Osborne House – Isle of Wight, England

A Retreat Where Royals Relaxed

Charles Dickens was drawn to the sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs of this island off the southern coast of England. Today’s most visited site is Osborne House, the cherished home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, where they lived some of their happiest hours. Constructed at Victoria’s own expense as a seaside retreat in 1845, it was here that the family managed to leave behind royal responsibilities, enjoying long walks and informal family dinners prepared by the couple’s nine children. Grief-stricken at the early death of her consort, Albert, in 1865, Victoria requested that everything remain exactly as it had been in his final days. Today their spirit imbues every corner of the place, offering a unique insight to royal family life, from the cozy clutter of treasured family mementos to the bedroom where the queen died on January 22, 1901.

The island is a favorite summer destination of the British, one that attracted Alfred, Lord Tennyson, among other notables. The coastal Tennyson Down provided the poet and those who follow in his footsteps with outstanding views of the Needles, three offshore rock pinnacles battered by the waves of the English Channel. The Down is part of the 65-mile Coastal Path that encircles the diamond-shaped island. Don’t skip the interior’s highlight: the 11th-century Carisbrooke Castle. The best-preserved Norman castle in the kingdom provides spectacular views for those who climb to the top of the keep. A less enthusiastic visitor, Charles I, was held hostage here by Oliver Cromwell in 1647 pending execution: His attempt to escape was foiled when he got stuck between the window bars.

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