One of the places we absolutely had to visit on our recent trip to the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel was Shanklin Chine – the oldest attraction on the island. Situated in Old Shanklin, a stones throw from the Crabb Inn where we had lunch, this remarkable gorge really is a must see. Carved by Mother Nature over thousands of years, Shanklin Chine was open to the public in 1817 although Jane Austin wrote about visiting it four years earlier. She wasn’t the only one, Keats found inspiration for some of his greatest poetry while in Shanklin, referencing “the wondrous Chine here is a very great lion”. The likes of George Eliot, Macaulay and Dickens were also admirers of the Chine.
For some time, the Chine was a favourite smugglers’ haunt with a tunnel that led from the Chine Inn into Shanklin Old Village. Smuggling was so prevalent in those days that excise officers were based in the village until the Watch House near the Chine was built in 1820. Shanklin became a fashionable place when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived at Osborne House with the Chine a must on itineraries, described as “terrifically sublime” and “savagely grand”.
Of course our visit coincided with a day of torrential rain but we weren’t going to let a little (a lot!) of water spoil our fun. While it did mean it was a shorter visit than we’d hoped for, and my camera got the wettest its ever been, we almost had the Chine to ourselves. It is famous for its flora and fauna as there are an abundance of wild plants and species of moss and liverworts, many of which are very rare. Birds, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and cave spiders are known to live in the gorge along with chipmunks and red squirrels. We missed seeing those and the nature hide because of the weather although six year old POD enjoyed meeting cockatiels and parrots. One even said hello after she did, much to her amazement.
The crooked steps, windy tree lined paths, streams, waterfalls and wooden bridges make Shanklin Chine an intriguing yet tranquil place to visit. I could have quite happily stayed a lot longer than we did. There’s a wonderful gift shop and cafe there too although we really were too wet to stop by. We were staying locally and wanted to venture back in the evening to see the Chine Lumière but the rain was relentless! If you’re on the island, do check out when it’s on as the paths, streams and waterfalls are illuminated – it looks incredible. Shanklin Chine is open until the end of September (closed 1st to 20th October) and then again on the 21st to the 29th October. It then re-opens on the 22nd March 2018. We absolutely loved it so I hope we can venture back there again soon. We discovered on our trip the Isle of Wight is so easy to get to from Surrey, just an hour on the ferry from Southampton.