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Fowey is a small harbour town on the south coast of England that lies about midway between Falmouth and Plymouth. The harbour authority provides a range of sheltered deep water moorings throughout the estuary for visiting boats.

Fowey is a small harbour town on the south coast of England that lies about midway between Falmouth and Plymouth. The harbour authority provides a range of sheltered deep water moorings throughout the estuary for visiting boats.

Set within the sheltered waters of a fine natural harbour, Fowey offers complete protection. The lower harbour is subject to swell during strong south by south-westerlies, but complete protection may be obtained by continuing further up the estuary. Access is straightforward in most conditions, at any stage of the tide, night or day, although it can get rough in heavy southerly conditions on the ebb which can cause a heavy swell and confused seas.



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Keyfacts for Fowey



Last modified
April 26th 2019

Summary

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideWater available via tapWaste disposal bins availableDiesel fuel available alongsidePetrol available alongsideGas availableShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaSlipway availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaInternet via a wireless access point availableDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaChandlery available in the areaMSD (marine sanitation device) pump out facilitiesHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredScrubbing posts or a place where a vessel can dry out for a scrub below the waterlineMarine engineering services available in the areaRigging services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesScuba diving cylinder refill capabilitiesBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Anchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Dangerous to enter when it is Beaufort force 8 or more from S, SSW and SW.Note: harbour fees may be charged



HM   +441726 832471      >reception@foweyharbour.co.uk     foweyharbour.co.uk      Ch.12 [Fowey Harbour Patrol]
Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 20.149' N, 004° 37.990' W

This is the southwestern end of the short stay Albert Quay pontoon located in front of Fowey's Harbour Office.

What is the initial fix?

The following Fowey Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
50° 19.321' N, 004° 38.773' W
This is on the 10-metre contour and in the white sector of the Whitehouse Point Sectored Light, Iso.WRG.3s. Steering towards the light, on 027° T for a ⅓ of a mile, passes into the entrance of the River Fowey.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location

  • At night, the approach is first in the white sector of the outer Fowey Light House, LFl. WR.5s 28m 11/9M until the white sector light, 022° to 032° of the inner Whitehouse light is intersected to lead up the entrance channel.

  • By day, keeping St. Fimbarrus Church spire in line with Whitehouse Point, 028° T, leads in mid-channel.

  • After the harbour entrance's north by northeasterly course, the path then turns northeast to the swing ground area off Fowey Town Quay.



Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Fowey for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Lantic Bay - 0.8 miles ESE
  2. Polkerris - 1.2 miles W
  3. Par - 1.6 miles W
  4. Polperro Harbour - 2.8 miles E
  5. Charlestown - 2.9 miles W
  6. Mevagissey - 4.3 miles SW
  7. Looe Harbour - 4.4 miles E
  8. Portmellon - 4.5 miles SW
  9. Gorran Haven - 5.1 miles SW
  10. Portscatho - 9.9 miles SW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Lantic Bay - 0.8 miles ESE
  2. Polkerris - 1.2 miles W
  3. Par - 1.6 miles W
  4. Polperro Harbour - 2.8 miles E
  5. Charlestown - 2.9 miles W
  6. Mevagissey - 4.3 miles SW
  7. Looe Harbour - 4.4 miles E
  8. Portmellon - 4.5 miles SW
  9. Gorran Haven - 5.1 miles SW
  10. Portscatho - 9.9 miles SW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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What's the story here?
Fowey and Polruan
Image: Michael Harpur


Fowey is a small harbour town that lies on the west bank and a ½ mile within the entrance of the River Fowey. The small village of Polruan lies in a small bight opposite, just within the eastern point of entrance. The river mouth is located about 1⅓ miles northeast of the prominent Gribbin Head and lies between Punch Cross Rocks, off Saint Saviour’s Point on the east side, and St. Catherine’s Point on

the west side. From here the fairway has a least depth of 7 metres as far as Wiseman’s Point located 1½ miles above the entrance. After this it shallows but the River is navigable at high-water for 5 miles toward the town of Lostwithiel.

