Royal Yacht Squadron
One of the most famous local landmarks is `Cowes Castle', home to the Royal Yacht Squadron which was founded in 1815 as a club for gentlemen interested in sea yachting. From the water, the yachtsman sees the Squadron Castle as battlements, a round tower, and a flagstaff. Behind the history of yachting is another history too, for Henry VIII had the castle built in 1539 as a deterrent to the French. Its former guns are only once known to have been fired in anger, in 1642 during the Civil War.
Prince's Green. Photo Rick Tomlinson.
Prince's Green, also known as `The Green', is by far the best place to watch racing action from the shore. Race starts frequently take place from the Royal Yacht Squadron and during Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week race fleets often finish under spinnaker from the west. Prince's Green was presented to Cowes as a public open space by George Stephenson in 1863 to mark the occasion of the wedding of the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. It still has shelters and a drinking fountain dating from Victorian times.
The seafront parade stretches from the starting cannons at the Royal Yacht Squadron down to the Island Sailing Club. Both the Royal Corinthian and Royal London Yacht Clubs are also located on The Parade, one of the main centres of activity for big events.
In Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, `The Parade Village' is a perfect place to see all the action, catch up on the racing results and soak up the atmosphere whilst sitting in the decked garden or wandering through the retail village and food court.
The giant of British industry, Saunders Roe, built the famous Columbine Shed in East Cowes in 1935. The company built many sea planes including the largest ever metal seaplane The Princess. Today, the shed is publicly-owned but remains home to cutting edge technology such as the innovative Vestas Sailrocket 2 which broke the outright World Speed Sailing Record in 2012. The giant Union Flag was originally painted on the doors in 1977 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II; it was restored to its former glory to celebrate a truly historic British year on the occasion of HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Cowes Hammerhead Crane
Standing proud on the Cowes skyline is the 1912 hammerhead dockyard crane, a magnificent symbol of Cowes' marine industrial heritage and the many ships, aircraft and hovercraft that have been built on both sides of the Medina River. This 80 ton crane was designed by Babcock and Wilcox and ordered by Cowes shipbuilder J.S. White in 1911 and came into use the following year. It is the only remaining pre-World War One hammerhead crane in England.
Northwood House. Photo: Hamo Thornycroft.
Northwood House is an early-Victorian Grade II listed house with beautifully painted function rooms and surrounded by parkland, occupying a prime position above Cowes town. It was built in the early 19th century for the Ward family, in whose hands it remained until 1929. In that year the house was presented by the family to the then Cowes Urban District Council, while the 26-acre park was given `for the use and benefit of the people of Cowes'. This iconic residence is a popular venue for events such as weddings, parties, dinners, and conferences. The park is surrounded by a wall of Bembridge limestone and includes St Mary's Church with its landmark clock tower designed by John Nash.
Legend has it that the name of the Folly originated from a French smuggling barge that ran aground in the 1700's selling illegal alcohol! Whether this is true or not, the Folly Inn has a unique, rustic appearance and remains one of the must-visit places for many thirsty yachtsmen who are prepared to venture up the River Medina.
Osborne House. Photo: English Heritage.
No trip to the Island would be complete without a visit to this royal seaside palace where Queen Victoria lived with her beloved Prince Albert and their nine children. Osborne House provides an intimate glimpse into Queen Victoria's family life and one can only marvel at the magnificence of the Royal apartments such as the sumptuous drawing and dining rooms and the richly decorated Indian-inspired Durbar Room. There are stunning views from the terraces across the Solent, said to remind Prince Albert of the bay of Naples. Don't miss the miniature Swiss Cottage as you stroll through Osborne's extensive grounds, built to teach the royal children the art of household management!
You can even explore Queen Victoria's private beach which is now open to the public. ™We have quite a charming beach to ourselves,∫ Victoria wrote in 1845; it was here that the Queen regularly bathed and where her children learned to swim.
To get to Osborne House from Cowes, you can either take the Chain Ferry over to East Cowes and walk up the hill to Osborne House, a good 15 minute walk, or take the Southern Vectis No. 4 or No. 5 buses from East Cowes town centre, both of which stop outside Osborne House.
Top photo: Rick Tomlinson.