Virgins Guide to Cowes Week

What is Cowes Week? Cowes Week (3-11 August) is an annual sailing regatta that started in 1826 and is one of the most famous in the world. Around 8000 competitors, both professional and amateur, descend on Cowes on the Isle of Wight to race their yachts in the Solent. Now as famous as the racing is the onshore activities and entertainment that takes place all week long and sees over 100,000 spectators. It’s a mecca for sailing enthusiasts and anyone who loves a good festival atmosphere.

With a daily entertainment programme happening in many locations across the town, there is something for every age and taste. This year Sunday is Family Day; Monday is Charity Day; Tuesday is Ladies Day (with on the spot prizes for the best ladies outfits featuring nautical stripes); Wednesday is Youth Day; and Friday is of course the famous Fireworks night, as well as a daytime display by the Red Arrows (find out about watching on the water on the Red Funnel Firework Cruise here).

So, Cowes Week isn’t just about yachties in pink trousers (although there are a lot of those) it’s also a week long festival of fun and activities – and you can watch a bit of the racing while you’re there too.

Here’s our key pointers for all you Cowes Week virgins out there.


Best spots to watch the action…

  • The Royal Yacht Squadron -
    The race start line is just off the Squadron so this is always a good place to position yourself, just be ready for the cannons which go off to launch the race – they are seriously loud! 

  • The Parade
    Located just to the East, right on the waters edge it’s great to spot the boats sailing in and out. It also has many stalls and entertainment taking place throughout the day.

  • The Green
    Is further round to the West and is a lovely wide grassy area where you can put down your blanket and relax to watch the races right in front of you. 

  • On the Water -
    To get out on the water to get among the action see our guide.


Best places to wander & soak in the atmosphere

  • Cowes Yacht Haven
    This is where the famous beer tent is that all the crew come back to after the racing to unwind, it’s also full of stalls selling all sorts of goodies and a plethora of food concessions. 

  • The High Street -
    You can stop and get in the festival spirit with hair braiding and glitter face art/tattoos. 

  • Northwood House -
    Up the hill above the High Street there will activities, afternoon teas, cocktails and activities all week long. Sunday 5th you can get an amazing view tree-climbing some of the ancient trees in the House gardens and there is also a 100ft high giant observation wheel on site all week to get that panoramic experience of the whole event.

Best places to shop

  • Buff -
    For the boys and some seriously cool gadgets. 

  • Live Like This -
    For interiors, lifestyle furnishings and accessories (think Cath Kidston and Orla Kiely). 

  • Staples & Green -
    For unusual furniture and ornaments.

  • Shorelines of Cowes -
    Sell a range of items perfect for that keepsake or present. 

  • Joli -
    For beautiful gifs and handmade homeware. 

  • Wine Therapy -
    Fancy a glass of wine on the go? These guys sell a wide selection of wine, you can try and buy a glass before making your final choice – or leave it at that and just enjoy that refreshing glass of something chilled before continuing on with your window shopping. 


Best beaches nearby

  • Cowes Esplanade -
    Wide pebble beach along the Esplanade great for taking in the action.

  • Gurnard -
    Just further on to the West (about 15 minute walk) pebble & shingle beach and has the fabulous Little Gloster restaurant for drinks and food.

  • East Cowes -
    A shingle beach on the other side of the Medina River so you need to take the chain ferry across and walk around to get there.

Best places to party

  • The Lawn Lounge & Gin Festival
    Resident at Northwood House all week, they also feature some fantastic club nights Club Balearia 

  • Sugar Store Nightclub
    Located in Shepards Marina, this night club is open throughout the event.

  • JJ’s Nightclub
    Open every night and set right in the heart of the action at the Cowes Yacht Haven Events Centre.

Easiest way to get here

Red Funnel Red Jet straight into West Cowes and the heart of the action. If you’re already on the Island then there are great Park & Ride facilities to avoid getting stuck in the melee of street action. 

Search Image - Red Funnel

13 July 2018

By Alix Robinson in Articles