Fowey is a busy commercial port that receives the occasional cruise liner, and is an extensive yachting centre. The historic town area is exceptionally pretty with its shores well wooded for a long distance above the town. The industrial docks, that handle bulk cargo vessels of up 140 metres LOA, are situated a mile or so upriver, where it operates unseen from the town.


Falmouth Harbour Commissioners


All berthing is controlled by the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners whose role it is to manage an extensive area of bay and estuary with its various anchorages and moorings. Arriving vessels should contact Falmouth Harbour Commissioners by VHF Ch. 12 [Fowey Harbour Patrol], Landline+44 1726 832471 to arrange a berth. The Harbour Office is also available via E-mailreception@foweyharbour.co.uk with further details and a useful harbour booklet available at their web site Websitewww.foweyharbour.co.uk. Their objective is to make leisure visits to the area as pleasant and trouble-free as possible and no berthing is allowed without permission of the Harbour Master.

All visitor berths are made available on a first come first served basis as, except in the case of pre-booked events and rallies, the harbour office does not accept mooring reservations. Pre-notification of larger vessels is however appreciated, especially for those over 20 metres in length.

Swinging moorings are ‘blue’ in colour and are available for vessels up to a maximum LOA of 15 metres. Vessels in excess of 15 metres LOA will be directed to larger swing moorings flat-topped and ‘yellow’ in colour marked V2 to V5. Charges are per metre LOA and rounded up to the nearest ½ metre including all overhanging projections, outboards, bow sprits etc.

Daily mooring fee (includes harbour dues for ) per metre LOA [2019] Mono-hull £2.00 | Multi-hull £2.20 | Mixtow Pontoon £2.60 | Berrills Yard shore linked pontoon £2.70. Short stay Harbour dues of up to 2 hours on any of the harbour offices pontoons, with no overnight stay, £10.00. The moorings are located as follows in order that they appear upriver.

Anchoring


Anchoring in or near to the main navigational fairway or swing ground is not permitted. Areas clear of moorings in the upper Estuary or in Pont Pill may be used for anchoring but guidance must be sought from the harbour master before doing so. Vessels at anchor must not be left unattended at any time.

All vessels have to pay the harbour dues wherever a vessel is berthed, be it on a swing mooring, a pontoon or at anchor. The fee for anchoring is the same as that for using a mooring.



Pont Pill

Pont Pill moorings
Image: Michael Harpur


Pont Pill is a wide-mouthed creek that branches off the east side of the harbour and starts to dry 400 metres north-eastwards. The creek is full of local boat moorings and the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners have a choice of moorings in this area.

A number of swinging moorings front the creek and there are two 40 metre pontoons situated close south of Penleath Point. Pontoon No. 1 is the southernmost, and Pontoon No. 2 close to Penleath Point has the floating rubbish skip close by. These pontoons are suitable for all types of vessels, berths may be rafted during busy periods.

Close south of the moorings there are a number of fore/aft moorings which provide good shelter in westerly and southwesterly conditions. Unattended vessels will be asked to use these moorings where possible. All of the moorings in the Pont Pill area have at least 2 metres.



Underhills

Underhills Pontoons
Image: Michael Harpur


Upstream of Pont Pill and off the east bank of the river are a number blue visitors' swinging moorings. Above this, there are 3 mid-river pontoons, No. 3, 4 & 5 progressing upriver, on the east side of the river ending below the Bodinnick to Fowey car ferry. These are deep water pontoons that are suitable for all types of vessels.

Albert Quay

Albert Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Albert Quay is the main town pontoon and the location of the harbour office. It is a shore linked pontoon that has a sizeable capacity for short stay visitors (2 hours maximum). Visitors should come alongside the outside of the pontoon which is dredged and accessible at any state of the tide. Ths shallower inside is used by tenders.

