Famous people who have visited the Island
The late HRH Prince Philip, has been a frequent visitor to the Island
Photo: Macaulay Media
The Isle of Wight has been a magnet for famous people for almost 200 years. It was made popular in Victorian times, when Queen Victoria built her holiday palace, Osborne, and the movers and shakers of the day joined her. But the Isle of Wight has been seeing a huge rekindling of interest by contemporary celebrities since the turn of the 21st century.
In the past 20 years or so we have had some very big names visiting the Island, mostly incognito, and often to visit friends who have now bought homes here. Some have come with groups of friends for a jolly.
It was once reported that Michael Jackson was on the Island. A long black limo with MJ discretely painted on it, was seen passing Quarr Abbey at Fishbourne in around 2001. Was it him? Who knows?
Princes William and Harry set the tabloids alight when in 2008 they came to Cowes and Yarmouth with 21 friends, to partake in the stag weekend of their cousin Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne. They stayed in the former Rawlings Hotel in Cowes – now the recently refurbished North House hotel – just as their grandfather Prince Philip had done, with his mates, back in the 1960s.
The entourage were spotted at various locations around the coast of the island during that weekend, including the private dining room at what is now The Yachtsman on Cowes Parade. They caused mayhem in The Anchor on Cowes High Street and were spotted scoffing fish and chips at Salty’s restaurant and wine bar in Yarmouth.
William and Kate have paid many visits to the Island since their marriage in 2011. Firstly, they were spotted in Yarmouth, with Kate indulging in a spot of sailing with friends in around 2012. Their last visit was to compete in the GP Sail races in 2019 where they were beaten to first place by local lad, Bear Grylls.
Bear spent most of his holidays from school, at his parents’ holiday home in Bembridge, and would climb the nearby Culver Cliffs with his father Michael, carrying his pet dog in a rucksack on his back. A regular at Bembridge Sailing Club, he would be seen sailing and windsurfing in the harbour as a teenager.
Since 2002 the Isle of Wight has been welcoming huge names in the world of music to the Isle of Wight Festival, courtesy of organiser John Giddings, who has his own beautiful home, overlooking the sea, at Ryde. Stories abound of the more colourful characters who have come over to play at both the Isle of Wight Festival (2002 – now) and Bestival when it was here (2004 – 2016).
David Bowie is reported to have stayed at Farringford Hotel in 2004 (now a living museum to her former owner, the poet Tennyson), and ordered his entire suite of rooms to be painted white. But is this just an urban legend? REM are said to have stayed at the Luccombe Hall Hotel in 2005, when they headlined the Isle of Wight Festival, with Michael Stipe sporting a somewhat menacing thick blue stripe painted across his face.
Amy Winehouse stayed at the Wellington Hotel in Ventnor in 2008, when she played Bestival. She’s reported to have played croquet on the lawns at Farringford during her stay the previous year when she played the Isle of Wight Festival and stayed at the Priory Bay Hotel – sadly currently closed (July 2021).
In 2007 she was in sparkling form and duetted with Mick and the Rolling Stones. The Stones just flew in by helicopter, and in their backstage ‘Voodoo Lounge’ bar, Keef managed to catch up with his old friend and former band member, and Pretty Things guitarist, Dick Taylor, who lives in Ventnor. John Giddings then chartered The Stones their own ferry to return to the mainland!
Duran Duran have played both IW Festival and Bestival and Simon Le Bon has stayed on his boat, moored at Island Harbour, close to the Isle of Wight Festival site, on more than one occasion. They return to headline the 2021 festival between September 16 and 19 this year (2021).
Russell Brand brought a few friends to Rocklands Manor in St Lawrence for a country break in 2008 with hot tub, games room and beautiful views across the English Channel. Russell went wellie shopping in nearby Ventnor before trying his hand at clay pigeon shooting. He got to know a few of the locals whilst he was here and has returned on more than one occasion.
Kate Moss stayed at the same manor with Sadie Frost and her 30 hens in 2011, celebrating her (almost) last weekend of freedom. Arriving late at night, one of their three huge pink hummers got stuck trying to negotiate the tight corners of St Lawrence Shute. Jade Jagger was caught short, with locals reporting that she relieved herself in the hedge of a nearby property. Is this true? We could not possibly say.
Johnny Depp was most certainly on the island during the summer of 2011, and he may have bought a house here – some report it was for his father. Locals let him alone when he visited the Blenheim pub in Ventnor, hiding under a cap in the corner whilst he sipped his beer, and someone reported that his former wife, Vanessa Paradis, and their children were seen paddling at a nearby secluded beach. In an echo of ‘Chocolat’, the beautiful film he starred in with Juliette Binoche, he was reported to have visited The Chocolate Shop in Ryde during his stay.
Judi Dench in her role as Queen Victoria, filmed on the Isle of Wight
Judi Dench and Eddie Izzard came to film Victoria and Abdul at Osborne House in the autumn of 2016, and both stayed at the aforementioned North House hotel, along with other members of the cast. Both have returned on more than one occasion, as Judi is now a Patron of the Friends of Osborne House, and Eddie has accompanied her to their annual dinner.
In her capacity as Patron, Judi welcomed Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to Osborne Beach in 2018, where the pair ate ice-creams together before travelling to Osborne House in a horse drawn carriage. Later the Duchess named a new Red Jet ferry in Cowes, followed by a reception at the Royal Yacht Squadron.
Incidentally, Celia Imrie had a home just a stone’s throw from North House hotel for many years and loved taking part (and winning) the pub quiz at the Fountain Hotel when she visited. Sadly, she has now relocated to the South of France.
And Benedict Cumberbatch married his sweetheart, Sophie Hunter, in St Peter and Paul’s Church, Mottistone, on Valentines Day 2015, with a reception for their glittering guest list in a heated marquee in the front garden of Mottistone Manor.
This is just a sample of the famous people who have visited, and lived on, the Island, in the past 20 years or so. There have been literally hundreds. From Katy Price in her pink Range Rover, who came to visit her mum, and took her family to Blackgang Chine, to Princess Anne arriving by royal helicopter to launch a new Red Jet ferry in 2016.
The most recent celeb to have been spotted was Kate Winslet, just last week, having lunch, in Niton.
It’s the place to be seen, don’t ya know. Shhh.