I’ve holidayed in the sunny seaside town of Fowey, Cornwall, ever since I was a little girl, so it seems only natural for me to do a little tour and give you the very best traveller’s tips of where to go, what to see and, most importantly – what to eat.
Fowey itself is my favourite place to visit in Cornwall. Its candy-cane pink and yellow houses with white-washed sea-spattered frames and the smell of the salt water whipping your cheeks as you wander down to the seaside or quay is enough to make you fall in love and want to stay forever, as has happened to several of the town’s occupants over the years.
Artists, writers, sea-farers and boutique independent business owners have often reminisced to me on how they first came to Fowey – most of them visiting on holiday many years back – and never left.
Bookends of Fowey, one of the best little bookshops in town, is one such example of this.
The gentleman who now tends the shop visited with his wife almost 20 years ago, having been drawn here by Fowey’s literary presence in the pages of one of Cornwall’s most famous novelists, Daphne du Maurier, who lived not far from here, and whom my Nana once saw bathing in the sea in a private cove when she visited many years ago, as was her custom.
The town is ripe for paintings, sculptors, writers, and independent artists who display their wares in the many little galleries and shops pocketed around Fowey’s ancient narrow streets.
The food and the culture around it here is also so good that whenever I visit I find myself drawn back to my favourite haunts to gather together all of the delicacies most associated with Cornwall and munch them in happy delight – they can all be found here – Cornish fudge, ‘proper’ Cornish ice cream, Cornish pasties, and of course finger-lickingly tasty Fish & Chips!
I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
…and tell you all of the very best places to find these specialities and hopefully inspire you to go in search of them yourself. Welcome to the prettiest seaside town in Cornwall with a big personality.
Moments from the centre of town and with its own private terrace for coffee and croissants (or pasties!) in the morning for you to indulge in to your heart’s content.
As you roll over in the clean fresh sheets and pull one of the pillows towards you that adorn the bed, take a moment to hear the comforting sound of the church bells ring and the seagulls calling overhead. These are the most ‘urban’ sounds that you will hear in Fowey.
Next, it’s time for a spot of breakfast. Turning left as you exit the house, follow the road down into town and round past The Ship Inn. Almost opposite is our first stop for the morning – Brown Sugar Café. They do a range of cooked breakfasts, but I had the homemade granola and local yoghurt ‘sundae’ and it was delicious.
Alternatively, across the road from Brown Sugar and just down from the church is The Cornish Bakery, who stock the most divine range of croissants and pastries, including Cornish pasties.
If you would like to take your pick and carry it back to the terrace that awaits in peace and quiet at Littlesteps, I highly recommend it, but make sure to pick up some Seriously Strong Cornish Coffee from Kittows of Fowey – the delicatessen opposite the bakery – to accompany it.
Okay, it’s time to do a spot of shopping before the early summer crowds descend (and buy all the really good bits!). Our journey starts with the best clothing shop in Fowey – Pink Lemons. They stock a veritable Aladdin’s cave of pastel wonders – homeware, trinkets, and the most beautiful clothes from small independent retailers. They even stock conscious clothing company Thought Clothing and their ethical bamboo socks! I bought two pairs…
Next, it’s on to the bookshops. One thing I absolutely recommend to do in Fowey is to buy at least one Daphne du Maurier book. The best places to do this are Bookends of Fowey, which is right next to Brown Sugar Café and opposite The Cornish Bakery, or Enjoy! Fowey – a little jewellery and bookshop next door.
These two bookshops have played host to many a happy memory in my time – of coming out arms laden with books and trinkets for reminders and prolongers of my holidays in Fowey as a little girl. The du Maurier Society has its artistic home in Fowey, and they organise not only the website and small concerts but also the Fowey Arts & Literature Festival in May, which is held in Fowey every year.
Residents of Fowey are proud of this famous literary history.
Daphne du Maurier was one of the best-known writers in England during her lifetime for her Cornwall-inspired tales.
A cross between ‘high-brow’ and ‘popular’ fiction, she delighted her readers and spoke strongly of her atmospheric inspiration from the surrounding countryside, for she used Cornwall and many of the place names local to her in her writing.
Its wild moorlands and grey clouds overhead, changing quick-as-a-flash to sunlight, gave a tempestuous and ever-searching element to her works which imbue them all the way through – page to page – with Cornish feeling.
