North House

West Cowes, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom Book from Book from £125 per night

Nautical chic, brasserie dining, fireside cocktails and poolside croquet come together in Cowes' only true boutique hotel
The Isle of Wight waited a long time for its first boutique hotel, but oh buoy, it was worth it. Occupying a handsome townhouse – formerly a theatre – at the top of a small lane in the sailors' mecca of Cowes, it was reborn in 2016 as an impeccably chic and welcoming 14-room 'house by the sea'. For owners Luke Staples and Lewis Green, who run an acclaimed interiors shop and restaurant nearby, this is their first foray into hotellerie. And they have nailed it first time.

Expect oversized lanterns in the lobby, a buzzy bar for cocktails and local beers, a bistro-style brasserie (The Oyster Store with fresh seafood and cheery young staff in deck shoes, and beautifully styled bedrooms with super-kingsize beds, downy duvets, clawfoot tubs or Ren-stocked wetrooms. Step into the walled suntrap garden to find shaded outdoor seating (complete with firepit and blankets for evening stargazing), a croquet lawn and a small heated pool. In keeping with the pampering homely vibe, there are homemade chocolate cookies and Roberts radios in your room; crackling fires and vintage Scrabble sets in the sitting room; colourful Hunter wellies and retro bicycles to borrow. Good things, indeed, come to those who wait...

Highs

  • We loved the warm house-party atmosphere: never pretentious, just a mix of ages enjoying a nautical-but-nice break
  • The cuisine is superb – and not just the seafood: our pork belly with scallops was divine, and breakfasts are a treat
  • The bedrooms are easy on the eye, body and wallet alike: even the 'Cosy' ones feel pampering
  • Great location, just 5 mins' walk from Cowes’ high street, marina and the RedJet ferry pier
  • Perfect for a car-free, care-free weekend from London, with speedy rail and sea connections (2-3 hours door-to-door)

Lows

  • Cowes – though easy to reach from the mainland – is not the best base for exploring the scenic south and west of the island
  • If you plan to use the hotel's bikes, let staff know as they may need adjustment and checking first
  • We've heard reports of slow service in the bar and restaurant; our experience was excellent except for one delay with cooked breakfast
  • There’s no parking at the hotel

Best time to go

For about a fortnight either side of Cowes Week (early/mid August), the town heaves with people looking out to sea, drinking Pimms and occasionally racing yachts. If you like crowds, parties and Friday night fireworks, then it's perfect (but you'll need to book well ahead). If not, then choose June, early July, late August or September. Or come in April/May for the walking festival: around 100 routes, some guided, mostly free to join, over the course of a fortnight. Mid June sees the massive Isle of Wight Festival - but on the assumption that you're looking for a quiet, romantic break, that's unlikely to be relevant. More likely to appeal are The Wight Proms in late August/early September, held at Northwood House in Cowes, combining concerts, comedy, theatre and workshops. Finally, winter at North House can be supremely cosy and cosseting, and the sun (apparently) shines more here than anywhere else in the UK.

Our top tips

We lucked out with Spacious Room 15 - a gorgeous first-floor double with long views over the bustling Medina estuary and more than enough space to justify the label. But if you're watching the pennies, we also liked Cosy Room 1, with large windows over the garden: lovely and bright in spring or autumn.

If you hanker after a replica propeller, vintage barometer or miniature wooden yacht for your home, head straight to Kirby of Cowes on the High Street: it's piled high with nautical bric-a-brac. Or for scrumptious local produce, from island honey to chutneys and crackers (with some French delicacies thrown in), don't miss Rosalie's - also on the High Street.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 14
  • Restaurant & bar; more nearby
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Comfy

Rooms

We loved the chic, cosseting bedrooms at North House, spread between the main house (5 rooms) and a long rear wing (once part of a theatre building, now 9 rooms). They're labelled Cosy, Comfy or Spacious according to size (20-40 sq.m.), but all share a similar vintage-luxe style. Think beautifully restored brocante armchairs and dressers, pale Farrow & Ball hues, knotted sisal matting or polished floorboards, and super-wide, super-comfy beds stacked high with pillows and toasty down duvets. A few have feature fireplaces, clawfoot tubs or elaborate blue-white damask wallpaper; Spacious #3, a couple's favourite in the main house, has all 3. In the rear wing, curved ceilings, original wall paintings or iron tie-rods reveal the building's historic fabric.

