Famous for its yachting, Cowes comes alive annually during the period around Cowes Week, then goes back to sleep until the next one. The old part of the town, along and behind the waterfront, is still attractive and interesting, in spite of past attempts to ruin it architecturally. East and West Cowes take their names from 'cows', which were Tudor fortifications erected on each side of the Medina estuary to guard the Solent against the prospect of French invasion. Both 'cows' still exist; the West one having been incorporated into the Royal Yacht Squadron. Northwood House, a fine Palladian mansion in Northwood Park, was donated by its then owner, George Ward, to the people of Cowes, it suffered the ignominious fate of becoming Council offices, and large chunks of the Park were sold off for development.
Cowes was originally one of the termini for the Island railway system, much of which was sadly 'Beechinged', but the old line can still be accessed near the 'Kingston Arms' and provides an attractive route to Newport for cyclists or walkers. Walkers might also enjoy the shore road to Gurnard.