The beautiful town of Fowey - note now to avoid local embarrassment, its pronounced "Foy" as in "Joy" and the place is just that - without doubt in our opinion the highlight of the overnight stops on this section.
A stunning working port and natural harbour at the mouth of the impressive River Fowey Estuary, teeming with wildlife, the town gives access to a run of tranquil coves, creeks and tiny beaches. Somewhat unique in modern Cornwall by retaining its historic charm without too much compromise to modern day visitors, it clings to the hillside in a maze of atmospheric winding streets of medieval and Tudor cottages that offer breathtaking views across the bustle of the river below.
Steeped in maritime history, its fortifications and rugged cliff top boundaries have been occupied since Roman times and its population has defended itself against everything from attempts by the Spanish and French to raze the port, through to resisting the ruin of modern tourist trappings leaving an unspoilt and unique south coast haven.
Drake, Raleigh and Cook have all passed through here, whilst Charles I was shot at and nearly ended his days here. The port has brought inspiration to writers such as Kenneth Graham (up river for sections of ‘Wind in the Willows’) and Daphne du Maurier (‘Rebecca’, ‘House on the Strand’ and a ‘Kings General’ were just some of the books she set here). More recently its recognition came from those who voted it the most desirable place to live in the UK. Fowey holds a fantastic position and character all of its own, and it is a joy to wander through its quays and harbour side browsing the unique and unusual shops, art galleries, restaurants and pubs. With plenty of visiting boats mooring overnight, the town is always a lively place to visit and there is always something going on around town from its fantastic nonstop carnival party during Regatta Week (August ) through to the Daphne du Maurier Literary and Arts Festival in early May.
For a rest day, Fowey is probably the best choice on this route, as there is much to see and do for those with the energy, as well as being the perfect spot to relax and absorb the harbours sights for those who do want to just give their feet a rest. The ruins of St Catherine’s Castle, with superb views over the estuary, stand above the old smuggling beach at Readymoney Cove, ideal for a refreshing dip.
Inland wandering the tiny streets around the harbour, you can take advantage of renowned quality restaurants and Michelin starred bistros whilst mingling with those moored up on visiting boats and yachts as they relax on shore leave. The pubs and cafés have a very continental feel to them enjoying fantastic balcony views out over the comings and goings of the harbour to the cliffs, hills and coastline beyond.
Catch the tiny passenger ferry across the harbour for a visit to Fowey's sister village, Polruan, with its huddles of cottages hugging the cliffs above a tiny quay and the area’s last working boatyard. Alternatively, just hang out in Fowey wandering and browsing through lanes full of unusual and unique local art, craft, and bookshops.
In town you have the small but fascinating Fowey Museum, housed in the old Town Hall as well as a tiny aquarium and ancient ruined Blockhouses which protected the port in days gone by with a giant chain stretched across the mouth of the river to stop raids by the French and Spanish.
The MAD (Mechanical Art & Design) Museum in Trafalgar Square is a great place to explore and interact with over 70 fascinating exhibits in the UK’s only permanent venue for mechanical art.
One of Cornwall’s classic walks “The Hall Walk” runs from here round an inland estuary using two small ferries. At only 4 miles it’s perfect for a “rest day” amble with the most fantastic views of this natural harbour area complete with wooded creeks and old shipwrecks.
For those wanting to get out onto the water Encounter Cornwall can arrange inland canoe expeditions built in to your walking holiday on the tranquil Fowey to Golant and hidden Lerryn through wooded creeks alive with wildlife and mysterious beauty.