Sandown is a seaside resort town and civil parish on the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight, England, neighbouring the town of Shanklin to the south. Sandown Bay is the name of the bay off the English Channel which both towns share, and it is notable for its long stretch of easily accessible golden sandy beach. It is the site of the lost Sandown Castle, Isle of Wight.

Whilst undergoing construction, this was attacked by a French force which had fought its way over Culver Down fron Whitecliff Bay, resulting in the French being repulsed. It was built too far into the sea and constantly suffered erosion, until now reduced to a pile of rocks. Later forts in the town include the Diamond Fort (named after its plan), built inshore to replace the castle and which fought off a minor attack from privateers (probably French) in 1788, and the present "Granite Fort", which is now the zoo.

The sweeping esplanade from Devonia Steps to Yaverland and the bandstand were built during the First World War, for the first time stabilising the road to Bembridge. Recently the IOW History Centre discovered graffiti etched in the concrete of the seawall under the bandstand from the time of its construction reading "Socialism is the ... of the World". It is believed that this was built using result of forced labour on the part of conscientious objectors imprisoned at Parkhurst. No other records of them remains due to the deliberate destruction of the official records. The Town Council has since obscured this with a further coating of concrete.

An extension to Brown's Golf Course (and former ice cream factory) was added in 1944 to disguise pumping apparatus for the Pipe Line Under the Ocean (PLUTO) pumping oil to the D-Day beaches, which still stands next to the large art deco Grand Hotel.

Sandown Bay is often used as a sheltered anchorage, especially for ships requiring salvage which are periodically towed into the bay (such as the Tarpenbeck) and the wreck of a salvage tug can still be seen at low tide under Culver Cliff (The Harry Sharman) which had been assisting the stricken tanker Pacific Glory in the 1970s.

Natural interests

Sandown is a typical Victorian seaside town, but is surrounded by a wealth of natural features. To the north is Culver Down, a chalk down accessible to the public, mostly owned and managed by the National Trust, and supports typical chalk downland wildlife, and many seabirds which nest on the adjoining cliffs. Nearby inland are Sandown Levels, one of the few freshwater wetlands on the Isle of Wight, where Alverstone Mead Local Nature Reserve is a very popular spot for birdwatching. Further inland the woodland of Borthwood provides delightful woodland walks, and bluebells aplenty in the springtime.

The most significant wildlife designation in the area is the Special Area of Conservation which covers the marine sub-littoral zone, including the reefs and sea bed. At extreme low tide a petrified forest is partially revealed in the northern part of Sandown Bay, and fragments of petrified wood are regularly washed up on the beach.


Originally Sandown was of only military significance as its wide sandy beaches offers a landing place for invasion. One of the first non military buildings was "Villakin", a holiday home built by the radical politician John Wilkes in the 18th century, which, along with the Royal Pavilion at Brighton began the fashion for seaside holidays. At first only available to the rich, the development of both railways and excursion steamers made such holidays more generally available. Sandown has been a seaside resort town since the Victorian age thanks to its sands and the sunny weather on the Isle of Wight compared to other parts of the United Kingdom. Its success, along with that of other neighbouring Isle of Wight resorts led to the building of a railway connecting Sandown with Ventnor at the south and Ryde on the north coast of the Island. Sandown railway station is still on the one remaining operational railway on the Island, which now goes from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin.

Today Sandown Esplanade boasts some fine Victorian and Edwardian hotels (many of which have been unsympathetically extended by breeze block annexes) which overlook the golden sands of the beach below. Sandown Pier hosts a large amusement centre with arcade games and children's play areas, typical of a sea-side resort. The pier is also well used for sea fishing with designated areas especially for the angler. Further north, there is the Isle of Wight Zoo (also known as Sandown Zoo) which specialises in tigers. Other facilities include an 18 hole golf course, the Dinosaur Isle geological museum and Sandham Grounds, offering a skateboard park, bowls and putting.

In the Summer, Southern Vectis run an open-top bus route called "The Sandown Bay Tour", serving the main tourist areas of the town and Shanklin.

Pubs and Dining

Sandown offers an assortment of pubs and restaurants. The pubs range from the more traditional - offering a selection of local ales and ciders, to more family-friendly 'gastro-pubs' with a wider menu. Restaurants in the town offer a varied cuisine and there are a variety of traditional tea rooms on the High Street.


As well as the Island Line railway mentioned above, Sandown is served by regular buses run by Southern Vectis on 2, 3, 8 and 10. Destinations which can be directly reached include serve Bembridge, Newport, Ryde, Shanklin and Ventnor. Night buses are run, on Fridays and Saturdays only, along route 3. There is also local route 22, which serves the back roads between Sandown and Shanklin. Sandown is on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path, between Niton and Ryde.


The TV series Tiger Island chronicles the lives of the more than twenty tigers living at Isle of Wight Zoo.


Cities links

Sandown is twinned (jumelée in French) with the town of Tonnay-Charente, in the western French département of Charente-Maritime. Its American sister city is St. Pete Beach, Florida.

Famous connections

  • John Wilkes (former Lord Mayor of the City of London) owned a house and stayed regularly in Sandown. There is a memorial plaque on the site of his house at the corner of the High Street. On Sunday mornings Wilkes would go to Shanklin church, and after the service would walk across the fields to Knighton with David Garrick and his wife.
  • Sir Isaac Pitman is said to have worked on his system of shorthand here.
  • Lewis Carroll spent long holidays here, and first met Gertrude Chataway on the beach. Gertrude inspired The Hunting of the Snark.
  • Charles Darwin started the "abstract" which became the Origin of Species at the Kings Head Hotel (now Bar) in Sandown in mid-July 1858. He moved on to Shanklin's Norfolk House Hotel at the end of July and stayed for about two weeks. Darwin returned to the Isle of Wight for holidays on several other occasions.
  • The composer Richard Strauss spent summer holidays at the Ocean Hotel in 1902 and 1903, and worked on his Symphonia Domestica while there.
  • Members of the groups Level 42 and The Bees used to go to Sandown High School, and began their musical careers in Sandown. The playwright and director Anthony Minghella was another former pupil of Sandown High School.
  • Jimmy Tarbuck was one of many performers who spent summer seasons on Sandown Pier.
  • HMS Sandown is the name ship of the Sandown class of mine countermeasures vessels. It commemorates a wartime namesake, which served as a minesweeper, having formerly been a passenger ferry.
  • Karl Marx visited Sandown Library to read the Isle of Wight County Press.
  • Eric Charles Twelves Wilson V.C. was born in Sandown.


See also

External links

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