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It had been some 35 years since our last visit to Fowey, the small port town at the mouth of the Fowey River on the south Cornish coast. The day before we had been disappointed by a return visit to Looe just along the coast. Looe appeared shabby and uninviting; the cafes and shops did not tempt you inside. It did not appear to be making the best of its stunning location which was a shame. So has Fowey fared any better in the intervening years? We were a little apprehensive that we may be making another somewhat wasted journey. Fowey had indeed fared well, and this town was making the most of an even more stunning location.
Parking the car at the top of the town is easy and the charges reasonable. They have kindly put the disabled spaces close to the car park entrance. However, the walk down to the town is a fair distance and all steeply downhill with plenty of steps to add to the degree of difficulty. Anyone with mobility issues would need to be dropped off by the harbour before parking the car. The walk back to the car park will remove any calories gained from a Cornish cream tea.
It becomes clear as you reach the town centre and harbour area that Fowey hosts many fine, attractive independent shops. It may take some time to reach the river front. One of the first shops that catches your eye is ‘Any Old Lights’. The name is actually self-explanatory. It is a shop that has an eclectic display of vintage and retro old lights: Wall lights, ceiling lights, tripod lights, theatre lights, maritime pieces, clocks and more. An interesting start to the visit.
Just across the lane a little down the hill is a super antique shop featuring mainly jewellery. Anne Evans Jewellery is quite a treasure trove, and her prices are reasonable. We bought a beautiful silver heart shaped pendant for our granddaughter which she was delighted to receive. We could spent some time in here. But, we are really here for the views, especially if you enjoy your photography, so time to wind your way down to the harbour.
We resist the many other shops along the way and bypass the Fowey aquarium, turning the corner to enjoy the extensive view across the river to Polruan. The ferry to the ancient fishing village of Polruan leaves on an almost continual loop during the day and is very popular. It is fascinating to spend a few minutes watching the ferry thread its way across the river mouth, slipping between all the moored vessels and avoiding the craft of varying sizes moving up and down the river. From the harbour you can hire a boat for self-driving and also you notice that it is possible to paddle board in the river. Fowey river entrance is one of the most attractive riverscapes in the country.
Going between the enticing watering holes on the harbour square to the riverside you are confronted with a most disconcerting sculpture of a huge, menacing rook. If you have seen the Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of the book ‘The Birds’ starring Tippi Hendren (always thought that a wonderful name) you will easily sense the fear that this statue evokes in you. I watched this as a teenager, and it certainly put me off getting a budgie. Fowey is proud of its association with the writer Daphne Du Maurier and this sculpture commemorates the writer and one of her most enduring creations.
To the right of the sculpture is an angled plaque that informs of the role that the harbour at Fowey played prior to the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944. If you are somewhat unfamiliar with the events of that ‘Longest Day’ then you will be surprised at the extent of the role that many smaller towns and villages on the South coast played in the invasion. Fowey was one such town and as you travel the coastline of the region you will find similar commemorations of that day. Fowey was an important port for the loading of ammunition and also billeted hundreds of American troops prior to their departure and uncertain future. A poignant pause before you carry on your stroll around this delightful town.
Moving farther right and down on the water below the quay was a beautiful wooden steam boat called Hilda. This example is not a particular old one, around forty years old, but what a beauty it is. Cornwall is home to some fine steamboats and a county that displays on summer rallies the finest ones from around the country. An evocative sight especially in such a setting as Fowey harbour.
Going back to the square the landing stages for the boat trips and Polruan ferry are continually busy. There is a steady stream of craft coming and going from the harbour steps. Many of the participants do not appear to have much marine experience but that is no obstacle to enjoying a safe trip on the river. Alternatively, just take one of the many seats around the harbourside, get an ice cream, and settle down to drink in the atmosphere. It is quite soporific.
The route out from the harbour forces you past more lovely independent shops as you work your way down Fore Street, but not before enjoying a pasty at the Cornish Bakery. They are so, so good. Around the harbour and along Fore Street there are some tempting choices for a lunch or evening meal at varying price points. A pasty might be just for you but there is a fine choice of restaurants and cafes to explore.
A shop that stands out on Fore Street, well two shops, are the branches of Brocante giftware. We made several purchases from this interestingly stocked shop, a tasteful range of homewares and gifts. Just the place to refresh your home and remind you of you visit to Cornwall. Fowey has several such shops and they will tempt you in, believe me. Certainly, they will tempt your wife or daughter (or granddaughter).
At the end of Fore Street you turn right to see the landing stage that has a distinguished history. Here is another plaque and this one commemorated the day in 1846 that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert disembarked and stepped onto the harbourside to begin a visit to Fowey. No doubt that day was a sight to behold as the mouth of the Fowey River would have been filled with craft of every shape and size, the town colourfully festooned with bunting and flags. A day still thought of as a highlight in the history of Fowey.
The town also is a fine advert for Cornish produce. You will not starve here nor go thirsty. The Deli is well stocked with quality foods and if you just need an evening drink later then Cornish gin is also there for your pleasure. Take a tasting first.
Fowey is a must see town in Cornwall, it is not too busy despite its beauty and attractions, and the photographer in you will be spoilt for choice of scenes.
Now for that hill.