The Isle of Wight , known to the ancient Romans as Vectis, is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about off the coast of Hampshire, separated from Great Britain (referred to by its residents as "the Mainland") by a strait called the Solent. It has the distinction of being England's smallest county during high tide, while Rutland is the smallest when Wight is at low tide . The island has several resorts which have been holiday destinations since Victorian times.
Home to the poets Swinburne and Tennyson and to Queen Victoria, who built her much-loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes, the island has a maritime and industrial tradition such as boat building, sail making, the manufacture of flying boats, the world's first hovercraft and the testing and development of Britain's space rockets. The Isle hosts annual festivals including 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. The island has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.
The Isle of Wight was part of Hampshire until 1890 when it became an independent administrative county. Until 1974 it continued to share the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire when it was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan ceremonial county which gives its own Lord Lieutenant and recognised as a postal county.
History of the Isle of Wight