The English Seaport Parish of Cowes is located on the Isle of Wight and has a population of approximately 10,000. Famed for its sailing heritage, any sailing fan will know Cowes as an international yacht racing base since the founding the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1815.
The world’s oldest yacht racing regatta, Cowes Week, was established in 1826 and is held annually in August with somewhere between 800 to 1,000 boats competing in a variety of races over the 8 days. Spectators and competitors alike praise the regattas unique mix of classic and state-of-the-art models competing in events side by side.
With around 8,000 competitors ranging from Olympic and world class yachtsmen to weekend sailors and over 100,000 spectators attracted by the vibrant festival atmosphere, the population of the town dramatically increases during the event and it is the busiest time of year for all local businesses. Cowes week is traditionally closed with a huge fireworks display.
Industry in both Cowes (formally West Cowes - formalised as Cowes in 1985) and East Cowes has always centred on the building and design of marine craft and materials associated with boat-making and sail-making. This heritage is believed to have initially come about in 1589 when an 80-ton vessel called the Rat o’ Wight was built on the banks of the River Mediana, on which Cowes sits on the west bank of the estuary, for Queen Elizabeth I. Major present-day employers include BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte) and GKN Aerospace in East Cowes.
Shopping in the high street is made up of a large number of specialist sailing shops catering for yachting enthusiasts which see their most profitable period during Cowes Week.
The Isle of Wight was historically a key target of French invasions and forts built for protection can still be visited on the Isle. The west fort in Cowes still survives to this day, albeit without the original Tudor towers, as Cowes Castle. The fort built in East Cowes is believed to have been similar but was abandoned c. 1546 and since destroyed.
Today, much of the town's architecture is still heavily influenced by the style of ornate building that Prince Albert popularised although as with the rest of the UK, modern builds are becoming more popular throughout the town and it’s outskirts and many people choosing to design their own properties with architects.
Visitors to Cowes outside of Cowes week can enjoy a range of activities central to Cowes local history. For indoor activities, the Classic Boat Museum gallery and Cowes Marimime Museum/ Library have a fantastic display of yachts, lifeboats and gallery which can be visited for only a couple of pounds. Alternatively, The Sir Max Aitken Museum is a free museum in the centre of Cowes which features a collection of items belonging to Sir Max who was an MP, newspaper magnate, fighter pilot, yacht racer and the founder of the London Boat Show.
Those looking for an outdoor excursion may head to Thorness Bay or Egypt Point Lighthouse to stetch the legs and get some sea air. One of the most popular experiences in Cowes on sunny days is watching the sunset at Gurnard. Sunset chasers can either walk to Gurnard along Esplanade for a relaxed stroll or park at Gurnard and entertain the children in the playground whilst awaiting the spectacular sunset over the beach huts, one of the best viewing spots in the Isle of Wight, and UK.
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