East Cowes on the eastern banks of the River Medina has traditionally been the more industrial half of Cowes. Today it’s the main terminus for the Southampton to East Cowes ferry service operated by Red Funnel, and is linked to West Cowes by the chain link ferry – the Floating Bridge. You can explore the maritime and industrial heritage of the area at the Classic Boat Gallery and the East Cowes Heritage Centre. East Cowes has a small shopping centre, marina and seafront promenade. Just outside East Cowes sits Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s family home Osborne House set within extensive grounds. Victoria and Albert adored the house which was originally bought as a summer residence but quickly became Queen Victoria’s favourite residence where she could get away from all the pressures of her position. Osborne House was completely rebuilt and largely designed by Prince Albert whose taste for ornate architecture influenced many buildings in the Cowes area.
Famous Former Residents
The influential eighteenth century architect John Nash made his home here, designing and building his own home, East Cowes Castle, in 1798 with ornate Gothic towers, turrets and elaborate castellations. Unfortunately it was demolished in the 1960s and all that remains is the ice house. Nash died in 1835 and was buried at East Cowes Church which he also designed. The clock which Nash installed in a square tower to the left of the castle entrance is now on display at Carisbrooke Castle near Newport. East Cowes was also the home of Saunders Roe who built the flying boat, The Saunders-Roe Princess, as well as the Black Knight Rocket and the Black Arrow Satellite Carrier Rocket. The former Saunders-Roe factory at Venture Quays boasts the world’s largest Union Jack flag. It now produces wind turbines and houses the Classic Boat Gallery.
Classic Boat Museum & Gallery
The Classic Boat Gallery at East Cowes is the sister site to the Classic Boat Museum in Newport. The Gallery contains some of Ellen McArthur’s trophies as well as artefacts from the original Gypsy Moth IV, the famous yacht that Francis Chichester sailed single-handedly around the world. A permanent display highlights the days of big yacht sailing and J-class racing in the 1930s. Changing themed exhibitions are also on display.
Southampton to East Cowes Ferry
Red Funnel operate a car passenger ferry service from Southampton to East Cowes. Crossings depart hourly and take just under an hour. These are the largest ferries running to the Isle of Wight and not only take foot passengers but all sizes of vehicles that will fit under a motorway bridge. Extensive facilities including cafes, a games room and a large outdoor deck feature on-board. Bikes and dogs travel free of charge.