Yacht alongside Albert Quay
Image: Michael Harpur





Berrills Yard

Berrills Yard pontoon on the west side of the river
Image: Michael Harpur


Berrills boatyard is a shore linked pontoon on the west shore about 300 metres upstream of Albert Quay. From, 0800 to 1800, it is only available for a short stay (2hrs) on the outside. From 1800, however, an overnight stay is possible chargeable at the advertised nightly rate for vessels on the outside. Berths may be rafted at busy periods, and metered shore power is available.

Yacht alongside Berrills Yard pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur





Grid Irons Pontoon

Grid Irons Pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur

Grid Irons or Pontoon No. 6, is located off the east bank of the river midway between Bodinnick and Mixtow Pill. The sheltered and long mid-stream pontoon has deep water visitor berths on the outside or west side only.



Penmarlam (Mixtow) Pontoon

Penmarlam (Mixtow) Pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur


Penmarlam, also known as Mixtow Pill, is in a creek that branches off eastward from the river, opposite the commercial jetties of Upper Cairn Point, and about a ½ a mile upriver from the town. It contains a shore-linked 135-metre pontoon with visitors' berths situated on the southern side that is dredged to 2.2 metres.



Wisemans Reach Moorings

Deepwater continues up the River Fowey as far a ⅓ of a mile above Wiseman Point. This was a traditional river anchorage but is now full of local moorings. About 150 metres north of the Point there are a further 3 blue visitor mooring buoys.



Landing

Polruan shore linked pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur


Land at the shore linked pontoons of Albert Quay, Berrills Yard, Penmarlam and Polruan. Free lifejacket lockers are available at Albert Quay, Berrills Yard and Polruan. Any craft being used as a tender to a visiting parent craft is exempt of harbour dues. Tenders can be left for up to 12 hours. A water taxi service is available, contact Fowey Water Taxi on VHF channel 6, Mobile+44 7774 906730.





How to get in?
The entrance to the River Fowey
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location for seaward approaches.


Cannis Rock as seen from Polruan
Image: Michael Harpur


Eastern Approach The primary danger for vessels approaching from the east is the Udder Rock that lies 3 miles east of Fowey and a ½ mile off the eastern shore of Lantivet Bay. It uncovers to 0.6 metres at the lowest tides and is marked by the lit ‘Udder Rk’ south cardinal mark that is moored in 20 metres about 400 metres south of the danger.


Gribbin Head with its conspicuous square beacon tower
Image: Nilfanion via CC ASA 4.0


South Western Approach The primary danger for vessels approaching from the west and southwest is the outlying Cannis Rock that lies a ¼ mile south-eastward from the beacon on Gribbin Head. Cannis dries to 4.3 metres and covers at three-quarters flood. It is marked by the 'Cannis Rk' south cardinal moored a ⅓ of a mile southward. There is a narrow 200-metre wide passage with 3 metres of water between it and the land. Keeping the old blockhouse on Polruan Point, within the entrance to Fowey, in line with a conspicuous memorial on Penleath Point, 048°T, leads through this cut.


The entrance to the River Fowey as seen from the north
Image: Michael Harpur


The prominent Gribbin Head makes the best seamark for Fowey. It may be easily recognised by a conspicuous square beacon tower 26 metres high, with red and white horizontal stripes, which stands 104 metres above high water. The river mouth is located about 1⅓ miles northeast of Gribbin Head. It lies between Punch Cross Rocks off Saint Saviour’s Point on the east side and St. Catherine’s Point, with its small fortress, on the west side, about 250 metres west by northwest. The fairway is deep and has at least 6.0 metres as far as Wiseman’s Point, 1½ miles above the entrance.


Yacht in the entrance with Lamp Rock Beacon seen on the left
Image: Michael Harpur


The entrance is easily identified by the comparatively high land on either side. Fowey Hall, a large mansion, stands prominently on the west side and above it is a large school, both standing just west of the town. The conspicuous spire of St. Fimbarrus Church is located in the town.


