A magic sylvan setting for a grand Victorian mansion where historic character dances with vibrant design. Through a secret garden gate, past an ancient church and in five minutes you’re swimming in Monks Bay – from here, stroll down the beach to Ventnor or return for a pub lunch. Though split into four houses, the listed mansion – with stone entrance tunnel built for Queen Victoria’s visit – feels lofty and spacious, and is imaginatively decorated by London-based owners (she a musician, he a designer). They have filled the magnificent wood-floored sitting room with modern bits: an Eames fibreglass rocking chair, bubble lampshades, abstract art, an Irish harp… Lounge on the vast south-facing terrace while sausages sizzle on the barbecue, or eat by the Aga in a gleaming kitchen. Below, a private garden area and communal lawn; beyond the pines lies the sea. Tucked under low eaves, the twin and family rooms swim with character. And the huge master bedroom is a treat, with a Victorian fireplace and sculptures gazing through deep windows to the garden. Let the scenery inspire you – as it did Charles Dickens, who lived next door.