The My Favourite Cottages guide to holidaying in Fowey

What Makes Fowey Special?

  • ‍Stunning beaches and estuary
  • Rich maritime heritage
  • Set in Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Fine Victorian and Edwardian architecture
  • Tea rooms and pubs overlooking the harbour
  • Narrow streets full of independent businesses
  • Beautiful church dedicated to St Finbarr
  • Fresh mussels, lobster and mackerel
  • Calm, clean water for sailing and swimming
  • Close to Cornwall’s top attractions

What Can We Do in Fowey?

  • ‍Take a cruise along the coast.
  • Go canoeing on the river.
  • Board the passenger ferry to Polruan.
  • Wander through cliffside Headland Garden.
  • Meet rare sea creatures at Fowey Aquarium.
  • Stroll along the Esplanade.
  • Hike to the top of Polruan Hill for amazing views of the estuary and coast.
  • Experience Fowey Art and Literature Festival.
  • Delve into Daphne du Maurier’s association with the town.
  • Explore the town’s maritime history at Fowey Museum.
  • Walk the Southwest Coast Path.
  • Enjoy a plate of mussels straight from Fowey River.
  • See the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
  • Pick up fresh seafood at Fowey Fish.
  • Browse local art at Fowey River Gallery.
  • Treat yourself to a bag of fudge from Middleton’s.
  • Book a ticket on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
  • Take the family to Charlestown Shipwreck Centre.

Where Can We Stay in Fowey?

  • ‍Stay in one of the hotels near the waterfront, such as Fowey Hall or King of Prussia.
  • Book a caravan at Polkerris Holidays Beside the Sea holiday park.
  • Find a cosy bed and breakfast or inn such as the Old Ferry.
  • Book a holiday cottage in one of the winding, cobbled lanes overlooking Fowey harbour.

All About Fowey

Fowey is a small town at the mouth of the River Fowey, on the south coast of Cornwall. It has been one of the county’s most important ports since medieval times, thanks to its deep, natural harbour. Today, Fowey is a bustling town and a popular spot for fishing and sailing. With its calm, shimmering waters, fresh seafood and charming centre, this ancient community is a wonderful choice for a holiday on the South Cornwall Coast.

Wandering through the tangle of narrow streets in the heart of Fowey, you will discover unique historical landmarks such as the Old House of Foye, on Fore Street, a medieval home which is now a shop. Nearby, Place House is a striking tower behind the local church, dedicated to St Finbarr, who is said to have passed through the town during the 6th century. Don’t miss the old blockhouses at the harbour mouth, from which chains were once suspended to secure the harbour. The ruins of the castle at St Catherine’s Point and the 6th century standing stone just outside the town are also worth a visit.

Fowey is a great place to enjoy the best fresh produce Cornwall has to offer, with an excellent fishmonger and butchers selling the finest seafood and meat, straight from the surrounding coast and countryside. You will also find excellent restaurants, where you can try a few local specialties such as Fowey River mussels, lobster, sardines and mackerel. Enjoy a hearty meal with a pint of local ale at the Lugger Inn, treat yourself to a burger or plate of seafood at Sam’s or indulge in an afternoon cream tea at the Dwelling House. Fowey is also packed with independent shops and galleries. Bookends is a friendly bookshop specialising in local authors, the Q Gallery features the work of some of the region’s best painters and Treasure of Fowey sells unique gifts, jewellery and cards.

The coast and countryside around Fowey are stunning, with white-sand beaches, creeks and inlets, which are perfect for sailing and swimming, as the sea is much calmer here than on the north coast. Book a cruise on one of the pleasure boats which run trips along Fowey River and the coast from the harbour or take a guided canoe tour of the area’s wildlife. If you fancy a day of swimming or sunbathing, head to Readymoney Cove, Par Sands or Lansallos Beach. Fowey is also a stone’s throw from some of Cornwall’s top attractions, including the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Pinetum Park and Pine Lodge Gardens, Bodmin and Wenford Railway, Restormel Castle and Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre are all worth a visit. The coast near Fowey is scattered with idyllic historic fishing villages such as Polperro, Looe and Mevagissey.

Fowey History

Fowey was the most important port in medieval Cornwall, with tin, fish, wool and other goods traded from the harbour in large quantities. The natural harbour gave the town an advantage, and trade with Europe developed rapidly. Local ship owners regularly hired their vessels to the King for use in various wars, but the town also developed a reputation for piracy. During the Hundred Years War, a group of privateers known as the Fowey Gallants were granted a licence to seize French vessels.

In the 14th century, Fowey Harbour was defended by 160 archers, and later, by a pair of blockhouses which were built on either side of the harbour’s entrance, from which chains were suspended to secure the harbour mouth. After the town was attacked by the French in 1457, a small castle was built at St Catherine’s Point, on the western side of the harbour. In 1667, the new defence was used to successfully fend off an attack by the Dutch.

During the English Civil War, the Earl of Essex took a Parliamentarian Army to Lostwithiel and occupied the peninsula around Fowey. In August of 1644, a Royalist Army surrounded Essex’s troops, who forced their way through the Royalist lines and retreated towards Saltash, leaving foot soldiers to be evacuated by sea. Essex and some of his officers managed to escape, but the majority surrendered near Golant and were marched to Poole.

When an increasing amount of trade moved to Plymouth, fishing became the town’s most important industry and smuggling became widespread. Tin, copper and iron mines, quarries and china clay pits also became important industries in the area around Fowey, leading to improvements to many neigbouring harbours. Fowey’s natural deep anchorage and rail link gave it an advantage over its rivals nearer the mines, and a beacon tower was erected at Gribben Head to improve navigation into the harbour.

Fowey has inspired many writers, including Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch or ‘Q’, Leo Walmsley and Daphne du Maurier. A number of stories by Quiller-Couch unfold in ‘Troy Town’, a thinly disguised version of Fowey, and the du Maurier Festival Society runs the Fowey Festival of Art and Literature every May.

In 1869, the Lostwithiel and Fowey Railway opened to jetties above Carne Point, and four years later, the Cornwall Minerals Railway opened a line from Newquay and Par to further jetties near Carne Point. The railways were initially used only for goods but soon launched a passenger service.

How Do You Get to Fowey?

Fowey’s nearest airport is Newquay, roughly 50 minutes by car, with routes to cities across the UK. Exeter and Bristol offer a greater variety of flights and are approximately 90 minutes and two-and-a-half hours away respectively. Travellers from further afield will generally need to fly to London and hire a car or use public transport to get to Fowey. Travellers from western Europe may also want to consider taking their car on the ferry from northern Spain or France to Plymouth or Poole and drive the rest of the way to Fowey.

Fowey is a 25-minute drive to Bodmin Parkway Railway Station, with direct trains to London Paddington. National Express coaches stop in St Austell, a 20-minute drive from Fowey.

Fowey is also well connected to the rest of the UK by road. Driving from London, take the M3 west, exit onto the A303, join the A30 to Honiton and Exeter, take the A38 southbound at Bodmin, take the B3628 south and follow directions to Fowey.