Fowey Light House
Image: Michael Harpur


Fowey Light House is shown from a prominent octagonal tower, 6 metres high, standing close southwest of St. Catherine’s Point.

Whitehouse Point light
Image: James Butler via CC ASA 4.0
A prominent white house is situated in Polruan, on the east side about a ⅓ of a mile eastward of Punch Cross Rocks. The ruin of a church tower standing 400 metres east of Punch Cross Rocks is also conspicuous.

The entrance channel is flanked by rocks. The Mundy Rock on the west side is unmarked but Punch Cross Rocks is marked by an unlit post and triangle beacon, and Lamp Rock, opposite Mundy on the east side, is marked by a starboard light beacon.

At night make an approach in the white sector of the Fowey Light House, LFl. WR.5s 28m 11/9M until the white sector light, 022° to 032°, of Whitehouse Point Light, a 4-metre high red metal column standing ⅓ of a mile northeast of St. Catherine’s Point, indicates the entrance channel. It can only be seen when in line with the harbour entrance. By day, keeping St. Fimbarrus Church spire in line with Whitehouse Point, on 028°T, leads in mid-channel.
Please note

Fowey is a busy commercial port and large commercial ships may be encountered at any time, so it is advisable to keep a sharp watch.




The River Fowey as seen from above Polruan
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour opens up once abreast of the ruins of the blockhouse on Polruan Point, and the speed limit is 6kn. Here the river widens and the track continues northeastward with the village of Polruan on the western and southwestern sides. Visitor moorings, blue in colour, and pontoon facilities are mainly situated on the east side of the harbour.

The small pier of Whitehouse Quay is passed on the Fowey shore, and close above this is the clubhouse of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club. Less than a ¼ of a mile above, the river bends northward past the town's principal Albert Quay with the clubhouse of Fowey Gallants Club close upriver. Give way to the Bodinnick to Caffa-Mill car ferry situated a ¼ of a mile above the town quay. This self-propelled vessel is restricted in its ability to manoeuvre, especially in strong winds and tides. The ferry maintains a listening watch on VHF Ch. 9 and 12.


Bodinnick to Caffa-Mill chain ferry
Image: Michael Harpur



About a ¼ of a mile above the ferry the deep channel turns through 90° to port at Upper Carn Point. The harbour's commercial jetties are situated opposite the entrance to Mixtow Pill across the short Mixtow Reach. The port is mainly used for the export and transhipment of china clay and a sharp watch should be maintained in Mixtow Reach for shipping movements.

Mixtow Reach and the commercial jetties opposite Mixtow Pill
Image: Michael Harpur


After a ¼ of a mile, the river bends northward again around the wooded rocky promontory of Wiseman Point. Wiseman's Reach which shoals a ¼ of a mile above Wiseman Point is full of local moorings but also has two visitor moorings.

Lostwithiel's old medieval quay above the railway bridge
Image: Michael Harpur


With a sufficient rise, the river is navigable by vessels drawing up to 2 metres, or tenders, for 5½ miles toward the small country towns of Lerryn and Lostwithiel. The upriver channels are marked, port and starboard, by red and green poles and offer a wonderful experience. However, the ascent of the river by dinghy is by far the least stressful option.


Saint Winnow Church
Image: James Stringer
It is essential to take the latest advice from the harbour master and to have good charts. As a rule of thumb, a good time to proceed upriver from Fowey is 2 hours before with a high water of 4.5m or more. This should allow ample time to reach Lerryn or Lostwithiel before high water, and enough time to enjoy them before the tide leaves the vessel high and dry. St. Winnow, on the way to Lostwithiel, is particularly attractive with a fine church close by the waters' edge begging for a picnic with an interesting farming museum nearby.

