Fowey (pronounced “Foy”) is an inviting waterside town steeped in history. It stretches for a mile or so along the banks of the River Fowey and is a magnet for sailing enthusiasts. This vibrant place is a real joy to explore; whether you want to shop, sail, go to the beach, walk the South West Coast Path or simply watch the world go by whilst enjoying a pint.
Literary fanatics will be familiar with Fowey as it is synonymous with Daphne du Maurier. The author (famous for novels including Rebecca and Jamaica Inn) moved to the town with her family aged 20 and soon began writing short stories. A few years later, her first novel was published and she continued as a successful writer inspired by Fowey and the surrounding Cornish landscape.
Set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Fowey enjoys fantastic views across the water to Polruan. It also has a sheltered, family friendly beach at Readymoney Cove from which you can walk to St Catherine’s Castle, which is the remains of a small fort built during Henry VIII’s reign to defend the harbour entrance.
There’s never a shortage of things to see and do in the town, with annual events such as the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature in early May, and the Regatta in late August, both being colourful and lively events worth adding to your calendar.
A holiday cottage in Fowey really is a fantastic base for an escape to Cornwall, with plenty to see and do, plus a great choice of places to eat. And if you fancy venturing out of the town, why not take the ferry across the river to Bodinnick and drive on to the idyllic fishing village of Polperro, or the family and dog-friendly beaches at Talland Bay.
Fowey is a delightful, historic town in Cornwall and its aquarium is a chance to glimpse marine life from the Cornish coast up close. Small but perfectly formed, the aquarium is brimming with opportunities to learn, playing host to a wide range of fish from the tiny gobies and shannies from the shallows, up to conger eels which inhabit deep wrecks. First established in 1952, the aquarium still retains many of the original tanks. Fresh sea water is pumped in daily at high tide and the filtration is minimal, while the majority of fish are obtained locally from fishermen and anglers. A joy for children and adults, opening times vary so check the website before you visit, and prices start at £4 for adults and £2.50 for children.
An English Heritage property built in the 1530s, St Catherine's Castle is an early artillery fort overlooking the River Fowey that formed part of the comprehensive system of coastal defense begun by Henry VIII after his break with the Church of Rome. It continued to be modified right up to the Second World War when it still proved useful as part of a more extensive battery, and as a result, it demonstrates well how military architecture, technology and defensive tactics developed over a period of 400 years. It’s open throughout the year, is free to visit at “any reasonable time during daylight hours” – so there you have it.
The Wingz Bird and Animal Sanctuary was originally built using his own private collection of birds and animals. A family venture, it opened to the public after 2006, they now have relationships with zoos around the world and are able to benefit from breeding loans and swaps to allow visitors to see both common birds and animals, as well as rare and endangered species. They also help organisations and individuals like the RSPCA with rehoming and rehabilitation work. When you visit you can meet or adopt the animals you see, pop into Waffles Coffee Shop for hot food at the weekends and have sandwiches and light bites any day. There’s free parking, a picnic area, a gift shop and all necessary facilities. There’s also a dog kennel that’s free of charge for four legged friends while you visit, and prices start at £6.95 for adults and £4.95 for children. Opening times vary so do check the website for more information.
An award-winning adventure play centre, Kidzworld Indoor Play is just outside St Austell, and is predominantly under cover, making it ideal whatever the weather. A veritable feast of bright colours and entertainment, they have slides, a climbing challenge, a mini golf course, SkyTrail, dodgems and Laser Tag all available, and all activities are included in the price. Prices start at £2.50 for adults and £5.50 for children aged three to 12 years, or £4 for children aged two.
Perhaps one of Cornwall’s most famous tourist attractions, the Eden Project is an educational charity and social project promoting sustainability. Once a working china clay pit, it was the brainchild of Tim Smit who also restored the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Today its an ode to a world of nature, literally, with a Rainforest Biome, Mediterranean Biome, outdoor gardens, England’s longest zip wire, sculptures, kids’ attractions, cafes and restaurants. They also host seasonal events and exhibitions, making it a wonderful experience for family and friends. Prices start at £22.50 for adults booking in advance.
As the oldest pub in Fowey, The Ship Inn has been a focal point for visitors and locals alike for more than four centuries. The menu makes full use of the fresh seafood and superb produce from nearby farms. This is all washed down with Cornish ales, a fine wine selection or real coffee.
The Ship Inn, Trafalgar Square, Fowey PL23 1AZ (T: 01726 832230)
In the heart of Polruan, Back Beach is not short of facilities and nearby shops and restaurants. A pretty little beach that’s popular with families, it has beautiful views across the river to Fowey and is a lovely place to watch the world go by with all the boats pottering along in front of you. It’s predominantly a sand beach, leading to a sheltered section of the river, so it’s good for swimming, but there aren’t any lifeguards around. The only complication for access is that it’s very difficult to park in the village, and it’s a considerable walk down the steep hill from the car park at St Saviours, or a ferry ride across the river from Fowey. Therefore, it’s best to combine a visit with a day exploring the village itself to make the most of it.
Between Polruan and Polperro along the coastal path, Lantivet Bay is only accessible at low tide when a sand and pebble beach is revealed. Parking is in the National Trust car park at Polruan, where there are toilets as well, but there aren’t any facilities closer to the beach itself. Dogs are allowed all year round, which is lovely as it’s the perfect beach to incorporate into a walk. The National Trust recommends a charming circular route, starting in the car park and taking in 2.4 miles of beautiful bays and surrounding landscape, and giving you the chance to explore the area with its rich smuggling heritage.
In South East Cornwall, Polperro is widely thought to be one of the area’s most picturesque fishing villages. Brimming with whitewashed cottages all the way down the harbour, the beach sits in a sheltered position under the cliffs, only visible at low tide and close to the harbour. Unsurprisingly, it’s a popular destination and can get busy in the summer months. Dogs are not permitted at the beach during peak season, from Easter to October, and while parking in the village itself is all but impossible, but there’s a large car park about a mile up the valley with a regular shuttle service going up and down the hill.
A small, quiet beach between Looe and Polperro, Talland Bay actually comprises two beaches, one of which has sand both at low and high tide and is good for swimming all the time, while the other is less sandy and is easiest to swim from at high tide. There is a ramp for launching boats from the main beach and there are lots of small coves and tidal pools to swim in as well, so it’s a delightful area to explore in the water. Parking is limited, but there is a small, free car park by the beach and paid parking at The Beach Café, all of which provide easy access to the sand. Thanks to the nearby café, visitors can also benefit from the accompanying facilities, on-site shop, and tuck into Roskillys Cornish Ice-Cream as well.
In East Looe, the beach sits directly in front of the old town, sheltered by the Banjo Pier and overlooked from the east by the hillside of Mount Ararat. A good family beach that has something for everyone, at low tide the sandy location is safe for swimming although it’s recommended you steer clear of the river mouth beyond the pier. The beach backs on to a seafront walkway which runs its length all the way to Second Beach to the east, where it tends to be less busy and it’s good for snorkeling. As it’s in the centre of the town there are lots of facilities and cafes nearby, but in the summer it’s a very popular spot and parking can be tricky, with traffic prohibited during these months, so be prepared for a bit of a walk.