For some reason, when I thought of the Isle of Wight I pictured a small island that would have just one town. So I was surprised to learn just how large the island is. In fact, I think it is just as big as some smaller countries. It is 23 miles by 13 miles and looks roughly in the shape of a diamond. The island is accessible by ferry from Southhampton, Bournemouth and Portsmouth, and takes as little as an hour.
There are 15 towns in total on the Isle of Wight, and are listed below:
- East Cowes
- St Lawrence
The biggest town in the island is Newport, located almost in the centre of the island, which makes it very accessible to all the towns scattered around the island. There is so much to do on the island, with 500 miles of public footpaths for taking scenic walks along the coast and in the countryside. I was struck by the sheer number of trees on the island, it made me feel at home, and that with the sea, reminded me of New Zealand in some ways.
When we took the ferry from Southhampton, we landed at the town of East Cowes. There are a lot of shops and restaurants around here. I was very taken with the murals and childrens paintings. As you go up a slight hill you will also find a gorgeous little church.
If you take the floating bridge, or what I was told was a ‘Chamberlain’ then you can get across the river Medina to Cowes for more shopping an restaurants. The Chain Ferry as it is officially referred to in the sign below, is free for passengers, and £1.50 for cars.
I suspect the reason it is called ‘Chain Ferry’ is because it is run on chains. And for this reason it reminds me of a cable car, except that these chains are under water.
This is a closeup of the chains.
Here are cars loading onto the chain ferry.
Above, the Chain ferry is departing East Cowes. The journey is very short, it does not seem to take much more than five minutes to reach the other side.
Having completed the short journey above, the ferry is arriving into Cowes. Watch the video here to see the Chain ferry in action.
I found this large structure fascinating, and wondered exactly what it was. I later discovered it is a disused crane, formerly of JS Samuel Whites.
Cowes is a pretty little town with gorgeous shops in the high street. I was particularly taken by this adorable little cafe/bar/shop called Jolliffe that has a beautiful dark wooden staircase and interiors. The window display was pretty too with novel pieces of art work for sale.
Further down the street, my husband came up to me asking me if I saw the train. I could not understand what on earth he was talking about. There are no trains here on the Isle of Wight I said. It wasn’t until we came closer to the cafe that I realised what he was talking about. The train was a model train set, that was circling above the heads of the people sitting inside the cafe. I think it was very clever indeed.
There was a building further down the street that I found fascinating. It was a building site in fact, and the outside of it had been painted over with another rather pretty mural, and through the window I could see that the inside of the building was derelict.
If you are not into shopping then you may prefer a walk along the esplanade and by the marinas.
I came across a graphic map about a sailing club that you may be interested in.
The America’s Cup orginated in Cowes
Yes it is true! Another fact I learnt on our walk around Cowes. It is amazing how much I have learnt during my trip to Cowes. Our friends explained to us that the yachts raced around the Isle of Wight. In fact, each year, in August if I remember correct, the Isle of Wight is swamped with visitors as yachtees spend a week racing aruond the island. That week of racing is called quite simply ‘Cowes Week’.
America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport, and was founded in 1851. The first race of the America’s Cup in 1851 was around the Isle of Wight, but it was called a different name. At that time, the race was called Royal Yacht Squadron. The trophy was a bottomless ewer in Brittania silver, and was donated by the Marquess of Anglesey. That race was won by a yacht called ‘America’. From that moment on then the race was called the America’s Cup, which America held onto for many years until their stretch was broken by Australia.
In the photo above you can see the Cowes Castle, which used to be a Tudor fort. In 1854 the Royal Yacht Squadron club took residence in the Castle. If you look very closely, you will be able to see a number of small canons lined up in front of the castle. When the racing week happens in August, they usually begin the proceedings by letting off the canons. Further to the left of this photo is the marina and jubilee haven. On the hill above the club is a beautiful old church. This is St. Mary’s Church, and has a clock tower visible from the water. The tower was designed by John Nash.