Cornwall

Fowey Side Entrance

The author Daphne Du Maurier loved Fowey. She instantly connected with this pretty town as a place where she had the freedom to walk, to wander and to write. It fed her creative senses 50 years ago, and I wanted to find out whether an autumn meander would feed mine too.

“Like the gateway to another world. My spirits soared.” Daphne Du Maurier, 1967

Fowey

I begin my visit by abandoning the car in the Beach Car Park (just follow the signs in) and switching to trusty shank’s pony

  • Readymoney is a key point on the Saint’s Way
  • Take some time to drink in the view and snap a few photos
  • Fowey has many boutique clothing and homeware stores

Although I have heard many good reports of Fowey this is my first visit and I’m determined to do it properly and make those all-important first impressions count. Rather than parking in the main car park and heading straight into town, I choose to approach Fowey by a side entrance, intent on stumbling upon some unexpected delights as I navigate my way towards the centre. I should mention at this point that it’s pronounced Foy – remember: “enjoy Fowey” as a rhyme and you’ll get it right every time.

I begin my visit by abandoning the car in the Beach Car Park (just follow the signs in) and switching to trusty shank’s pony as my mode of transport – much more suitable for navigating the narrow streets and ‘unsuitable for vehicles’ pathways of this Cornish gem.

The Parade, an attractive downhill pathway accessed from the corner of the car park, leads me down though the trees to Readymoney Beach. The origins of this delightful name, like many in Cornwall, are obscure. It is believed to possibly derive either from the cove’s function as a key ancient trading site or from ‘Redman’, meaning pebbly ford.

If you’re looking for a longer walk, Readymoney is a key point on the Saint’s Way, a 30- mile coast-to-coast pilgrimage route from Padstow in the north to Fowey in the south. For a shorter addition to my walk there is a National Trust one-miler called the Covington Walk, which takes in some stunning vistas over the water.

I pause to enjoy the beach for about half an hour and enjoy watching the gamboling joy of local labradors Grace and Favour who have just been allowed back on their beloved beach after the summertime hiatus. If Disney built a pirate cove for swimming in Readymoney is surely what it would look like (and even be called!) – and in warmer weather or if you’re feeling particularly brave, I would recommend a stop here for a refreshing dip in the sea. There’s even a diving platform to haul yourself out onto. It’s October when I visit and, although it’s a sunny day and I am told the sea is at its warmest of the year, I opt for a refreshing paddle in the shallows.

Fowey peephole

Next I make my way to the corner of the beach and tackle the 66 steps from the beach up to the top of the hill and what surely must be the most perfect view back into Fowey. Du Maurier found her first Cornish home at Readymoney Cottage at the foot of this hill in the 1940’s (look for the plaque on the side of the house) and her words echo in my ears as I gaze down on the sun glinting off the hulls of the little white boats bobbing on an azure blue sea – truly a British idyll. To get to this spot, make sure you take the right fork when you are almost at the top of the hill.

Take some time to drink in the view and snap a few photos, which will doubtless capture the English Heritage flag flying from the top of the ruined St Catherine’s Castle. This is one of a pair of small artillery forts Henry VIII had built to defend Fowey in about 1540 – you can see the other across the water at Polruan. Although built around the same time as Pendennis and St Mawes Castles in Falmouth, these are much smaller.

Du Maurier found her first Cornish home at Readymoney Cottage at the foot of the beach hill in the 1940’s

To reach what remains of the castle, retrace your steps and this time take the left fork, signed accordingly, and you’ll soon emerge from the woods into the well-preserved lower-tier two-gun battery which dates back to the Crimean War in 1855. Thirty-nine more steps lead you up into the main body of the castle with more splendid views through the windows back towards Fowey.

It’s back this way I head next, returning to Readymoney Beach using a slightly longer, less steep pathway just to the left of my original route. I wander along the Esplanade and find myself having to close my mouth as I admire the stunning houses on one side and the awe inspiring view on the other.

Heading back towards town I detour twice – first to take in the famous Red Rocket at Whitehouse beach with its paddling pool and ferry landing slip. The Rocket is a navigational device used to guide boats safely into the harbour. On a clear day its light can be seen for eight miles.

Fowey river glimpse

My second detour takes me into the Old Grammar School Gardens – an exotic-plant-filled, secret-garden-style oasis, accessed through a heavy wrought iron gate. It’s a perfect spot to sit with a book or to simply watch the world go by. I resolve to return here later with a takeaway cream tea.

From here it’s only a hop and a skip into the centre of Fowey with its many boutique clothing and homeware stores, independent cafes, tearooms and bakeries and to the tantalising prospect of a foray onto the water with a host of boat trip options. I’ll be pondering them as I pop into the Lifebuoy Café on Lostwithiel Street for a well-earned fish finger butty. Yum.

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