- A luxurious former holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, explore the magnificent Osborne estate on the Isle of Wight.
- Walk the magnificent ground floor state rooms that once entertained princes, princesses and heads of states.
- Immerse yourself in royal family life as you discover Victoria and Albert's personal taste and style and marvel at the furnishings and fine art collection.
- Discover the beautiful walled garden and wander through the terraces and enjoy incredible views across the Solent.
- Visit the beautiful beaches in the Cowes area - one of which was where Victoria and Albert's children learned to swim.
If you and your family enjoy visiting Britain's royal attractions, this captivating seaside retreat is on a smaller scale to other royal residences like Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. The magnificent Osborne House is a former royal holiday residence to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Isle of Wight. The English Heritage estate is situated in the north of the Island in the vibrant town of East Cowes, which boasts the largest sailing regatta in the world.
The earliest history of the Osborne estate dates back to when it came into the hands of the Blachford family in 1705. Robert Pope Blachford extended and modified the existing property into a three-storey home with a brick stable block and a beautiful walled kitchen garden. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert began looking for a suitable seaside retreat for their family in 1843 and the Prime Minister at the time, Sir Robert Pell, recommended Osborne House.
In 1845, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought the Osborne residence from Lady Isabella Blatchford for £28,000. Due to the existing house being too small for the royal family, Osborne House was demolished in 1848 and a new three-storey pavilion housing the private rooms of the royals, with household wings and a flag tower was built. Designed by Thomas Cubitt, one of London's most famous master builders and property developers, in collaboration with Prince Albert, the house was built in a magnificent Italian palazzo style in 1851 featuring a pretty outline, a pair of towers and stunning terraces coupled by flight of steps. The house is also complemented by a beautiful classical Italian garden. Prince Albert was heavily involved with the design of the house, so much that Queen Victoria mentions him as Albert the Creator in her journal. It was designed with an Italianate style due to the Isle of Wight's temperate climate and the stunning views over the Solent, which reminded Prince Albert of the Bay of Naples.
A little Alpine-style chalet, the Swiss Cottage, was built for the nine young children of the royals in 1853 - 1854 in their own garden. The cottage is nearly a mile to the east of the house and is nestled away in the woods at Osborne. Its purpose was to provide a private space for the children and for them to play at being grown-ups, and learn new new skills, including cookery, housekeeping and gardening. Each of the nine children had their own plot in the cottage garden for growing fruit, vegetables and flowers. Affie and Bertie also built a little fort in the garden in 1856 as a surprise for Queen Victoria's birthday and a miniature barracks was added four years later.
Queen Victoria died at the Osborne House on 22 January 1901. Edward VII, Victoria's successor, had no use for the royal residence, and on Coronation Day in 1902 he gave the estate to the state. Part of Osborne House was converted into a convalescent home for military officers, whilst the ground floor of the house was opened to the public in 1904. Some areas of the estate were developed as a naval cadets college and in 1903, the Royal Naval College was opened.
Since 1901, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert private rooms at Osborne House had been closed on the orders of King Edward VII. These rooms have been open to the public since 1954 when Queen Elizabeth II gave permission for the royal rooms to be unlocked. English Heritage took over the management of Osborne house in 1986, and has since carried out internal redecorations and external repairs. On the second floor of the Pavilion, the royal nursery has been recreated, and Queen Victoria's private beach was opened to the public in 2012.
There is so much for families to see and do at Osborne House. The house itself tells an extremely personal story of the private lives of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the royal children. Discover fascinating Osborne House facts and explore the private retreat of the royal couple. Take a walk around the sumptuous State Rooms, where Queen Victoria entertained her guests, including heads of state, prince and princesses. Marvel at the fine art, collections and ornate furniture that fill the rooms and corridors. Admire the Dining Room, which has the precise setting of a table set for Queen Victoria's dinner, and the Drawing Room, which has a magnificent pair of cut-glass chandeliers that were gifted to Victoria for her birthday. The Billiard Room has an impressive bust of Prince Albert by William Theed and there is also an awe-inspiring billiard table by George Magnus. The unique Durbar Room is detailed with complex Indian-style plaster work, which demonstrates Queen Victoria’s status as Empress of India.
Visit the nursery and family rooms at Osborne House, including Queen Victoria's sitting room, her personal bath tub in the dressing room and the bedroom in which she died. Queen Victoria kept Prince Albert's private suite as it was during his lifetime and amazingly many of his personal items still lie where he left them.
There are a variety of Osborne House events during the year. The Osborne House Christmas season is a special time to visit as the State Rooms are lavishly decorated as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert would have enjoyed them. See how Albert would have decorated the family trees with candles and sweets and learn how the royal family are so integral in popularising some of the festive season's most valued traditions, including Christmas stockings and baking gingerbread.
