So, I have mentioned on many occasions that I live on the Isle of Wight, which comes alive in the summer with visitors from near and far. One of the biggest events of the year comes to the town of Cowes. That event is Cowes Week, the oldest and biggest sailing regatta in the world. This usually takes place in early August, so before it gets too busy next month, I thought I would take us on a short wander through Cowes.
Located at the tip of the island, on the west side of the River Medina, Cowes sports a pedestrianised high street packed full of shops, pubs, restaurants and businesses. From the floating bridge at one end, you can wander along through the town. Making your way along to the Esplanade, you can continue on through to Gurnard should you so wish. Most people often stop and sample the tasty food and beautiful views of the Woodvale. The sunsets here over the beach huts are incredible. Anyway, back to Cowes.
As you wander through the town, there are numerous shops and boutiques selling clothes. You will find Fat Face, Musto, Helly Hansen, Joules, Mia and Shipmates to name but a few. You get the idea, so if those names tickle your fancy there are plenty to peruse. You also find jewellers, local butchers, homeware stores and optometrists amongst the usual estate agents, coffee shops, chip shops and takeaway options. Popular curry houses are a short walk through the town and along the way you will find a selection of restaurants offering, as Mojac’s Restaurant puts it, ‘just good food’.
Now, being a holiday town, you find an array of treats available. Ice cream parlours sell Mr Whippy’s and more flavours than you can imagine. Traditional sweet shops offer everything from bonbons to Scrumpy Cider flavour rock. Even then, if you are in the market for something special, there is an artisan fudge option to satisfy that sweet tooth.
Shops can come and go in Cowes, particularly as the summer season opens and then draws to a close. Bars are almost non-existent. However, the most consistent aspect of Cowes throughout the entire year is the pubs. Cowes is home to several public houses, each with their own unique vibe. From the Duke of York on the east side of the town through to the Union, and Yachtsman down by the Esplanade. There is plenty to chose from with each hosting their own entertainment arrangements, usually in the form of local bands.
A focal point of the high street is the Yacht Haven, also known as the Marina. Currently choc full of sailing boats and yachts, as the summer rolls on, this opens up into a social venue. The atmosphere here can be wonderful, with live music, chatting and laughter. Alongside is the stalls, bars and food options, all available to satisfy your thirst and hunger whilst out socialising or exploring.
Moving through the town you close in on the Esplanade known as the ‘Parade’. This is where the super sights begin and during competitions times, the landscape is littered with sails of all colours and sizes. Sunshine really does bring the town to life and often you will see families and couples occupying the benches with a bag of chips in hand. Just today, I spotted two ladies sharing some. I would estimate them to be in their 60s/70s, supping at cans of diet coke whilst they munched.
Cowes is also home to the Red Jet ferry terminal. The Red Funnel vehicle ferry is a common sight, but this docks across the river in East Cowes. As you can see, the Parade is where you can see the large Red Funnel vehicle ferries transporting passengers and vehicles between Southampton and the island. If you are quick you might also spot the red jet, whisking foot passengers across to the Southampton terminal.
As you amble along the parade and make your way further in the direction of Gurnard, you encounter the cannons. Used to signal the start and end of races, you will often spot people jumping out of their skins as they blast. Not literally, of course, but as the cannons boom unexpectedly, they take many people by surprise. Funny to watch until it happens to you!
Further along, you find the pebbled beach with waves gently lapping the shore. There are also the lion statues, standing tall, both guarding and decorating the sea wall.
You then find yourself at ‘the green’, a popular spot for BBQs, picnics and enjoying the summer sun. Many times I have wandered down to the green with my mum. It is lovely to sit in the sun with a drink and some lunch to watch the boats race by.
A lovely walk
In creating this post, I myself took a wander through Cowes. If nothing else, it is a lovely walk, particularly along the esplanade. With the sun shining, the gentle hustle and bustle of the town feels vibrant and happy. And of course, there is the sea air. With beautiful views and a glimpse of the world across the river, there is something relaxing about Cowes. Grab a coffee or sit and have some lunch and a beer, it easy to while away the time.
Of course, with anything, it isn’t quite the same when the rain pours and the cold sets in. As the season changes and the weather cools, Cowes gradually returns to being a quiet town. Still, as a local resident, you can enjoy the welcome ease of access to the bar and quieter local pub evenings.