Above St. Winnow Church power cables cross the river with 18 metres of clearance and just below the town of Lostwithiel is a rail bridge with a HAT of 4.9 metres. The last stretch of tidal water winds past a small park, under a rail bridge and then between the waterside buildings of the old medieval quay. A 14th-century road bridge situated 200 metres above this is the effective end of navigation.


Lostwithiel road bridge
Image: Michael Harpur


Lerryn Creek, steep-to and wooded, which branches off to the northeast, provides access to the village of Lerryn which has 1.6 metres High water Springs. Land on a slipway on the south side of the creek.

Haven location Contact Fowey Harbour Patrol on VHF Ch. 12 to arrange a berth or berth as directed.


Why visit here?
Fowey, first recorded as ‘Fawi’ in 1223, is named after the River Fowey. The river name is derived from the Middle Cornish faw-i meaning ‘beech tree river’. The town and river are pronounced ‘foi.


St Finbarrus
Image: Michael Harpur


Cornwall’s mineral wealth has attracted human activity since the earliest times and there is evidence of extensive human activity in the area since the Bronze Age (2500-600 BC). Earthworks uncovered at St. Catherine’s Point suggest it had an Iron Age (600BC-AD43) cliff castle. The fort would have been used to control and defend activity in the estuary and to provide a safe haven for its long-distance maritime trade.


Saint Finbar
Image: Michael Harpur
The roots of the town of Fowey go back to the early 6th century when a small Christian religious community built an enclosure or ‘lann’. The exact location for the enclosure is unknown but it is believed to have been on the higher ground close to the present day St. Fimbarrus church. The church settlement was called Langorthou, a 14th-century place name that survives to this day. The ancient name is derived from Middle Cornish lann Gortho, meaning ‘Gortho's church site’. The original monastic settlement would have consisted of a circular enclosure, formed by a bank and ditch, containing a small church, burials and dwellings. St. Fimbarrus church located nearby was rebuilt in 1336 to replace a previous Norman church on the site, then remodeled in the 15th century and restored in 1876. Its dedication to Saint Finbar, the patron saint of Cork (c. 550–25 September 623) who is said to have passed through Fowey, provides further evidence of Fowey’s early Christian origins.

From this Christian settlement, Fowey transformed into a small fishing village that was well established by the time of the Norman Conquest. The 1086 Domesday Book survey recorded manors at Penventinue and Trenant, and a priory was soon established nearby at Tywardreath. In the 12th-century, the village was gifted to Tywardreath Priory as part of a larger land package and the priory quickly set about creating a town. A formal town charter was established in 1190 and a royal charter in 1316 granting a weekly market and two annual fairs.


In early Medieval times Lostwithiel was the primary port of the River Fowey
Image: Michael Harpur


At this time Lostwithiel, which had handled the area’s historic tin exports since the Bronze Age, was the administrative capital of Cornwall and the principal port of the river. But sand and silt from the inland tin streaming works had started to clog the river as early as 1357 and seagoing vessels could no longer reach its wharves. So the trade moved downstream, first to St Winnow and then to more accessible Fowey at the mouth of the estuary. The excellent natural harbour then started to develop a trade with Europe, and local ship owners often hired their vessels to the king to support various wars. From the reign of Edward I (1239 - 1307) to the days of the Tudors, Fowey variously known then as Fawy, Vawy, Fowyk, held a leading position amongst Cornish ports and was an important trading centre.


Fowey Town Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


During these times the town also developed a reputation for piracy. Following the port's assistance during the Siege of Calais and the Battle of Agincourt, a group of privateers known as the 'Fowey Gallants' were given licence to seize French vessels in the Channel during the Hundred Years' War. Unfortunately, these activities became so profitable that the division between licenced and illegal piracy became mute and often difficult to establish. So as well as legal privateering, the 'Fowey Gallants' got a little overzealous in their pursuits and saw any ship in the English Channel, friend or foe, as fair game.


