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Cowes: Your guide to the harbour and town

Thu 20 Feb 2014

Cowes: Your guide to the harbour and town

You haven't visited the Isle of Wight until you've happened across its capital - the beautiful harbour city of Cowes. Famously the home of the international boat race, you'll find a beautiful seafront with plenty of ships bobbing up and down in front of various restaurants and eateries serving everything from fine Indian cuisine to the best of British fish and chips. But there's far more to Cowes than this idealistic vision of beauty. Concealed within the twisting maze of charismatic shops, streets and pathways, you'll find a retail scene as vibrant as any on mainland Britain. 

First things first - it's important to remember that Cowes' location at the mouth of the River Medina to the north of the island gives you two distinct sides to the city. When referring simply to Cowes, the speaker usually means the west side. East Cowes, on the eastern protrusion, is connected via a chain ferry. Both sides of the city offer unique devices and aspects.

Much of the high street in West Cowes is pedestrianised, making shopping easy and a genuine delight. Meander along at your own pace, peering into independent boutiques and big chains alike as you seek out the object of your desires. Everything from unusual and interesting gifts, antiques and collectibles to DIY and pet stores can be found here. Head to the parade when hunger calls - there's an army of cafes, restaurants and delicatessens lined up and ready to be inspected. Then hop on the chain ferry and check out East Cowes' equivalent high street. Again, there is a splendid collection of shops selling a whole host of objects to be explored, but the true attraction here is Esplanade. Directly on the seafront, this area is a great place to enjoy refreshments.

Another great place to soak up the typical Isle of Wight atmosphere is at Cowes' own Artisan Market, which usually happens on the second Sunday of every month. Covering the entirety of the West Cowes high street, you can wander up and down picking up everything from great street food to homemade coffee. Local designers frequent the market, so you can be sure of picking up something gorgeous and unique. There is free parking and the fun goes on from 10am until 5pm, although dates have been known to be a tad erratic so make sure you check the calendar on the website to be certain.

Cowes is great at any time of year, but the travel savvy will no doubt want to head over during one of the many festivals and special events the city hosts. There is a vibrancy to the town brought over by the international crowd - in particular, aim to be here for the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race the Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, and Panerai British Classic Week. Of course, they largely revolve around sailing, but it's worth coming for the atmosphere even if you don't have any interest in messing about on the river.ADNFCR-3083-ID-801695856-ADNFCR

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Southampton <> West Cowes, Isle of Wight

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