The pretty Cornish seaside town where Vicar of Dibley legend Dawn French lived
Tucked away on a little estuary in South Cornwall lies a seaside town where a British comedy legend was a local. The fishing town of Fowey is nestled at the mouth of the River Fowey and became a trade hotspot – as well as gaining a reputation for piracy and smuggling. But piracy and the china clay trade weren’t the town’s most famous exports; it’s home to two of the country’s most famous authors, secret coves, a seventh century church, and a castle – as well as comedy icon Dawn French, and the best crab shack around.
Fowey must be blessed (Image: BBC ONE)
Dawn French lived in Fowey with her daughter Billie and husband Mark Bignell in a grade II-listed building called Point Neptune. She lived there for 15 years before deciding to up and sell the mansion earlier this year. Point Neptune’s building dates back to the 19th century, and has an impressive view of the town which overlooks the harbour.
The Vicar of Dibley star snapped Point Neptune back in 2006 for GBP3million and originally lived there with her first husband, Lenny Henry, and their daughter.
Dawn lived here for 15 years (Image: Chris Allen/Creative Commons)
But Dawn decided to swap her harbourside abode for a rural Gothic Revival villa on the Cornwall-Devon border in Calstock, which boasts an annexe with its own bedroom, kitchen, living room and shower room, and a separate coach house. The house is set in three acres of land, which include a Victorian glass house, potting shed, town paddock and an allotment. However, Dawn was not the only famous face that called Fowey home.
You might spot Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan wandering around.
You might spot these wo walking about (Image: Handout)
Celebrated authors Daphne du Maurier and Kenneth Grahame (of The Wind in the Willows fame) both lived in the town back in the 19th and 20th centuries. But Fowey isn’t just a celebrity playground, it boasts some of the best seafood eateries in the area.
Captain Hank’s Crab & Snack Shack serves up Cornish crab and locally caught seafood from a vintage Citroen H van that overlooks the river. Find dishes like crab sandwiches, crab bon bons, garlic butter pan seared prawns, and fish finger sandwiches.
Captain Hank’s picked up TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Award , with customers raving about their food – and scoring a perfect five out of five.
One previous customer wrote: “Found this gem of a food truck purely by accident but are we glad we did! Food was amazing, freshly cooked and beautifully served. I had the crab bon bons and my husband had the fish finger buttie both were gorgeous.”
Another commented: “Amazing off the beaten track sea food heaven! Loved it! Stumbled on by chance while walking through Fowey.
What a gem of a location with stunning views of the river. If you like seafood locally sourced then it doesn’t get much better than this!” A third said: “What a fantastic place, I can’t believe food of this quality comes out of such a tiny space!”
St Catherine’s Castle, Cornwall, 2007.
Aerial view of one of a pair of small artillery forts built by Henry VIII in the 1530s to defend Fowey Harbour, consisting of two storeys with gun ports at ground level. Artist Historic England Staff Photographer. (Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images) (Image: Heritage Images/Getty Images)
To explore more of Fowey’s heritage, St Catherine’s Castle stands overlooking the mouth of the River Fowey – built by Henry VIII in the 1530s to defend the town’s harbour. The castle was modified centuries later to form part of a more extensive artillery battery during the Crimean and later the Second World War.
You’ll also find the Fowey Parish Church, dedicated to St Fimbarrus.
The church was once damaged by French soldiers (Image: Jonathan Billinger/Creative Commons)
The Norman church became a Benedictine Priory in 1180, where it was rebuilt two centuries later where a clerestory was added – a rare feature in medieval Cornish churches. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, Fowey was a hotspot for pirates who preyed upon shipping in the Channel. In 1457 the town was attacked by French soldiers who attempted to stop the Cornish pirates.
readymoney cove in fowey, Cornwall, England, UK. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) (Image: Education Images/Getty Images)
The French ransacked the town before heading to a manor house near to the church, called Place.
It’s rumoured that the owner of Place, Elizabeth Treffy, had molten lead poured over the incoming French as they tried to get into the house. The lead hindered the soldiers from getting in, so headed for the church, which they nearly destroyed.
Find this hidden gem along the coast (Image: Western Morning News)
To explore a bit of local natural scenery, Fowey has its own beaches to discover, Readymoney Cove is a short walk from the town centre – or walk along the South West Coast Path to find the secret Polridmouth Cove.
Nice Lantic Bay you got there (Image: Western Daily Press)
Across the river from Fowey is the turquoise waters of Lantic Bay, in the village of Polruan. You can hop on the ferry in town that will take you across the river.
At Appleton’s you’ll find dishes such as Rose harissa fish stew, Squid ink linguine, and Crayfish and potato chowder.
The Old Quay House serves up classic Cornish seafood like Soft Herb Crusted Hake and Charred Cornish Mackerel. You can also try their High Tea and Cream Tea – done in the Cornish way (jam first!).
At Fitzroy their menu changes daily, but you can expect to see choices like Turbout with celeriac, and butter sauce, Lobster with new potatoes, and garlic butter, and Sea buckthorn granita. So if you’re looking for a Cornish haunt to explore, discover the history, hidden gems and foodie wonders of Fowey.
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How to get there
You can catch a train from Paddington to Par, before taking a bus directly to Fowey. Or if you’d rather have a scenic drive, it’ll take you around five and a half hours.
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