Thursday, 5 September 2013

Dairy and Gluten Free on the Isle of Wight

She thinks of nothing but the Isle of Wight, and she calls it 'The Island' as if there were no other island in the world.  

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Have you been to The Island, aka The Isle of Wight? Thinking of it?? Just wondered, 'cos this weekend it's host to The Bestival.

Sailing into East Cowes on board Red Funnel

It's a funny old place - I say that with affection. My family moved there when I was five. I grew up there and have many fond memories of life on 'The Island'. However, it definitely has it's quirky little ways!!

Popular with the Victorians, for a long while, it seemed to have had its day. Now, however, it's seems to have reinvented itself as a destination for the cool, young(ish) and groovy. Well, that is apart from the winter - when the turkey and tinsel brigade arrive! BUT from June onwards, things heat up in more ways than one!

I suppose things really kick off with the Isle of Wight Music Festival. Before you know there's the Old Gaffer's Festival, Cowes Week (mind you, Cowes Week has always been popular with sailors, but these days it heaves with celebs) the Offshore Powerboat Race, the Round the Island Yacht Race, Wight Air (extreme sports festival) and this weekend... The Bestival.

'Course there are other reasons to go - not least the fact that it gets a whole lot more sunshine than most of the rest of the UK (although The Hub may beg to differ on this one - he claims it always rains, whenever he goes there).

If you are heading down that way, and need to get hold of some Free From food (Ocado don't deliver, by the way), you may like to know of a few little places that might make life a little bit easier for you.

Cowes - In the High Street of West Cowes nestles this little beauty. I found this shop, whilst visiting folks at Christmas. The shop is tiny, but the proprietor was as helpful as she could be, and offered to buy in food stuffs, especially for me, next time I visited - if I sent her a list ahead of time. Sounds good to me! Website link here.

Small but helpful!

Waitrose is also situated in Cowes, although it's the other side of the river, in East Cowes. It is, in fact, very handy if you're coming off the Red Funnel Car Ferry. It's a reasonable size and their free from section has definitely improved over time, but you won't get the widest range of goods here. You'll find those in Newport.

Newport - Newport styles itself as the Island's capital. Granted it is the main town for shopping and such, but I think 'capital' is pushing it a bit!

If you're looking for easy supermarket shopping, there's a huge Morrison's and a Sainsbury's. Based on previous experience, the Sainsbury's is way better!! There is also a Holland and Barrett in the High Street (where I get my dairy free Cheezly) and a health shop, hidden away in Upper St Jame's Street, called Ralph's. Unfortunately, over Christmas (due to public holidays of one kind or another) this shop was not open much. Public holidays, plus staff sickness meant I never got to cross the threshold, but next time...

There is also a chippy in town, called Stotesbury's (also Upper St. James' Street), who apparently do gluten free! Now, I've yet to sample their gluten free menu - another thing to add to my list for next time!

Ryde - Ryde is the second biggest town on The Island. If you have wheels, and Tesco is more your bag, it might be worth a visit to the Extra at Smallbrook, near Ryde. It has the range that you'd expect from a Tesco Extra. Quite handy, if you arrive via Fishbourne on the Wightlink ferry and are heading towards Sandown, Shanklin etc. 

Sandown - Sandown is a popular tourist destination, but there's not much in the way of Free From. There is a Morrison's in Lake, on the outskirts of Sandown, but this doesn't really have much. 

To be quite honest, I think that if you're Free From, the South and West of the Island don't really have that much to offer you, but I could be wrong, as our visits are brief and packed, whenever we go. If you know different, please let me know, and we'll add to this list.

It's at this point (wishing to add further pictures to this post) I realise that despite having taken multiple pictures of 'Baby' and Free From food over the last few years, I have hardly any of the Island, so I'll have to make do with another view of Cowes - a real reminder of home for me, as these doors have carried the Union Jack for as long as I can remember and are the first thing I see when I reach the shore.

Oh well, another task for next time - photos! Hope it doesn't rain then :)


I'm delighted to hear that Chessell Pottery can do gluten and dairy free food. Based in the West Wight, just off the main road between Newport and Freshwater/Yarmouth, it's a really lovely spot to sit and paint pottery, browse their lovely gift shop, or sit and enjoy tea etc. You might have to pre-order, though. Check out their website, here! And please note, that they are closed during the winter - opens again March 29th 2014.

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