Retro touches include black rotary-dial phones, Roberts radios and long-handled Burlington bath taps or rainfall showers. Practical touches include an iron and board, kettle and Nespresso machine, and fresh lemon at the ready for your Mermaids G&T (I class that as a practicality rather than a luxury). Indulgent touches include fluffy robes and slippers, full-size Ren toiletry bottles and homemade choc-chip cookies in the in-room pantry (when you taste them, you'll see why they classify as an indulgence).

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Toiletries
  • TV
  • WiFi

Eating

After a drink at the cosy bar - Cornish ales, house cocktails, crackling log fire - step into the glass-fronted The Oyster Store for dinner. With its salvaged bistro chairs, blackboard menus, candlelit tables and young staff in deck shoes and aprons, you could be in Brittany. The menu, fittingly, includes scallops and oysters, mussels with garlic, perhaps bream served with tomato and chive salad, or trout with risotto. But it's not all about the (sea) bass: there's steak from nearby Combley Farm cooked in the Harrison oven, and I swooned over my slow-roast pork belly: perfectly crisp on one side, soft and juicy on the other.

It's backed up by an impressive wine list courtesy of the oenophiles at Corney & Barrow - including a vivacious Delamotte Brut champagne by the glass, which says it all really.

Breakfast is equally spoiling, with a rich buffet (we particularly liked the ramekins of yogurt, crunchy artisanal granola, homemade red berry jams and warm petit fours) complemented by cooked dishes to order. Apart from a wait for my eggs Florentine, service was shipshape, and the ambiance intimate to a tee (any private group dinners take place in a separate room).

If you fancy a convivial lunch in the heart of town, book at the co-owned (and very popular) Coast for whole IOW crab, half-lobster, pan-seared duck breast or perhaps a halloumi burger.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Cowes brims with nauticalia, from chandleries and vintage map shops to galleries of seascapes and yacht prints; and there are chic interior- and clothing boutiques for landlubbers, too
  • Osborne Palace, the impressive stately residence where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spent their summers (and her dying days), is a 20-minute cycle or 40-minute walk via the 'floating bridge'
  • Wander round the headland to the pebbly beach at Prince's Green, stopping to admire the yachts in the marina, or sailing at alarming proximity (and angles) through the Solent
  • If you have transport, don't miss the western tip of the island with its blindingly white chalk cliffs plunging to the sheer sea stacks of the Needles; a National-Trust-run WW2 artillery point provides a chilling backdrop (and excellent cakes)
  • The southerly coast runs from here in a tumbling line of grassy-topped cliffs, past Freshwater Bay to 2-mile Compton Beach; fabulous, lung-busting walks galore

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

North House accepts children of all ages, with cots available in most Comfy and Spacious rooms (free of charge), and a fold-out Z-bed in the larger ones (small charge). If coming with 2 children, you would need to book 2 adjacent rooms. The restaurant has a kids menu (for 'little sailors'), plus a high chairs. In our experience, the atmosphere at dinner time is fairly hushed and candlelit, so you'd want to eat early. The hotel and location is probably best for couples with an infant, or older (teenage) kids with an interest in sailing.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

  • High chairs

    Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

    Children's meals:

  • Kids' menu

    Kids Activities on site:

    A small heated pool (seasonal)

    Families Should Know:

    The pool is unfenced

  • Distances:

    • Ferry port: 10 mins' drive
    • Shop: 0.2km
    Kid Friendly:

    Location

    North House is in West Cowes, the nautical capital of the Isle of Wight.

    By Air:
    There are no airports on the Isle of Wight; the nearest are Southampton, Bournemouth and Heathrow.

    By Ferry:
    Frequent sailings from Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington to the Isle of Wight. Book early for the cheapest fares.

    On the Island:
    If you're coming for a few days and plan to stay in or around Cowes, don't bring your car: ferry car fares are steep and parking near the hotel is limited. Book a passenger fare with Red Jet to West Cowes and you can walk from the pier to the hotel in 5 mins. For short excursions around Cowes, such as Osborne House, you can borrow hotel bikes - or taxis, of course. There are also buses from Cowes to Newport and (from East Cowes) to Ryde, but they are slow.
    If you are coming for longer and want to explore the island, do bring a car - and book your ferry as early as possible.

    Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

    More on getting to the UK and getting around

    Airports:

    • Southampton 50.0 km SOU
    • Bournemouth 55.0 km BOH

    Other:

    • Beach 0.9 km
    • Shops 0.2 km
    • Restaurant 0.2 km

    Our guests' ratings...

    Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

    10/10
    Room
    10/10
    Food
    9/10
    Service
    10/10
    Value
    10/10
    Overall

    {{ review.rating }}/10, {{ review.firstName }}Anonymous{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},

    Rates for North House

    Check Availability