Fowey, Cornwall

Fowey is all romance. The town’s face and its heroic history as one of Cornwall’s principal ports was, and is, its fortune. There are steep twisting streets of whitewashed cottages, their pattern unchanged since medieval times; a triple-aisled church at its heart, stuffed with monuments to the Rashleighs of Menabilly and the Treffrys, whose ancient pile ‘Place’, with its battlemented walls and turrets, overshadows the churchyard. There are old inns like The Ship and the flashily handsome King of Prussia, which takes centre stage on Albert Quay, with its glistening granite steps and its Doric columns; and there are the magical wooded creeks winding to secret places along the estuary.

FoweyFowey’s quaintness remains intact despite the Victorian speculators’ terraces, the grand Fowey Hotel and a veritable palace called Fowey Hall, which crowd the steep hillside towards the open sea. Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) ‘discovered’ Fowey and in 1892 moved to the Haven, just beyond the little sandy sweep of Readymoney Cove. He did much to enhance the desirability of the town through his novels, which wereoften set in Fowey, and gradually it became the haunt of artistic people. In 1927 the actor-manager Gerald du Maurier bought a holiday hideaway called Ferryside in the tiny hamlet of Bodinnick which looks across to Fowey from the eastern side of the river. It was here his daughter Daphne wrote many of her novels, which are redolent of Fowey, its families and its surroundings. ‘When I first arrived at Ferryside,’ she wrote, ‘I would seize every opportunity to explore, to walk for miles – bluebells everywhere – or cross the ferry to Fowey, walk through the town, and so to the castle on the cliff above the harbour mouth. Soon I discovered with fascination the enchanted woods on Gribben headland … ‘ It was there that she found her ‘house of secrets’ in the hidden and deserted Menabilly, and eventually rented it from the Rashleigh family for thirty years. It became the setting for Rebecca: ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again … Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand.’

Even without the presence of Fowey’s famous children, the headland landscape, the penny royal in the alley walls around the churchyard, the grassy tea garden terrace below the Fowey Hotel, which looks towards the grey roofs of the little town of Polruan across the water, and the lichen-encrusted woods around Readymoney Cove would captivate any romantic heart.

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Gary Radford

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