Until the 16th century Brading was an important port. The town still retains the feel of a seaside community.
Step back in time at the Brading Roman Villa, a remarkable site that is amongst the best-preserved villa sites in Britain. Featuring beautiful mosaic floors and an extensive collection of Roman archaeology, it is great for families.
1. Visit the Roman Villa
One of the island’s most important archaeological sites is a short drive from Brading and offers an insight into Roman rule on the Isle of Wight. The eponymous villa is now protected beneath a modern visitor centre and showcases some stunning mosaics.
It’s difficult to define a uniform typology of Roman villas, but the ones at Brading feature a combination of repurposed farm buildings and elaborately decorated structures. The most eye-catching of these are the mosaics which show a range of religious, nautical and farming images. A cockerel-headed mosaic is particularly intriguing.
The visitor centre is very family friendly, with dressing up and role play activities for kids and the opportunity to try their hand at making mosaics themselves. There is also a good cafe with panoramic views over Sandown Bay. The site is free to enter and car parking is available on site. A Southern Vectis bus stop and Brading train station are nearby.
2. Visit the Lilliput Doll and Toy Museum
The Lilliput Museum of Antique Dolls and Toys is not your typical toy shop. This cottage museum is home to one of the finest collections of old dolls and toys in the UK featuring antique German bisque and French porcelain dolls, teddy bears, model “steam” trains, tinplate vehicles and old puzzles and games.
Brading has many other attractions as well, including a 3rd Century Roman Villa with mosaics and ruins, the Brading Experience Waxworks, Morton Manor and Tudor Nunwell House. The town’s elevated position on Brading Down is also a popular spot for walkers with breathtaking views over the Isle of Wight coast and Sandown and Yaverland.
For nature lovers, the Brading Marshes RSPB Reserve offers a mix of ancient and enchanting forestry, meadows and wetlands where you can see heron and tufted duck. Other things to do in Brading include visiting the Isle of Wight Zoo with big cats like tigers and Sandown Pier for family seaside fun.
3. Visit the Brading Marshes Nature Reserve
This RSPB reserve is a fascinating place to explore reedbeds marshes and ancient sea walls. A network of public and permissive paths traverse the area with opportunities to spot wildlife such as buzzards little egrets green woodpeckers marsh harriers hobbies and lapwings.
The reserve is also a good place to try your hand at bird watching. Look out for the mewing calls of lapwings in spring and wigeons in winter. The cliff tops above the reserve offer stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
Brading has a range of accommodation to suit families groups and couples. Book “New Horizon – Coastal Apartment – Pet Friendly” to sleep up to 8 people, or choose “Rural Lodge Overlooking The Marshes Nature Reserve” for a one-bedroom escape that features facilities like a kitchen.
4. Visit Sandown
Sandown features one of the Isle of Wight’s broadest sandy beaches, backed by a traditional pier which includes amusements and bowling. It’s a favourite spot for families, and a walk along the promenades towards sister resort Yaverland and up Culver Down is also popular.
During the Victorian era, the town became a popular bucket-and-spade holiday destination, and many of its fine buildings remain from this time. The radical politician John Wilkes leased a property in the 18th century (now known as Sandham Cottage), and it’s thought that his seaside holidaying helped launch this new fashion for leisure.
Brading’s accommodation is a good choice for family getaways, and you’ll find options like the two-bedroom “Rural Lodge Overlooking The Marshes” which can accommodate up to six guests. It’s conveniently located just a short distance from the centre and has amenities like a kitchen. Other great choices include “New Horizon Coastal Apartment – Pet Friendly” which has three bedrooms and can accommodate up to eight guests.