Next, it’s on to the sweet shops and fudge shops along Fore Street, the main road in Fowey.
You may well smell the fudge before you see it – the sweet sickly yet creamy and tantalising smell of the melting butter and sugar is placed in a pot on the windowsill of our first stop Roly’s Fudge pantry, to entice passers-by inside – and it works!
This is the best fudge I’ve ever tasted – try the Gin & Raspberry if they have it on display. You won’t be disappointed!
Now for the cutest chocolates in town. I have a thing about cute chocolates, especially if they have sprinkles… I like to think about how pretty they look right before I eat them. So for me, a born and bred chocolate fanatic, Middletons Chocolate Shop is perfect. This is the old-fashioned kind of sweet shop where everything is weighed… although thankfully not the customers. I think I would have shown a change on the scales over the several times I revisited this shop for more chocolates!
Phewf, okay so now we have gathered some of the best bits of Fowey, let’s stop for a rest and another type of beautiful Cornish culinary speciality – the Cream Tea. And I know just the place. Welcome to The Dwelling House at Fowey, an ancient Georgian building with high ceilings and chandeliers adorning them, large bright-facing windows and a little garden at the back – the perfect place for a spot of tea.
And a chance to show off our purchases!
With tea taken care of and our tummies heartened by the cream scone (slathered with lashings of jam), there are some options ahead of us for the second half of the morning.
Fowey is most memorable and perhaps most famous for two things – its history and the fact that the neighbouring town of Polruan can only be reached (if you don’t want to take hours driving around the headlands, that is) by boat.
A little ferry, which has run for as long as I or my Nana can remember and used to take her across to Polruan as a young woman, happily shuttles back and forth between towns in a short 10-minute journey from across the mouth of the river Fowey as it stretches into the sea.
Polruan is subsequently much quieter and less cosmopolitan (if Fowey could ever be described as that!) than Fowey, and only has a couple of pubs and a coffee shop. However, the walks up onto the headland if you can brave the steepness of its hills are breath-taking for their views across to Fowey.
If you find your time freer than you think, climb back onto the boat at Polruan and return to Fowey where two fun ventures await – The Fowey Museum and The Fowey Aquarium. Both charge less than £10 each for entry and are well worth a visit. My sister and I on one memorable occasion took our buckets and spades into the aquarium with a crab we had caught and found particularly interesting. We wondered if the aquarium would like to buy it from us for their collection. Unfortunately, as it was a pretty average-looking crab (to them) they didn’t share our enthusiasm and we didn’t get any extra pocket money from them that day!
If you are still feeling the warming effects of your cream scone and tea and would like one more adventure before lunch, I recommend taking a boat out on your own around the River Fowey if you have someone savvy who can drive you. There aren’t that many restrictions on who can go out and the gentleman who manages the boats is usually happy to give you a couple of life jackets and send you on your way!
Take the boat out to the little cottage you can see from Fowey Harbour – almost seemingly marooned in a tumble-down kind of way on the opposite bank and in total solitude. This is the cottage that my Nana has always said ‘if I win the lottery, I’ll buy it’. I decided it was only proper to take the boat and close as I could get to it. Speaking to the gentleman who gave us our boat back on the quay, at least I can tell my Nana that the little cottage is now being taken care of, as it was bought some time ago by a gentleman in London who has kept it for a holiday home!
There are several vistas along the way that I recommend getting your boat as close as possible to get a closer look. First of all, Fowey looks beautiful from this angle, a rare opportunity to see the cliff-side Fowey Hotel and beautiful towering old houses alongside the promenade. The Fowey Yacht Club is a serene route as well, and none of these places take you too far towards the mouth of the river and the sea, which isn’t recommended.
Dangle your fingers in the water and feel the cool refreshing tug on your hand as the boat speeds along, flecking your bare knees with spray… watch out for the ferry!
The industrial side of the River Fowey is not far away. Turn upriver and you will see the large metal cranes and pulleys that are used to lever the wares on to the nearby boats before heading out to sea. These boat trips are anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. If you have chosen the 45 minutes trip because you know your stomach will be rumbling by now, I don’t blame you! Some culinary specialities await you back on shore.