Fowey's pretty main street
Image: Michael Harpur


Fowey grew rich on the spoils of war, but was also regarded as corrupt and notorious for illegal piracy during these times. Mixtow Reach is named after the licensed privateer Mark Mixtow, where he moored his flotilla of three ships, and where there was plenty of rich picking to be had. One of his Privateer colleagues John Wilcock seized fifteen ships during two weeks in 1469 from aboard his ship Barbara. The piracy continued after England made peace with France and became an embarrassment to the crown. Edward IV finally asked the 'willing men from Dartmouth' to put an end to the Fowey piracy. The Privateers were tricked into attending a meeting in Lostwithiel which was a trap. The authorities then seized their ships and several pirates were then hanged to make the point clear.


Fowey's pretty domestic houses rambling up the slopes of its sheltering hill
Image: Michael Harpur


This notoriety, coupled with the exposed location at the river mouth left Fowey vulnerable to attack. In the 14th-century the harbour was defended by 160 archers. Despite these defences, the town was attacked and destroyed by fire during invasions by French, Spanish and other pirate ships in 1330, 1380 and 1457. Place House built by the church c. 1260 as a Priory headquarters, later became the seat of the Treffry family. During her husband's absence, it was successfully defended by Elizabeth Treffry against the French in 1457 by pouring melted lead from the roof down on the attackers.


Fowey as seen from the memorial to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch on Penleath Point
Image: Michael Harpur


Following the 1457 raid, blockhouses were built on either side of the estuary mouth. A chain spanned between them that could be raised to close the channel in times of need. A small castle was built on St Catherine’s Point as part of the Henrician defences of the south coast. The small D-shaped, two storey structure was completed, around 1540 and this and the other defences proved their worth when a Dutch attack was beaten off in 1667.

Fowey as seen from Polruan
Image: Michael Harpur
The fortunes of the harbour became much reduced in the 16th and 17th century being eclipsed by Falmouth and Plymouth on either side. In 1631 the town was described as ‘decayed in shipping, mariners, fishermen and all sorts of people living by trade’ after 'being spoiled by Turks and pirates’, the account goes on to state ‘many people have abandoned the town and gone to other places to seek a living’.

Although no longer the premier Cornish port, Fowey continued to be a busy mercantile trading centre, but local merchants were often appointed as privateers and did some smuggling on the side. The fishing industry expanded during the 17th and 18th-centuries and fishing companies developed large purpose-built fish cellars on its medieval quays. The town’s fishery continued to expand with massive pilchard catches recorded during the late 18th-century. During this time the town became noted for its literary associations with Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) and the academic, critic and author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944). Du Maurier lived in a number of nearby locations, including Ferryside, Bodinnick, Menabilly and Readymoney Cove. She was inspired by the history and character of the area and many of her novels have a Cornish setting.

The decline of mining and fishing, so devastating to other areas of Cornwall during the 19th century, was to some extent balanced in Fowey by the rise of the china clay industry. The extensive use of the port for the export of clay, the arrival of the railway, and the growth of tourism, contributed to the development of the town as a residential resort.

Fowey remains a popular residential resort, tapping into niche yachting and cultural tourism markets. Tourism is an important source of income, contributing £14m to the local economy and accounting for more than half of the jobs in the town. But Fowey also retains its deep history of trading minerals from the river. Carn Point Docks, conveniently tucked away upriver and away from the pretty historic docks, continues to operate as a significant industrial port exporting approximately 750,000 tonnes of china clay annually. Fowey is also home to a busy fishing fleet, and of course, a major yachting centre.

Polruan
Image: Michael Harpur


Set in the South Coast (Eastern Section) of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty it is easy to see why the town is attractive to tourists. Set on the western shore of the picturesque estuary with its historic core close to the water's edge, and with pretty houses rambling upwards into its sheltering screen of hills, it is a very attractive location. The church of St Finbarrus and behind it, the grey tower and castellated walls of Place House, still dominate the town and the estuary is set off by its multi-period legacy of defensive structures.


