Fowey from St Catherine's Castle
Fowey from St Catherine's Castle

This attractive town on the Fowey estuary was once a centre of the Cornish china clay industry but is now a popular yachting destination. There are few in the way of recognised "attractions" beyond the sheer natural beauty of the region.

The most interesting historic attraction in the area is St Catherine's Castle, a Tudor fort built as part of Henry VIII's ambitious scheme of coastal defences against an attack by the French. St Catherine's Castle is reached by footpath from Readymoney car park, on the southern fringes of Fowey.

Fowey harbour at sunset
Fowey harbour at sunset

The town is built upon the steep west bank of the river estuary, with narrow streets creating a winding maze. In those streets you will find an enjoyable mix of antique shops, restaurants, and old pubs, mixed with ship suppliers and harbour offices.

The title of the oldest house in Fowey is hotly contested, the prime claimants being Noah's Ark and the imaginatively named "Old House of Fowey", which dates to 1430. The house is a relative newcomer compared to the parish church, dedicated to St Fimbarrus, which was begun in 1336.

The original name of Fowey was "Foye" and the current name is still pronounced that way. With its long tradition as a port, it is not surprising that Fowey has associations with famous English seafarers; both Drake and Raleigh sailed from here, and the town was important enough in the Middle Ages to be subject to attacks by the French and Spanish (1380).

St Catherine's Castle ruins
St Catherine's Castle ruins

Aside from the delights of sailing, Fowey is most noted for its association with author Daphne du Maurier. Du Maurier came to Fowey when she was in her twenties, and for many years she lived at Ferryside, next to the Bodinnick Ferry.

Each May Fowey celebrates the Daphne Du Maurier Festival, with performances and readings from her novels as well as walks following in the footsteps of her literary characters. Another major literary association is with Sir Arthur Quillan-Couch, whose former home The Haven stands in the town.

Fowey is the centre for exploring the towns and villages that seem to hide along the twisting waterways of the Fowey Estuary. Across the river lies the picturesque boat-building town of Polruan, accessible by ferry. Further upriver is Lostwithiel, an old mining centre, and nearby is Restormel Castle.

Fowey is the southern terminus of the Saint's Way, a 26-mile path to Padstow. The trail marks the route followed by 6th-century Celtic missionary monks from Brittany on their way to Wales. For a shorter outing, take in the 4 mile Hall Walk along the banks of the river to Polruan. The walk was the scene of an abortive attempt on the life of Charles II.

Another outdoor option is a visit to Porfell Animal Land Wildlife Park, a relaxed family attraction which is home to exotic and familiar animals both.


If you come by car, do yourself a big favour and park in the 'Main' car park, rather than trying to drive into the town centre close to the harbour. The harbour area is a maze of narrow lanes and one-way streets, and there are very few places for cars to park. You can easily find yourself trapped in the one-way system with no option but to drive several miles out of town before you can turn around. I speak from sad experience!

The Main car park is well signposted and is just a 5-minute walk to the harbour area. Your other option is the Readymoney car park, also well signposted, but located on the southern edge of Fowey, close to the St Catherine's Castle path but further from the town centre.

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About Fowey
Address: Fowey, Cornwall, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location map
OS: SX124 518
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Fowey, St Fimbarrus Church - 0.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

St Catherines Castle - 0.8 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Lanteglos-by-Fowey, St Wyllow - 1.3 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Lantic Bay - 1.6 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

St Winnow Church - 3.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Par, St Mary's Church - 4.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Tregrehan Garden - 4.6 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Eden Project - 4.7 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

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