Best Things to do in Fowey: A Cornish Medieval Town

Fowey from the sea

There are so many things to do in Fowey! This beautiful little coastal town sits on the Fowey Estuary and the south coast of Cornwall and is packed with tonnes of attractions and historical quirks. 

It’s worth spending at least a day in Fowey – you can get a feel of the ancient streets of the town in this time, but it’s also a lovely place to spend a staycation. You can also use it as a base to explore the rest of the southeast Cornish coastline! If you’re wondering what to do in Fowey, here is some inspiration.

About Fowey

Statue of bird in Fowey

Fowey is an ancient fishing port that is pronounced Foy – locals say that this is so it rhymes with joy! 

It started its life in around the 12th century as a Medieval town which built up around its natural harbour – it is the largest between Plymouth and Falmouth. 

As Plymouth grew, Fowey harbour lost its significance. However, fishing was still a big part of life here throughout the centuries. 

It played a part in D Day in World War Two – Fowey was the main port where ammunition was loaded to land on Omaha Beach in Normandy. 

In recent years, it was famous for being famous novelist Daphne Du Maurier‘s home – she loved the beautiful heritage coast and moved here, basing many of her books on the surrounding areas of the ancient harbour town. 

Nowadays, it is a popular spot with holidaymakers, with lots of tourist attractions, charming narrow lanes, an amazing range of nearby beaches, and plenty of delicious food options. 

Like many Cornish towns and villages, it can be packed in the summer months, but Fowey has an irresistible charm even in the middle of winter. 

Things to do in Fowey

St Catherine’s Castle

St Catherine's Castle Fowey

Built by Henry VIII in the 15th century, St Catherine’s Castle was built to defend the estuary and it is today one of the best places to visit in Fowey.

Henry VIII was worried about the European invasion in Cornwall, and subsequently, he built fortresses along the south coast. One of the best examples of these is Pendennis Castle in Falmouth.

St Catherine’s Castle is the smallest castle in Cornwall, and it is quite difficult to get to. Just walk up a path from Readymoney Cove and you’ll reach it. You can only access it via a challenging path, but you can get to a point where you will be able to see some of it. 

You can also take a boat up the Fowey Estuary (more on that below!) where you will be able to get a good view of the castle.

Readymoney Cove

Readymoney Cove near Fowey

Readymoney Cove is the main town beach and one of the best in Cornwall. Surrounded by towering cliffs, it is a beautiful family-friendly sheltered cove that is perfect for swimming or watersports. 

Located just a 10 minute walk from the town, it’s ideal for picnicking or spending a sunny afternoon! 

There are toilets available, as well as a cafe that is open in the summer. Taking a stroll here is definitely one of the best things to do in Fowey!

Walk along the Esplanade

Esplanade at Fowey

The Fowey Esplanade is a wonderful part of the town and is one of my favourite narrow streets in Cornwall.

With pastel-coloured terraced houses, this street connects Readymoney Cove to Fowey. It’s a beautiful place to take some photos, and there are also a few bars and restaurants, including Pintxo, a tapas and sherry bar. 

Nowadays, the houses are all holiday homes, but they are very historic. Some used to function as accommodation for police officers – I know this because my granddad used to be the police officer of Fowey, and he and his family lived here when my dad was very young!

Fowey Museum

Fowey Museum

If you’re interested in history, Fowey Museum is a treasure trove of information. There’s loads to discover here – from the history of Daphne Du Maurier to Fowey’s contribution to the D Day landings. It’s only a pound to enter, and it’s well worth popping into to find a little more about the town!

Fowey River Gallery

Cornwall is famous for its excellent art galleries, and Fowey River Gallery is no exception. They showcase lots of different local artists, with varying displays throughout the year. You’ll find something different every time you visit!

Fowey Aquarium

Fowey Aquarium

Fowey Aquarium is a small enterprise that houses some of the fish that you’ll find around the South Cornish seaside. The aquarium is relatively small, and I didn’t feel entirely comfortable about how packed in the fish were – but it is somewhere to educate people about marine life. 

Fowey River Cruises

Daphne Du Maurier's House on a Fowey River Cruise

When you’re in Fowey, you’ve got to take to the water! You can take a boat trip up and down the estuary. You’ll go past Daphne Du Maurier’s old house, see some epic views of the Fowey estuary from the river, and learn about the china clay industry. It’s also an excellent opportunity to get a view of St Catherine’s Castle!

You can book Fowey cruises at the stall by the harbour. It costs about £9 per person.

Speaking of Daphne Du Maurier, when my granddad was the policeman in Fowey, he used to do house visits. One of his favourite houses to visit was Daphne Du Maurier’s because the chef would always make him a ham sandwich! 

Go Kayaking or Stand Up Paddleboarding

Fowey’s estuary location makes it the ideal place for watersports. You can go paddle boarding or kayaking up and down the river, which is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying the scenery! 

For information about renting, click here. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Fowey! 

Rent your own boat

Rent your own boat in Fowey

If you want a unique experience, you can also rent your own boat in Fowey! You’ll have the chance to explore the estuary independently and see some of the best views. This costs around £50 per boat.

Land Train

If you want to explore Fowey’s attractions more, try the land train. This takes you around the town and is a guided tour, telling you stories about the place. It’ll help you understand Fowey’s history and culture on a deeper level! 

