Thursday 31 March 2022

How to spend 6 hours in Cowes on the Isle of Wight

(Tickets & brunch provided by Red Funnel - see disclaimer for more details)

On a sunny but bitterly cold morning in March, I and a friend took a day trip to the Isle of Wight, something I haven't done in years - it seems silly now as we're so close to the island here in Southampton. From the city, Red Funnel operates multiple services throughout the day whether you're a foot passenger or taking the car. Booking through Red Funnel is easy with vehicle ferries taking just one hour or less than thirty minutes if you're travelling by their high-speed Red Jet service which is what we did. 

Red Jet Ferries to the Isle of Wight depart from Red Funnel's Terminal 2 in Town Quay and as it's a first-come, first-served based service they just advise you're there in plenty of time. We thankfully had no issues getting a seat and it was a super smooth crossing to the island. We arrived at West Cowes just before 11am and had the day ahead of us to do as we pleased. 

I want to share how to spend six hours in West Cowes on the Isle of Wight, we went with no plan other than where Red Funnel had booked brunch for us and we were pleasantly surprised. I can't wait to visit the island again, hopefully when it's a bit warmer!

First up, we visited Gastronomy - a buzzing restaurant located right on the high street. We were actually booked in for lunch but decided to head there first so we could just wander in the afternoon and I'm so glad we did. Gastronomy is a gorgeous spot, full of international influences, dreamy decor and a menu that is super fresh, bursting with flavour and inclusive dietary options. 

Good food and a good time? YUP! 

After ordering coffees and fresh orange juice, our server (who was fantastic) quickly talked us through the menu and oh what a menu. There is something for everyone with smaller dishes depending on how hungry you are. We opted for their 'Bigger Brunch' oh and one to share because we just couldn't decide. 

We ordered Banging Beans on Toast (Bloody Mary Beans on toasted sourdough, topped with two poached eggs), Spicy Eggs Royale (Smoked salmon on toasted sourdough, topped with two poached eggs and chipotle hollandaise) and Breakfast Bao (Bacon and egg in Asian steamed buns, served with Sriracha ketchup) - it was SO delicious! 

If you're looking for somewhere for food as you arrive on the island, this should be your first stop.

If we hadn't have stopped and done a full 360, I don't think we would've spied Baked by Jen when we did. The sweetest bakery I ever did see, it's situated just off the high street and is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10am until the shelves are clear and oh do they sell out quickly. 

Specialising in bespoke buttercream cakes, Baked by Jen stocks a huge selection of baked goods - we picked up Carrot Cake Cupcakes, Cornflake & Brown Sugar Blondie, Cinnamon Swirl Cookies and even doggy treats. Just keep an eye on her Instagram as that is where she shares the weekend's menu.

As we decided to head to the island without the car, we spent a lot of the time exploring Cowes by foot, the only downside was the weather because it was bloody baltic! We did nip down to the waterfront but didn't stay long as the wind howled - I can just imagine how beautiful it is in the summertime and I can't wait to head back over in a few months. 

We stumbled across lots of little streets, coves and corners - it was typically 'British seaside' and I loved that.

I don't typically book days away purely for shopping but we did have a mooch around the shops along the high street. There was a bit of everything from well-known brands and homeware shops, to book shops and the most wonderful children's toy shop called Pocket Full of Pebbles

We bought a few things along the way, mainly bits and bobs for the children and it was so nice to just slowly stroll around and see where the day took us. It's such a great little spot for a touch of holiday or gift shopping.

One of our final stops and possibly my favourite was The Compass - a new wine bar that opened last summer in Cowes. It has a very chilled vibe with gorgeous decor, antipasti style foods and a huge wine and cocktail menu to choose from. 

There was an old indie playlist playing while we were there that took me right back to my teens! 

We found a spot in a corner that looked out onto the setting and enjoyed one of their charcuterie boards from Cowes Grazing paired with Aperol and a few glasses of prosecco. We were there for around two hours before doing one last swoop of the shops and heading home. We very nearly dipped back into The Compass but we talked ourselves out of getting a later Red Jet and now we have an excuse to come back. 

Honestly, if you're ever in Cowes, make sure you check out The Compass!

The Isle of Wight is so easy to get to via Southampton and as a local, I can't believe I haven't made the most of this before now. Sure, I've visited the island on and off over the years but this has definitely given me an even bigger incentive to visit more regularly. I just know our eldest will love the Red Jet.  

West Cowes was such a fab destination for a day trip and I'm already planning where we want to visit on the island next. 

Have you visited the Isle of Wight before? Where would you recommend visiting?

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