Isle of Wight

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The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, 3–5 miles (5–8 km) off the south coast of the county of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by a strait called the Solent. The island is known for its natural beauty, its sailing based at the town of Cowes, and its resorts, which have been holiday destinations since Victorian times.

The Island has a rich history, including a brief status as an independent kingdom in the 15th century. Until 1995, in common with Jersey and Guernsey, the island had its own Governor - most notably Lord Mountbatten from 1969–1974, after which he became Lord Lieutenant until his assassination in 1979.

It was home to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and to Queen Victoria, who built her much loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes. The island's maritime and industrial history encompasses boat building, sail making, the manufacture of flying boats, the world's first hovercraft and the testing and development of Britain's space rockets. It is home to the Isle of Wight International Jazz Festival, Bestival and the recently-revived Isle of Wight Festival, which, in 1970, was the largest rock music event ever held.[2] The island has some exceptional wildlife and is one of the richest locations of dinosaur fossils in Europe.

In the past, the Isle of Wight has been part of Hampshire. In 1890, it became an independent administrative county, though it continued to share the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. In 1974, it was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan and ceremonial county, with its own Lord Lieutenant, and recognised as a postal county. With a single Member of Parliament and 132,731 permanent residents in 2001, it is also the most populous parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom. In 1832 the act popularly referred to as the Great Reform Act or Reform Act of 1832 established the principle of having a single MP for the Isle of Wight. In 2010, there is ongoing parliamentary debate to consider altering this, and there is a campaign to keep the status quo of a single MP for the Isle of Wight to be a self-contained constituency.

It is easily accessible from Southsea by hovercraft. Several ferry services operate across the Solent: the route from Southampton to Cowes is 10 miles (16 km), Portsmouth to Ryde 5 miles (8 km), Portsmouth to Fishbourne 7 miles (11 km), and Lymington to Yarmouth 4 miles (6 km).

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