Travel writer Sarah Merson drags her family to Fowey for a magical winter break
Heading off for a few days in Fowey is my idea of bliss, and as we wind our way to the pretty harbour town, we’re constantly teased with glimpses of the alluring estuary. It’s late in the day and the sun is sitting low in the sky. Among the fisherman’s cottages, rows of grand Victorian houses and Georgian merchant houses, which make up the town, is Beaufort House, a stylish abode, tucked away next to Town Quay.
Bursting through the front door we rush straight through the house to see what sits on the other side: the estuary. We’ve enjoyed Cornwall’s sea views many times before, but, for me, this is different. Beaufort House sits on the water’s edge with the terrace giving private access to the estuary and, when the tide’s out, the beach below. The gorgeous garden room with soft leather chairs and comfy sofas provides the perfect space to while away an hour or two, watching boats bobbing on the water and admiring the spectacular view across to Polruan village. Two of the four double bedrooms boast the same mesmerising outlook.
We stand on the terrace oohing and ahhing at the vivid sunset, which we’re just in time to enjoy. All too quickly the pink light fades and the estuary plunges into an inky darkness. We spend the rest of the evening enjoying all that Beaufort House has to offer including the tasteful kitchen complete with Aga and a welcome bottle of chilled Champagne, and a log-burning fire in the dining room.
The next morning we pop out of the garden gate directly on to the quay. Wandering the streets of Fowey, it’s quickly obvious that hidden behind the beautifully painted doors, there are many stylish abodes. Some have been given the glass-box makeover that amplifies the spectacular waterside views.
Although, modernised to some extent, Fowey retains that irresistible link with its past, manifested in well-preserved buildings that span the centuries. The parish church of St Fimbarrus, St Catherine’s Castle, an old artillery fort ordered by Henry VIII and now an English Heritage Site, and the Ship Inn at the bottom of Lostwithiel Street all represent different ages in Cornwall’s past.
Life in Fowey, is still centred around the estuary though. It remains a working port with boat yards on both sides of the river. Tankers manoeuvre up-stream to the port of Golant, past ferries, fishing boats and, in summer, numerous pleasure craft.
We jump aboard a foot ferry that zips between Fowey and Polruan. Heading on to the
Fowey Hall Walk where the path skirts the estuary through ancient oak woods, we’re rewarded with constantly changing views of the river and it’s many romantic creeks and tributaries. At Pont Pill, we hike uphill to Lanteglos church and down to the spectacular Lantic Bay.
With the tide out, we kick about on the white sand and shingle beach before trekking back up and joining the South West Coast Path leading westwards back to the little ferry, which transports us quickly over to Fowey. Having earnt our supper, we head to authentic pizzeria and bar, Bufala, only a few doors away from Beaufort House, and feast on signature thin and crispy roman-style sourdough pizza, nocellara olives and burrata mozzarella.
We wake the next morning to the sound of gig rowers competing with seagulls and
enjoy a to-go coffee from Brown Sugar and head westwards from Fowey, along the Esplanade and down to Readymoney Cove. We join another section of the coast path to Polridmouth Cove. The kids and dog happily play on the beach before we cross the boardwalk and climb up the hill to the Gribbin Daymark, an 84ft tall tower built in 1832 as a daylight navigation aid for shipping. Now owned by the National Trust, the tower is open on some Sundays in the summer when visitors can enjoy the views from the top.
As we head back to Fowey, a rainbow dips into the choppy estuary. We spend our last night at Beaufort House enjoying roast chicken and drinking in the wonderful watery views.
The next morning, I take one last glimpse at the mesmeric estuary and spot the unmistakable azure blue and metallic copper of a Kingfisher as he darts along the top of the water before swooping down and emerging with his catch. From historic discoveries to wild, wintry walks, and from mesmerising views to the thrill of a Kingfisher sighting, Fowey and the ever-changing estuary have truly worked their magic.
‘Historic discoveries to wild, wintry walks, and from mesmerising views to the thrill of a Kingfisher sighting, Fowey and the everchanging estuary have truly worked their magic’
Beaufort House starts from £1515 for a long weekend to £5049 for a week, with a ‘just for two’ 20% reduction outside of peak weeks, bank holidays, Christmas and New Year. Book at boutiqueretreats.co.uk
Fowey from the water.
The Gribbin Daymark stands at 84ft