Cornish pasties are the name of the game – one of the most important things to find a good example of in Fowey. Back we go to The Cornish Bakery. You can either eat these on the quay, with your hands clutched enticingly around a mouth-wateringly smelling and well-made pasty and an ice cream from Daisy’s Ice Cream to follow, or you can take them back to the privacy of Littlesteps and that stunning terrace of yours with church views.
After lunch, it’s time for a little adventure. Turn left leaving your little home and then right down the first road you come to – the Esplanade. This tall building-lined road takes you to one of Fowey’s closest and most picturesque beaches – Readymoney Cove – where rock-pooling (and crabbing if you’re lucky!) awaits.
Readymoney Cove is the scene of that quintessential English summer – a yellow sandy beach, ringed by rocks that hold marine treasures when the tide is out and provides the perfect swimming bay when the tide is in. It has its own singular ice cream shop and cafe selling rods and children’s fishing tackle, buckets and spades. If you need to pick up any supplies, do so here before crossing to the opposite side of the beach you came in on and climbing the metal staircase up through the woods beside the bay.
This ancient piece of headland has been in use as a medieval watchtower and defensive castle for many, many centuries and was even repurposed during the World Wars as a storage and lookout facility.
These fields provide the coastland path that winds from Fowey up to the lighthouse on Gribbin Head and along to the neighbouring town of Par. If you would like to see the full Gribbin Head walk in pictures please click here or for a full route please click here.
Take the path through the woods and past the groundstone laid to commemorate the bestowing of these fields on the people of Fowey by local landowner and wealthy elite G. James Allday Esq., a testament to how deeply the surrounding countryside is woven into the heart of seaside Fowey.
This will take you round to the next bay, which is only accessible on foot. If you would like a more private and difficult to get to cove than Readymoney, this is the place. The rock-pooling here is really good. For those of you who might need a little update on this perhaps less-known past-time, rock-pooling is the custom used by many a flip-flop sandaled child of a summer day in Britain whereby buckets and little nets are carried carefully down onto the rocks when the tide is out and little (or sometimes, quite big!) pools have collected by its retreat, leaving behind some wet and watery oceanic wonders that can then be carefully and quietly ‘fished’ to your heart’s content. But watch out for the tide!
I must hasten to add here that the fish are never harmed because I am a very gentle if avid rock-pooler and they are always returned to the pool from which they came.
A little fishy and some shrimp!
Back they go. And so do we! But not to the rock-pool.
Once you have sat with your back nestled between the warm pebbles of the beach and watched your loved one(s) skim stones or hunt for shells along the cove, pack your spades and nets back in their buckets and head back up the headland, retracing your steps towards Fowey. It’s been a windy and mild adventure and the sea air has made you a little drowsy mixed perfectly with tired limbs and the exhilaration of a day well done…
Once back in Fowey, it’s time for a spot of dinner. The one delicacy we have not sampled on our seaside quest has been … Fish & Chips! The ultimate seaside getaway meal.
The best place to have these is Fish & Chips Takeaway by Haveners on Webb Street. I recommend the haddock and chips with lashing of salt and vinegar and some tomato-ey goodness of Heinz Tomato Ketchup to boot.
The best thing about Haveners is that you can take it away, which means that you can sit on one of the benches on the quay looking out towards Polruan and watching the little boat coming in and out, ferrying its load of passengers across. It’s the most calming and peaceful way to end the day… until this guy turns up! Don’t give him anything otherwise, you will have a seagull tumult on your hands…
Thankfully, the one place gulls can’t go in Cornwall is the pubs and it is here that we are now headed, to end the day in relaxed reminiscence in an inviting and friendly pub with good Cornish ales to drink. I will have a wine, but you go ahead!
So here we are – back in Fowey and happy as clams with our full bellies and sated thirst. I recommend: The Ship Inn (dating back to 16th century!), The King of Prussia, The Safe Harbour (good for a game of pool and riverside views across the town) and The Galleon, which has its own riverside terrace.
I hope you enjoyed our little day trip and food quest in Fowey! On your way home to Littlesteps, if you wish to stop by the church it makes a beautifully serene sight all lit up, and sometimes they have concerts in there too!
In Love&Light FS XOX
This, my 100th post, is dedicated to Mama, who has holidayed in Fowey since she was a little girl and loves it as much as I do. She couldn’t come with me this year, but there is always next!