the views were spectacular and the FOMO would've been unbearable. I couldn’t take many pics though as I was white knuckling it the whole way down. Turns out that none of the kids were remotely phased by the chair lift but loved it and I am a total pussy.
The beach beneath with its spectacularly coloured cliffs and view of the Needles was worth it. As my adrenaline dropped and my hands went numb from the cold, I was filled with pride, gladness that I had braved it and a real sense that I should be fully present in the moment, consciously making memories to be dusted off and glanced over in the years to come. I know Archie is gonna LOVE his outfits in these pics when he's grown and this all looks as dated as it inevitably will.
The ride back up was easier to stomach, even managed a selfie like a true champ, and the kids promptly got involved in the mini golf, the carousel and the vintage car ride.
Decidedly poorer and with the food not up to much, we headed back to the cottage for fuel and to take stock.
Sunday - Day 3:
Still not much sleep in the tank we set off early for more exploring. We’d been told the local Lifeboat team practice in Fresh Water Bay on Sundays so after a very brief stop at the stunning but very cold Compton Bay with a sobbing toddler (see first picture - he wanted to go back to the fire engine ride in the arcade at Alum Bay, naturally) we headed there. As the sun came out we sat and watched the volunteer lifeboat men at work, hopeful that soon they would launch the 'big' lifeboat and we’d see a rescue drill (just like on Fireman Sam) but alas they didn’t and after an hour we made tracks.
Obviously, not content with the local, amazing CO-OP, I’d identified a farm shop that I just had to visit and dragged my long suffering husband and son on an hour and a half round trip to find it. With my mate’s words ‘I hope it’s a really good farm shop’ ringing in my ears we set off. Suffice to say the farm shop was a huge disappointment and fighting hanger and just generally fighting we set off back to base with just some chilli crackers and visible rage to show for our adventure.
En route back to Tapnell we booked in for a late lunch at The Cow Co. They stop serving food at 3.30pm on Sunday and Saturday which we found slightly irritating when we'd turned up for tea on Saturday at 5pm, resulting in 4 very disappointed, tearful kids. Luckily, the food was really good and made up for Saturday's dramas.
As an old dairy farm, the restaurant’s menu is all beef-based with a couple of veggie options on there for those that way inclined. I had a ribeye and the veggie went for their mac cheese again – both were delicious and the kid’s meals were great too (tho Arch mostly just ate bread). Tummies full, we headed to the various activities the farm had on offer to let the kids burn off some steam.
Day 3 - Monday:
Home time. We left early, all agreeing we were sad to go and could have definitely done with another full day. We made a very expensive pit stop at Beaulieu’s car museum on the way home. Arch loved it and it sufficiently tuckered him out resulting in an epic hour and a half nap on the drive back. Result.
So, would we go back? 110%, we loved it, it’s one of the best and easiest fam hols we’ve done yet.
- Accommodation: Roughly £470 for 4 adults and 4 kids for 3 nights
- Ferry: You get a discount voucher from Tapnell so use that when you book! We went Lymington to Yarmouth and cost was roughly £50.00
-Entry to Tapnell Farm - You get a discount if you're staying there. It will set you back £29 for a family ticket but you that gives you entry for the duration of your stay
- The Cow Co: Kids meals, mac cheese £6 w/garlic focaccia or £6.50 for a mini cheese burger, adult meals £10 for a massive mac cheese with a slab of garlic foccacia, £19 for a seriously good Ribeye + £2 for sauce
They had mini bottles of milk which Archie nailed both times we went but can't remember the price
- Check out Tapnell Farm HERE
*Tilly the Tiger appears courtesy of Archie's nursery who lent us this well-traveled cat for the weekend.