England's largest island, the Isle of Wight, sits just a short sea crossing from the mainland ports of Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington in the New Forest. It has been enjoyed as a holiday and short break destination since the 18th Century and became one of Europe's most fashionable resort areas after Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert chose the Isle of Wight as their family's home in the 1800s at Osborne House.
The Island, as it is referred to by residents, is approximately 23 miles long from the most easterly point near Bembridge to the famous landmark of The Needles stacks and lighthouse which sits on its western tip. The internationally renowned sailing town of Cowes sits at the northern point of the Island and the most southerly point is marked by another lighthouse 13 miles away at St Catherine's, a familiar name for anyone who listens regularly to the BBC's Shipping Forecast.
The total area of the Isle of Wight is approximately 147 square miles and almost half has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Isle of Wight is shaped like a diamond and with 57 miles of coastline available to explore, you are never more than a few miles from the sea wherever you are on the Island. Each coast is very different in character and ranges from river estuaries to soaring cliffs, with secluded coves perfect for rock pooling and beautiful beaches for swimming and sunbathing in the summer months. Each of the towns and villages has a different and distinctive feel.
With by far the largest electorate in the UK, in 2010 the Isle of Wight had a total of 110,924 voters which is more than 50% above the average of approximately 71,500.
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(Picture credits: Solent, Steven Muster and Bill Bristow)