Tumbling down from a high promontory on Cornwall’s south coast, the seaside town of Fowey (rhymes with joy) is an enticing mix of cobbled lanes and traditional Cornish cottages.
Unlike some seaside villas, Fowey has no need to stand on ceremony. There are boat trips, beaches and hearty pub lunches, and a rich literary tradition that’s celebrated in the town’s annual arts festival every May.
10am Ditch the car
As the town has narrow streets and tight, blind corners, it’s best to park the car on the outskirts and then either take a stroll down the steep lanes to the waterfront, or catch the bus, which makes regular round trips. On foot, you’ll be able to explore Fowey’s cobbled streets, with its cottages, art galleries and tempting antique shops. Built in the 14th century, St Fimbarrus Church is also worth a visit – don’t miss the pulpit, made from the panels of a stricken Spanish galleon.
12 noon Hands-on
After a coffee at the famous Fowey Hotel, which overlooks the harbour, while away an hour or so exploring the old town hall, with its quirky museum celebrating Fowey’s seafaring history. Underneath, you’ll find the town’s aquarium with its novel ‘touch pool’, and the chance to enjoy a hands-on experience.
The town hall is also a key venue for The Fowey Festival of Words and Music, which takes place between May 8-18. Look out for talks by Kate Humble and Monty Halls, as well as a series of special walks and cruises.
1pm Pay the ferryman
Catch the passenger ferry from the Town Quay slipway across the estuary to Polruan, an ancient fishing village that still maintains strong links with its rich boat-building tradition.
If you’re feeling active, there’s a choice of two fantastic walks. The signposted Hall Walk (a guide is available from Tourist Information) takes you up the estuary to Ferryside, once the holiday home of the Du Maurier family, and where Daphne wrote her first novel, The Loving Spirit. From here, you can catch the Bodinnick Ferry back over.
Alternatively, walk up to the top of Polruan and enjoy a stretch of the South West Coast Path, along the cliff-tops towards the Pencarrow Head.
4pm Looking for Ratty
Back in Fowey, sit back and enjoy a guided boat tour around the estuary and up the River Fowey towards Lerryn. The river is full of hidden inlets, smugglers’ caves and even a secret royal swimming pool. This is also The Wind in the Willows country and it’s said that Kenneth Grahame was inspired by the landscape while staying at the Fowey Hotel. The letters he sent back to his young son later formed the basis for his classic children’s book.
7pm On the money
Saunter along the esplanade, past grand Victorian and Edwardian villas, to Readymoney Cove. Overlooked by the Tudor St Catherine’s Castle, this is Fowey’s beach, and the perfect spot for (sand) castle building.
Readymoney Cottage is also nearby, a plaque noting how Du Maurier once lived here. And there’s still celebrity cachet around the cove, with several well-known names owning properties here that look down onto the beach. After 24 hours here, you’ll be able to see why.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fowey is about an hour’s drive from Plymouth to the east, and Truro to the west. One main road, the A3083, runs into the heart of the town. There are also good local and national train links, including regular services to London, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
FIND OUT MORE
Tourist Information (including Daphne du Maurier Literary Centre)
5 South Street,
Fowey PL23 1AR
The Lugger Inn
5 Fore Street,
Polruan PL23 1AH
Historic 17th-century pub that serves freshly caught mussels as a speciality – wash them down with locally brewed beer.
The Old Quay House
28 Fore Street,
Fowey PL23 1AQ
Gorgeous whitewashed Victorian house, transformed from a seamen’s refuge into a luxury boutique hotel.