At the southern end of The Saints Way route on the South Coast of Cornwall you reach Cornwall’s finest natural harbour at Fowey.
Pronounced "Foy" (to rhyme with joy), and it really is just that. The towns of Fowey, and its smaller neighbour Polruan, stare at each other over the deep blue waters at the end of the stunning Fowey Estuary, teeming with wildlife, wooded creeks, tranquil coves and dramatic rocky coastline. Fairly unique for modern Cornwall, the town retains its historic charm without too much compromise to its visitors. Clinging to the steep hill side, there is a maze of atmospheric narrow medieval streets that emerge at regular intervals to offer breath-taking views across the bustle of the river the estuary head, and the alluring open sea below.
Fowey offers an excellent range of accommodation for The Saints Way walker, with options from pretty whitewashed tudor houses offering B&B through to several luxury hotels overlooking the harbour and coastline. From the grand Fowey Hotel beloved by Daphne du Maurier and perched above the harbour mouth, to The King of Prussia Inn named after Cornwall's infamous smuggler, there is something to match every taste.
The centre of the town is a mish mash of high quality restaurants, most offering straight off the boat seafood, riverside bars and inns, and a tiny main street that can barely accommodate a car. For those on foot, it provides an array of interesting galleries, cafes, second hand bookshops and absorbing and unusual little independent shops. In that sense it is a real decompression chamber back into the hustle and bustle of maritime Cornwall after the remote hamlets you have visited on the Saints Way.
Occupied since Roman times, Fowey has defended itself against everything from endless attempts by the Spanish and French to raze the port from medieval times onwards, through to a modern day resistance to the usual tacky bucket and spade shops that have spoilt so many other harbours on the UK's south coast. Wander through the maze like streets and you will break out to find remains of castles and medieval blockhouses guarding the entrance from the sea, and with tiny little foot ferries making the 10 minute journey over the water to Polruan, every visitor gets to take to water at some point as you explore the place.
Cook, Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake have all passed through here, whilst Charles I was shot at and nearly ended his days in the wooded creeks around Polruan.
Fowey has always inspired writers, including Kenneth Graham (Wind in the Willows) and Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca, House on the Strand and The Birds), who found the location the perfect setting for their novels. More recently its attraction was confirmed again from those who voted it the most desirable place to live in the UK - and who are we to argue. It’s a popular spot for visiting boats and yachts who moor overnight and arrive in little rowing boats for some shore leave, ensuring the town is always a lively place to visit and never loses its sea fairing atmosphere.
If you choose to arrive in late August, there is a nonstop carnival party feel during Regatta Week, or for more highbrow experiences book early to arrive here for the Fowey Festival in early May, with three weeks of walks, events, plays and live music.