Despite having lived in the West Country for ten years, I never made it down the M5 to Cornwall, how ridiculous is that? So finally last summer I rectified that and booked a long weekend in the gorgeous Fowey (pronounced ‘Foy’).
Fowey is a small fishing town just a short drive from the Cornish towns of Lostwithiel and Looe. The nearest mainline train stations are Par and St Austell, both of which have links down to Penzance and up to Bristol and London Paddington.
We decided on Fowey after asking for recommendations for beautiful places to stay on the coast in Cornwall (the end nearer to Bristol ideally) with lots of things to do and good places to eat nearby or in town – we didn’t want to spend the whole trip driving!
We drove down from Bristol and stopped into Plymouth on the way back to break up the journey which took about 2.5hrs. We also thought about stopping into Salcombe Gin Distillery, Shaprham Wine or Exeter if we’d had time, but there are plenty of options if you’re coming from further afield – Dart’s Farm was a great stop off on the way back!
We stayed at The Ship Inn in Fowey, just by the harbour and behind the Fowey Aquarium. There are also plenty of bigger hotels, guesthouses and apartments to rent in the town, but we liked the look of the pub and loved the location – plus it was £75 per night for a room with breakfast for two people, absolute bargain!
Things to do in Fowey
The town itself is quite small but very pretty, so it’s definitely worth a wander around the harbour, down the Esplanade and along Fore St where the town’s high street is. There are lots of cute shops dotted around, cafes, bakeries and traditional pubs. The Fowey Aquarium also looked interesting when we wandered past and read about its record-breaking former resident!
Being on an estuary and by the coast means there are lots of scenic walks in and around Fowey – if you follow the Esplanade down you’ll join the South West Coastal Path which is definitely worth exploring.
The walk itself is mostly fairly easygoing (although involves a fair few steps and slopes in parts, so not great for buggies, wheelchairs or those with mobility issues) and takes in some gorgeous viewpoints and historic sights on the way to Gribben Head.
Some of the sights we passed included the pretty Readymoney Cove and the ruins of the 16th Century St Catherine’s Castle, plus you get some lush views back to Fowey and down the estuary. The walk from Fowey to St Catherine’s Castle took us about half an hour, and on to Gribben Head is about an hour.
If you have a few hours set aside, you can follow the path past Gribben Head around to Polkerris which is another gorgeous fishing town – I was recommended Sam’s on the Beach restaurant and the views from Rashleigh Inn pub right on the beach.
One of our favourite things we did was getting the ferry across the river from Fowey to Polruan (ferries run daily until 10pm), which only takes 10 minutes and gives you some great views (plus I just love boat trips). Polruan is a a fair bit smaller than Fowey but is still a pretty town to walk around.
When we arrived the rain came in soon after so we warmed up with a couple of drinks at The Lugger (the food looked great too) before getting the ferry back.
We also saw that you can get the ferry from Fowey across to Boddinick further along the river (ferries run until 8pm) – another recommendation we had was to visit The Old Ferry Inn there and to look out for the blue & white house as it used to belong to author Daphne du Maurier!
Food and Drink
Of course when in Cornwall the main things you need to try are the local seafood, cream tea and pasties, but when we first arrived it was quite late and most places had stopped serving so we stopped into Sunny Spice on Fore Street and really enjoyed our curries – Tom said that the bhuna was best he’s ever had! The team were also really lovely and didn’t hurry us despite us arriving not long before their closing time. Recommended if you don’t fancy fish or pub grub.
Fowey has plenty of lovely pubs, The Ship Inn where we stayed is owned by St Austell Brewery so has a good selection of their beers as well as good pub classics on the menu. The Lugger nearby (not to be confused with The Lugger across the river in Polruan!) is another charming St Austell Brewery pub and has some rooms upstairs and a traditional menu.
We didn’t have time to try all of the places we were recommended to eat, but The Old Quay House came up a few times and has great views over the harbour and does a more sophisticated menu as well as a snazzy afternoon tea.