Explore the beautiful timber Swiss Cottage and the surrounding area in which it's situated. Learn more about the nine princes and princesses at the interactive Childhood at Osborne exhibition, play where the royal children played, and journey back to 1861 and watch preparations for afternoon tea. Discover how the children used the cottage in the kitchen and sitting room - where everything is built specially for children's use at three-quarter scale. There is even a full set of cooking equipment, which would have been found in a 19th-century house. It is here that the royal children learnt how to bake and make butter, cheese and cream, and prepare luncheons for their parents and guests. On the outside, kids will love the brilliant garden adventure trail where they can find the royal chihuahua and enjoy themselves in the outdoor play area.
Take a peek at the little museum that was built in 1862 near the Swiss Cottage to house the children's collections. Today, it contains objects that the children collected over the years, including fossils, natural history specimens, antiquities and more items from around the globe. Amongst thousands of must-see objects, the museum contains a five-legged deer and the first transatlantic message.
Explore the beautiful Osborne gardens and grounds at Osborne House. Surrounded by wonderful views, the ornate terrace gardens were renovated in 2016-2017. Enjoy seeing all the beautiful bedding displays, the rare and unusual plants and the historic plants crawling the walls. Discover the wider parkland, which has trees planted by Prince Albert, and an abundance of wildlife, and the Victorian walled garden, where you can find an array of fruit trees amongst other wonders.
Don't miss the opportunity to take a stroll down to Queen Victoria's private beach - see if you can spot the carved wooden animals along the way! Osborne Beach is where Victoria would often bathe and her nine children learned to swim. Gaze at the magnificent views from Queen Victoria's alcove and take a peek inside her bathing machine. If the weather is nice, enjoy a swim from the sandy and shingle beach. Another brilliant Isle of Wight beach is Sandown Beach, which has won awards and is always bustling with activity.
What to know before you go
- The English Heritage Osborne House opening times are dependent on the time of year, so please check before you go.
- There are two playgrounds at Osborne House - one is by the visitor centre and the other is by Swiss Cottage.
- There is a courtesy minibus that runs from a pick-up point at Osborne House to the beach if you don't want to walk. A return journey takes approximately 15 minutes, and is in service from 10.30am - 5pm from April - September daily and in October on weekends only.
- Get something delicious to eat at the Terrace Restaurant and Orangery, which is located within Queen Victoria's grandiose private chapel. With a seasonal menu, you can also enjoy an afternoon tea here and there are half portions available for kids. At the Petty Officers' Quarters Cafe in the visitor centre, there is a great selection of soups, snacks, light lunches and cakes. As well as a prince and princesses menu, there are also children's lunchboxes available. Close to Swiss Cottage, you will discover Gazelle House that serves drinks and snacks. Make sure you try a Beatrice cake, named after Queen Victoria's youngest daughter and also inspired by a 19th-century recipe. Down at the beach, there is an ice-cream parlour, which serves the Isle of Wight's famous Minghella ice cream.
- There are highchairs available in the restaurant and cafe.
- There are picnic tables available around the grounds. There is also one located by the kids' play area.
- Do a spot of shopping in the gift shop, which is situated at the admissions centre. It sells Victorian-themed gifts toys, books and jewellery.
- There are toilets located at the admission centre, main house, Swiss Cottage and the beach. You will find the beach toilets in the cafe, and there are also changing facilities here if you are taking a paddle.
- Baby-changing facilities are available at the admissions area, in the main house and at the beach. There are accessible toilets available.
- The grounds of Osborne are dog friendly, including the formal gardens. Please keep your dog on a short lead at all times. Assistance dogs re welcome in the main house, Swiss Cottage, the play area and the cafes and restaurants and beach.
- Buggies are not permitted within the house. They can be stored at the entrance to the house. Baby carriers and slings are available to borrow.
- If you are looking for somewhere special and close to Osborne House, there are holiday cottages available on the estate.
- There is wheelchair access. There is a lift to Queen Victoria's private apartments on the first floor. Some areas of the house are not accessible, including the nursery. There is an adapted minibus to take wheelchair users to the beach and Swiss Cottage. The museum and Swiss Cottage (with the exception of upstairs) are wheelchair accessible. The gardens and grounds are accessible with tarmac paths. There are gravelled paths in the walled garden and Swiss Cottage gardens which may not be suitable for wheelchairs.
- Ryde Esplanade train station is seven miles away, and is served by South Western Railway. From the station, you can take a taxi or hop on the Southern Vectis bus route 4 to Osborne House.
- There is a 10-minute Hovercraft service from Portsmouth to Ryde. There are ferry services to East Cowes, Fishbourne and Ryde.
- If you are arriving by car, Osborne House is one mile south east of East Cowes. There is free on-site parking 50 metres from reception centre.