You can purchase tickets to the Land Train at its starting point close to the harbour.

Take the Polruan Ferry

Polruan

The Polruan Ferry connects Fowey and Polruan, a historic fishing village with a boatyard. The village is built on a steep hill, and it’s a lovely place for a walk around and visiting bars and restaurants. 

Lantic Bay

An hour’s walk from Polruan along the South West Coast Path is Lantic Bay. This is a paradise beach, run by the National Trust, that doesn’t see too many tourists because it isn’t very accessible.

You will need to do a steep climb down to the beach, so only attempt it if you are physically able to. 

You’ll walk along the South West Coast Path for the first part of it, taking in the panoramic views of the Cornish coast before descending onto the beach itself. 

It’s worth the trek – it’s a relatively quiet, paradise-like beach with little in the way of people. If you’ve got a spare afternoon while in Fowey, it’s worth checking Lantic Bay out! 

Walk to Gribbin Head on the South West Coast Path

South West Coast Path near Fowey

Gribbin Head is another excellent walk from Fowey along the South West Coast Path. This is a beautiful section of the coastal path – you’ll see where Daphne Du Maurier got her inspiration from as you like and take in the stunning views of the coast below you! 

It is 2.8 miles, or just under 6 kilometres, to Gribbin Head. On the way back, you can retrace your steps for a short distance and then follow a route through the countryside. Click here to read more about this walk.

Shrew Books

Shrew Books

This bookstore (which used to be called Bookends of Fowey), is a popular Fowey attraction in the centre of town. It is an independent store selling all sorts of books, with a particular emphasis on Cornish literature. Located in a picturesque blue building, it’s a lovely shop to pop into while you’re in town! 

What to eat and drink in Fowey

Tarquins Gin Shop

Tarquins Gin Fowey

If you’re a fan of gin, make sure that you head to this shop! Tarquins has a huge range of their Cornish gins – you can do a tasting of different flavours or buy a bottle to take home with you! 

Try Fowey Mussels

Haveners in Fowey

Fowey is perhaps most famous for its mussels, which are picked from the river. You’ll find Fowey mussels on restaurant menus all over Cornwall, Devon and further afield – but why not try them here, where they’re as fresh as possible! Try Havener’s Fowey for the best mussels.

Bufala Fowey

Another lovely place to eat in Fowey is Bufala. They serve up delicious pizzas and have amazing harbour views from their terrace.

Cornish pasties

Cornish Pasties

Like most Cornish towns, Fowey is teeming with pasty shops. The Cornish Bakery is a chain, but they have a huge range of pasties, including vegetarian options and other Cornish staples like cream teas! 

The Best Things to do near Fowey

Lost Gardens of Heligan

Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are a unique place to visit in Cornwall. This botanical garden has lots of unique plants and fascinating history. 

It was part of the Heligan estate, which was run by the Tremayne’s (also people I have a family connection to!). However, it was a hidden garden for decades, as the estate fell into disrepair in World War One, and the gardens were only rediscovered in the 1990s.  

The gardens remain one of the most popular attractions in Cornwall, so definitely visit them while you’re in Fowey! They are a 35 minute drive from the town. 

Restormel Castle

Restormel Castle
Photo credit English Heritage

Restormel Castle is a popular Cornwall castle. It was made in the 13th century as a summer retreat for its wealthy owners. It is an English Heritage property nowadays and is mainly ruins, but it is set in beautiful countryside. It is a 25 minute drive from Fowey. 

You can purchase tickets for Restormel Castle here

Bodmin Moor

Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

Bodmin Moor is one of the best places for hiking in Cornwall. The huge moor is famous for its wild, foreboding atmosphere and two peaks – Rough Tor and Brown Willy – the highest in Cornwall. 

If you are into hiking, it’s definitely worth doing a day hike on Bodmin Moor. You can also visit Jamaica Inn, a historic coaching house that used to be a smuggler’s hideaway but is nowadays a hotel and restaurant. 

Bodmin Jail

Bodmin Jail cell block near Bodmin in Cornwall

Bodmin Jail is one of the best tourist attractions in this part of Cornwall. The jail operated during Victorian times, and if you visit, you’ll have the chance to see the old cells and see what the penal system was like during this period. 

It is nowadays an immersive experience that helps you really feel how unjust and unfair the prison system could be. It’s worth going with a tour guide, but you can also do a self-guided tour. There are also lots of other things to do in Bodmin, so you could make a whole day trip out of it!

Where to stay in Fowey

Narrow Streets of Fowey
  • The Ship Inn is a pub with rooms. All rooms are cleaned to perfection and have cosy furniture with modern en suite bathrooms. Of course, you can also enjoy all the food and drink at the pub below! Click here to book your stay.
  • Havener’s is a popular pub with boutique-style rooms. There is a restaurant downstairs serving delicious seafood, and each room upstairs is decorated to perfection. It is also in a great position right on the harbour. Click here for more information.
  • Trenython Manor Hotel and Spa is located just out of Fowey and is a popular hotel with spa facilities. Rooms are beautifully decorated, and there is a restaurant on site. Click here to read more and to make your reservation.

The best Fowey attractions

There is so much to do in Fowey. Whether you’re after artisan shops, an attractive coastline, or delicious food, you’ll love all of these Fowey attractions! Be sure to add it to your Cornwall itinerary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *