Norris Castle

Norris Castle stands dark and melodramatic against the sea. Designed at the end of the 18th century by James Wyatt, a master of the mock-medieval, its stone walls look thick enough to withstand a siege. Inside are beautifully proportioned rooms and elegant stone staircase, a feat of engineering. A pleasing jumble of curios includes a bath specially designed by the Kaiser. He used to stay here when visiting his grandmother Queen Victoria at Osborne, and she herself first acquired a taste for the Isle of Wight during a childhood holiday at Norris.

The guidebook – a publication of inconsequential charm dashingly illustrated by Mrs Lacon, the present owner – lists the contents of the rooms. ‘The withdrawing room – gilt sociable owned by Queen Caroline, Lady Randolph Churchill’s parasols, ghosts of former occupants. The courtyard – stuffed warthog’s head, fan of old polo sticks. There are also kestrels nesting on window ledges, signed photographs of Cecil Rhodes, crowds of dolls. Unless you like stately homes to be highly polished museums, it’s a great treat. Fitting somehow that the castle and 400 of Mrs Lacon’s protégées from the Pony Club starred in ‘The Wildcats of St Trinian’s, described by The Guardian as “without doubt one of the worst films ever”. The grounds slope down to the sea and make a splendid grandstand from which to watch yacht racing in Cowes
Week. Open Good Fri-Easter Mon and mid-May-mid-Sept Sat, Sun Mon and every day in Cowes Week, Admission charge. East Cowes.

Virgin Australia