Set at the mouth of the River Fowey in South Cornwall, Fowey (pronounced ‘Foy’) is a chic seaside town like no other. Wander the characterful winding streets and enjoy stunning views at every turn, discover the estuary and its abundant wildlife by boat, and then feast on fresh fish at one of the town’s many stylish restaurants. It’s easy to see why in recent years this sleepy harbour town has become one of the county’s most popular holiday destinations.
Explore Fowey on foot
With its fascinating maritime history, literary connections and picture-perfect fisherman’s cottages, Fowey is a lovely town to simply wander around, or sit and watch the boats flitting about the harbour.
Take a stroll along the Esplanade, passing pastel-coloured houses and beautiful harbour views. Soon, you’ll come to Readymoney Cove – a small, sheltered beach with turquoise waters, perfect for a dip. Readymoney Beach Shop is a little café (takeaway only) with a selection of locally sourced gifts, as well as tasty cakes and delicious local ice cream.
From the beach, continue on to St Catherine’s Castle – a small artillery fort built by Henry VIII in the 1530s to defend the harbour. It’s a short walk uphill, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views at the top.
No trip to Fowey would be complete without doing the Hall Walk. This exceptionally beautiful 4-mile circular route includes two ferry rides and is a favourite for many. It weaves through woodland and creek, passing through picturesque Pont Pill, Polruan, and the ‘Q’ memorial of novelist, scholar and Fowey resident, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Whatever the weather, it offers stunning views over Fowey, the estuary and out to sea.
Shopping in Fowey
As well as a few of the usual high street names, Fowey has a vibrant array of independent shops and boutiques. The Webb Street Company is brimming with unique, carefully curated gifts, books and artwork, much of which is local. Browse the colourful, ethically sourced clothing at Pink Lemons; pick up a piece of pottery at White Doll Arts or find your perfect holiday read in charming bookshop, Shrew Books.
Pebble & Salt stocks a variety of gifts and keepsakes from local makers and artisans, LIGA specialises all things eco-friendly, and Any Old Lights is a treasure trove of unusual vintage lighting. If it’s art that you’re after, head to South Street Gallery or Troy Town Gallery and then, having worked up a thirst, pop into Tarquin’s where you can sample some delicious Cornish gin, and pick up a bottle (or two) to take home.
Feast in Fowey
When it comes to food, Fowey is one of the county’s greatest gastronomic hotspots. At one end of town lies two terrific lunchtime options (both open April – Oct approx.); Captain Hanks is a vintage blue van right by the water; here, owner Holly dishes up all manner of delights, from fresh fish and crab sandwiches to some exceptional crab bon bons…
Over the road is North Street Kitchen, a chic, laid back spot in an old boat house that serves a daily changing menu of delicious small seafood plates and natural wines. In the summer, be prepared to wait for a table, but it’s worth it. Back in the centre of town, its sister restaurant, Fitzroy, is another hip hangout, open for dinner only, with cool, minimalist interiors and skilful, sophisticated cooking. Off season, head chef Ethan Friskney-Bryer and a small team run supper clubs – keep an eye on @gralefritrestaurant for details.
A visit to Appleton’s is also a must, where the exceptionally delicious food combines authentic Italian flavours with fresh Cornish produce; the pasta is homemade and the negronis are second to none. Don’t miss the anchovy fritters.
For a light bite, head to the small but perfectly formed Pintxo for tasty tapas and sherry. Nearby, Bufala serves delicious sourdough pizza; if the weather allows, grab a table on the festoon-lit terrace that hangs over the water.
Almost opposite, the pretty-in-pink Mardy Bakery is run by uber talented pastry chefs, Agathe and Jack, who bake a mouth-watering selection of treats every day, such as filled choux buns, cakes, biscuits and more, plus fresh doughnuts every Sunday. Don’t miss the sourdough which comes from nearby Coombeshead Farm.
If you’re planning a picnic, pop into Kittow’s – a smart-ish deli that sells a selection of local produce as well homemade food, cheese, chutney, fresh fish and more. The (huge) Cornish Gouda and onion pasties at Quay Bakery are also a must-try.
For ice cream, head to Game of Cones, where there are over 33 flavours to choose from, and for delicious handmade Cornish fudge, pop into the traditional Fowey Sweet Shop.
There’s plenty of fun to be had on water from Fowey. Fowey River Hire offer stand up paddle board, kayak and boat hire, as well as organised tours, so you can explore the beautiful estuary. Cruise past the docks and onward to Golant, and, if the tide allows, the pretty creekside village of Lerryn, believed to have been the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows.
From Fowey, you can also take a short passenger ferry ride across the harbour to the picturesque village of Polruan, also known as ‘the sunny side’, as it gets the evening sun. Here, explore the narrow streets, have a drink at The Lugger Inn overlooking the historic boatyard, and walk to the old Blockhouse for dramatic views out to sea.
Further up the estuary, catch the ferry across to Bodinnick, passing Daphne Du Maurier’s family home, Ferryside, as you go. Another cruise worth catching is the Mevagissey Ferry, which in the summer sails from Fowey across St Austell Bay to the popular fishing village of Mevagissey. It’s a beautiful 40-minute journey, and dolphins often make an appearance along the way.
Where to stay in Fowey
Set high above the centre of town, luxury family hotel Fowey Hall has commanding views across the harbour and out to sea. Following a recent refurbishment, this grand manor house is now home to 36 cool, contemporary bedrooms, a restaurant, family friendly spa, and pretty gardens.
Down by the water’s edge, The Old Quay House Hotel is a chic, whitewashed Victorian property with 13 luxurious bedrooms, a smart restaurant and large terrace with lovely views. Across the estuary, gastro pub The Old Ferry Inn has 11 recently refurbished bedrooms, some with wonderful views, as well as an outdoor hot tub, a great little shop, and a micro distillery.
If you’d prefer to self-cater, Retreat to Fowey has two stylish holiday apartments both close to the centre of town, and with some lovely added extras, such as a welcome hamper filled with Cornish treats, cosy bath robes, and a well-stocked gin cupboard…
Elsewhere in town you’ll find Marners Rock – a collection of luxury self-catering properties designed with the same attention to detail one would expect from a five-star hotel. Marners Rock No 1 and No 2, are located within an impressive Victorian house above the centre of town, while Marners Rock 3 is a state of the art apartment with unbeatable estuary views.
Written by Sophie Farrah for The Maverick Guide to Cornwall / Lead Image by Nicole Kwiatkowski