Other places to try:
- Fitzroy of Fowey for gorgeous fish and seafood
- Bufala does great quality pizza and a range of Italian dishes
- Pintxo is fantastic for tapas
- Appleton’s is the plae to go for a classy meal
- Pinky Murphy’s for coffee & cake
- Sam’s Kitchen for cocktails, comfort food & seafood
Nearby activities and day trips
We ventured out a few times, but due to our visit being in late September the weather was quite unpredictable, so we didn’t get a chance to do as much outdoor exploring as we’d like such as the coastal paths and Lost Garden of Heligan.
Instead we opted for activities which had a mix of indoor and outdoor areas, starting with the Eden Project, just outside St Austell.
I’ve wanted to visit the Eden Project for years and despite some people saying that it has lost some of its splendour over the years, it still took my breath away and was a really enjoyable few hours, even on an overcast and chilly day!
There are two main biomes, one which is based on a rainforest climate, and one which is more of a dryer Mediterranean climate. The gardens inside are beautiful, and on the day we visited there was a small concert going on in one of the areas of the Mediterranean one. There are also lots of outdoor garden areas, restaurants and a zipwire for braver visitors!
After visiting the Eden Project, we tried to visit the nearby Knightor Winery for a tasting but it was closed for a private event – next time! They usually do tastings throughout the day and have an acclaimed restaurant on site which hosts regular dining events.
The following day we got a taxi from Fowey to the St Austell Brewery (30min drive from Fowey, our taxi cost £17 each way, or it’s about a 20min walk from the St Austell train station), I’m a fan of their beers (they now own Bath Ales – also a brewery tour worth doing – so their distribution in Bristol & Bath has crept up a fair bit).
You can do the Brewing Experience Tour for £15 (which lasts 90min and includes a beer token and samples at the end), or we did the The Brewhouse Tour for £25 which ws a bit more extensive and lasted a couple of hours. Tickets include a beer token for a drink of your choice, beer sampling at the end of the tour and a meat or veggie Cornish pasty. Our guide was brilliant and we managed to sample lots of their beers, plus the brewery bar has a billiards table so we stuck around for a while afterwards!
After the brewery tour we headed down to Charlestown, which is a historic town on the coast by St Austell, you can walk from the brewery or train station in about 40min, or take a taxi.
If you’ve watched Poldark you’ll probably recognise the harbour area of Charlestown, there are a few cute restaurants and bars, but again not long after we arrived the rain closed in so we stopped into The Pier House for a drink and to warm up, but other recommendations we got included The Longstore for dinner, Wreckers for some al fresco drinks, The Rashleigh Arms for its roast dinners and pub garden, and The Rum Sailor in a small shack in the harbour for a surprisingly extensive selection of rums.
As I mentioned, Fowey is in a great location and close to main roads which easily link further down Cornwall or up towards Devon and the rest of the country.
The nearest town is Lostwithiel which didn’t seem to have much going on, but close to that is the Colwith Distillery which is about 3 miles from Fowey, and Green Cart Farm Distillery just a few minutes on from that. Also located in Lostwithiel is Castle Brewery which doesn’t offer tours or tastings but does have an off license in case you want to purchase any of their beers.
On the other side of the River Fowey is Lerryn, a small village with some pretty views and a chance to cross the river on stepping stones at low tide – this forms part of the Hall Walk.
Other places we were recommended nearby but didn’t get a chance to visit this time include:
- Bodmin is 30-40min drive from Fowey and has plenty to see, including Bodmin Jail, Bodmin Moor, Lanhydrock house & gardens, Cardinham Woods, Pencarrow House and gardens, and Harbour Brewing.
- A little further on from Bodmin you’ll get to Camel Valley, a popular vineyard located by the scenic Camel Estuary, where you’ll also find some great walks and wildlife.
- At the mouth of the River Camel you’ll find the well-known town of Padstow, made famous for its food scene by Rick Stein and being on the northern coast of Cornwall it’s also a good spot beaches and surfing.
- Mevagissey and Polperro were also recommended as beautiful small port towns not too far along the coast from Fowey and worth stopping in to.
- The Looe Valley Vineyard is near Liskeard, so a bout a 30min drive from Fowey, and runs tours.