Nestled near the westerly tip of the Isle of Wight, Freshwater Bay is an idyllic spot that has long captured the imagination of visitors and residents alike. Although nearby Yarmouth was granted a royal charter in 1135 and later developed by King Henry VIII, Freshwater itself really flourished in the Victorian era. Famed for its artistic connections, its stunning scenery has been a great inspiration to many.
The most famous of these is Alfred Lord Tennyson, who wrote much of his poetry right here at Farringford. First renting and then later buying the property, he spent almost forty years visiting this most impressive of spots. Some of his family are buried at All Saints Church in Freshwater village, itself an ancient building mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It contains memorials of both his son and Tennyson himself. But so loved Freshwater Bay that after his death his family paid for a new church, closer to the bay, St Agnes', the only church on the Isle to feature a thatched roof.
Julia Margaret Cameron, a pioneering Victorian photographer, was another Freshwater Bay resident stimulated by the spectacular surroundings. Her home, Dimbola Lodge, is now a fascinating photographic museum. It's easy to see why both she and painter George Morland found the area so enchanting. Lovely beaches contrast with rugged white cliffs, providing magnificent views of the famous Needles. Freshwater and Tennyson Down provide miles of rolling downland perfect for exploring. The winter seas are cold and windswept, but warm and calm in the summer, ideal for bathing.
There are plenty of other sights to enjoy. The remains of Fort Redoubt stand at the cliff edge at the western end of the Bay. Built in the mid-19th century, this Palmerston Fort was later sold and is now partly in use as holiday residences. Other landmarks in the Bay include a series of rock 'stacks' standing proudly in the sea, caused by water eroding the cliffs. The most renowned of these is Arch Rock, once a triumphant sight but one that collapsed into the sea after a storm in the early 1990s. It's neighbour, Stag Rock still stands and is named for a stag that supposedly escaped the hunt by leaping onto it. Nowadays it's only visitors are the seabirds, especially black-backed gulls that nest there.