Cowes, Isle of Wight, England, UK

The twin towns of Cowes and East Cowes face each other across the estuary of the River Medina on the Isle of Wight just off the Southampton coast. They are connected, as they have been since 1859, by the Cowes Floating Bridge, one of the few chain ferries that have not been replaced by a fixed bridge. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were fond of Cowes, and built their summer home, Osborne House, on a site overlooking the bay, which reminded them of the Bay of Naples. Cowes is one of the world’s most famous centers of yacht racing.  The Royal Yacht Squadron was founded here in 1815, and in 1826 King George IV, a fanatic sailor, dedicated The Cowes Regatta, the world’s longest-running regular regatta. It routinely welcomes over 1,000 boats to race during its Cowes Week, doubling the towns’ population. The headquarters of the Royal Yacht Squadron is in the Cowes Castle, a converted Tudor fortress situated on an open waterfront esplanade. Cowes has a small Maritime Museum located in its Library building, with examples and models of boats built in the town. Another small museum, the Sir Max Aitken Museum, is located in an 18th century sailmaker’s loft, and filled with maritime memorabilia. The town’s largest park surrounds the historic Northwood manor house, dating from 1799 and now a site for weddings and private events.  In East Cowes, the Hovercraft Museum has information about the first successful hovercrafts manufactured here, as well as general maritime history.