Navigational tips and beauty spots around the north-west coast of the Isle of Wight.
Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes
Perched on the Parade, West Cowes, the Royal Yacht Squadron’s headquarters is also known as West Cowes Castle. It was built in 1539 by Thomas Bertie, Henry VIII’s master mason, to bolster sea defences and protect Newport from seaborne attack. Bertie also built Calshot and Hurst castles. There was a similar construction in East Cowes but, built on sandy foundations, it soon fell.
The lower battlement is part of the original castle, built in 1539. Photo: Graham Snook
In those days a fort was also known as a cow (the English poet John Leland wrote in 1545 of ‘The two Great Cows that in loud thunder roar, This on the eastern that on the western shore’) and the fact that there were two of them is believed to have given Cowes its name.
The original fort was built with stone from the recently sacked Beaulieu and Quarr Abbeys and comprised a gun platform and a two-storey squat round tower. Its original cannon were fired in anger only once, in 1642 during the Civil War. The gun platform still exists and the 22 miniature bronze cannon from King George IV’s children’s yacht Royal Adelaide, are fired on the hard in front of it to start yacht races.