Fowey and Polruan – A Guide to Sun, Sea and Piracy

View of Fowey from the Old Quay Hotel outdoor dining area.

Highlights for me included renegade seagulls, tapas, wild coastal paths, tales of piracy, people watching and of course, lots of Cornish cider.

Fowey and Polruan: ‘twin’ harbour towns seperated by the of mouth the river from which the larger, Fowey, takes its name. You can easily explore both in a day, or invest some time to get to know them properly.

Though they may once have been fairly ‘identical’ twins, today they have a very different vibe. Fowey is extremely gentrified, with the pros (great restaurants) and cons (most houses in its centre are holiday homes) that come with the territory. Polruan by contast is quieter, more authentic, with access to some wilder coast due to its more remote location.

Fowey – What We Did

Old Quay Hotel – Afternoon Tea. £. Friday-Sunday only. £35 for two.

At this price, you can’t really go wrong for a holiday treat. When the staff seated us inside instead of on the terrace we were a bit miffed, but they explained that the local seagulls had rather a taste for high tea so it was for our own protection. We still had a lovely view inside and once we had finished eating we took the rest of our pot of tea outside to enjoy the sun. We went at 4pm and it was really quiet as the lunchtime rush had finished. You could definitely chance walking in without booking.

Pinxto – Tapas Restaurant. ££. Walk-in only.

This small and quirky tapas offering doesn’t take bookings and isn’t open on Mondays. We turned up at 5.30ish for an early dinner, hoping less people would be eating at that time and got a table straight away. The pan con tomate was delicious, with real depth of flavour. We also enjoyed the Spider Crab croquettes and the Wild Partridge Pate with Gooseberry jam. A glass of their dry rose was delicious and reasonably priced.

King of Prussia – Pub. £.

This was our favourite pub in Fowey, harbour views, lots of indoor and outdoor seating and friendly staff. The drinks were reasonably priced for the area (approx £4.80 a pint) and they had our favourites Cornish Rattler (cider) and Korev (Cornish lager), on draft.

King of Prussia Pub, Fowey. The entire downstairs is outdoor seating with an option of covered seating.

Fowey Hall Hotel – Drinks. ££. Food. £££.

Even if you’re on a budget, popping into this luxury hotel for a drink is well worth the money. Grab a seat outdoors for the best views in Fowey. The hotel sits up the hill (easily accessible from the main carpark) above the town, with unadulterated views across the river to Polruan and out to sea. The grounds are beautifully maintained with wooded play areas for children to enjoy whilst you relax.

Fowey Harbour – Historic Site

Fowey Harbour used to be one of the South coasts biggest working harbours. It was under real threat during WWII due to this, with a man-made lake being constructed at the nearby Polridmouth Cove as ‘decoy’ harbour to confuse the Nazi planes.

Polruan – What We Did

South West Coast Path

A must. It was absolutely chucking it down, with spray blowing in from the sea. We got drenched. We started by walking up to see the view from St. Saviour’s Hill (and the amusingly named St. Saviour’s toilets) and joined the coastal path from there. We followed the coast path round to Blackbottle (a sandy cove whose name must be a smuggling reference!) and from there back inland, where we explored the remote and lovely, ancient church of Lanteglos. From there we followed signage to Polruan down charming woodland walks up to Pont and back along the river. Everything was so green and beautiful, even in the rain. Would have loved to explored round here even more. It would have been stunning on a sunny day.

Blackbottle. Beautiful even in the rain.

The Lugger Inn – Pub. £.

We had a bit of a weird experience at this well-reviewed pub, we decided to grab a drink there before heading back to Fowey on the passenger-ferry. The pub was completely empty when we walked in, it was about 4.30pm. We asked if we could have a drink and were told by the person behind the bar ‘No, because people will start arriving for dinner at 5pm.’ They offered us a ‘takeaway pint’ but we didn’t much fancy drinking it in the rain. Dejected, we just went to wait for the ferry instead!

The Old Blockhouse – Historic Site

A quick but interesting stop-off. Once, this blockhouse and its now ruined twin (stationed directly opposite in Fowey) guarded access to the towns by the river. Built in 1380, the blockhouses were once connected by a huge chain guards could pull up to stop enemy ships from getting into the harbour.

Piracy

These blockhouses and their usage really imprints on your imagination when you find out about the history of piracy and illegal wars with the French in Fowey and Polruan. The story goes that in 1457 the French landed and set fire to the port. This was not an unprovoked attack but an act of revenge. Fowey men had for many years been aggressive marauding sailors, raiding the French coast. Rather than warning the Cornish to stay away, this attack had the opposite effect. In 1469 John Willcock, a local captain, captured fifteen ships off the Brittany coast in a fortnight. This lawlessness embarassed Edward IV as he had just made peace with the French. He sent a royal messenger to Fowey to order its inhabitants to desist. The messenger was sent back to him minus an ear.

Overall, I definitely preferred the wilder, Polruan side of the river. I’m planning to go back and stay, maybe in Pont and walk the rest of the Coastal Path. Let me know if you have any other recommendations in the comments!

Published by lizzbythesea

Blogging all things coastal and magical. Fantasy writer.

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