Polruan Blockhouse
Image: Michael Harpur


Place House, home of the Treffry family since the 13th century, is not the original building. The house was rebuilt in the first half of the 19th-century to the designs of the mining tycoon, Joseph Treffry. The medieval remains of the 15th century Polruan blockhouse overlooking the entrance may be visited on foot and it provides a good view of the remains of Fowey blockhouse. The later 16th century Henrician St Catherine’s Castle is accessible on foot from Readymoney Cove. The Fowey Gallants are remembered today by the sailing club near the harbour office.


St Catherine’s Castle overlooking the entrance
Image: Graham Rabbits


Fowey's pretty architecture is steeped in historical charm. Extending as a thin, linear band along the waterfront, it is by turn Elizabethan, Edwardian, Georgian and Victorian, reflecting the non-stop development of the port from medieval times it continues to define the character of the core of the town. Its steep, narrow streets lined with jostling cottages, shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants are a joy to explore. There are many historic buildings in the town, most notably on On Fore Street is the Old House of Foye, a medieval house built in 1430. It is one of the oldest buildings in Fowey and is now a shop. The walls, beamed interior and fireplace are scarcely altered from the original. The colourful history of Fowey is told in the town's museum.


St Finbarrus with Place House behind it
Image: Robert Pitman via CC ASA 4.0


The Anglo-French writer and historian Hilaire Belloc (1870 – 1953) best said it when he noted that 'Fowey is the harbour of harbours, the last port town left without any admixture of modern evil. It ought to be a kingdom all of its own. In Fowey all is courtesy and good reason for the chance sailing man ...and I have never sailed into Fowey or out of Fowey without good luck attending me.' He must have experienced Fowey on a mooring in the early morning when mist still hangs over the river and the heat of the morning sun starts to burn through to reveal bright greens and blue skies. Or at dusk, when the sun sets and the lights of the town, rising up its sheltering slope, glimmer enchantingly on the river waters.

Yacht alongside Albert Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, Fowey has it all. It is a fine and historically salty port with excellent accommodation and facilities for visitors. It has everything a coastal cruiser might want including a deep water approach that can be accessed night or day.


What facilities are available?
Freshwater is available at Albert Quay, Berrills Yard and Penmarlam Pontoons. Showers are available at Fowey Gallants Sailing Club, the Royal Fowey Yacht Club, C. Toms and Son Boatyard in Polruan, and at Penmarlam Boat Park. Metered shore power is available at Berrills Yard and Penmarlam pontoon. Laundry facilities can be found at C. Toms and Son Boatyard in Polruan. Wi-Fi coverage is available throughout the lower harbour and is included in the visitor mooring charge. Waste and recycling facilities for general waste and recyclables are available on most visitor pontoons with a central collection point on a pontoon at the entrance to Pont Pill.

Diesel is available 24/7 at the Fuel Pontoon just upstream of the Bodinnick Car Ferry and is available at all states of the tide. This is a pay-at-pump facility. Diesel and petrol are also available from C. Toms and Son Boatyard in Polruan P: +44 1726 870232. Petrol can also be obtained at Mixtow Marine at Penmarlam Boat Park P: +44 1726 83247. Calor Gas is available from Upper Deck Marine P: +44 1726 832287, Penmarlam Quay Cafe M: +44 7855 437004. There is a choice of three small but well stocked chandlers in the area. A sewage pump out facility is available at Berrills Yard pontoon.

A public slipway is located in Fowey at Caffa Mill and harbour dues of £7.50 are payable to Fowey Harbour. Fowey Harbour operates a private launching facility at Penmarlam and casual access is available by payment at the entrance barrier. Drying out and bottom cleaning facilities are available at Penmarlam, Brazen Island, and C. Toms & Son boatyards.

The town offers reasonably good shopping with a mini-market, numerous grocery shops and a delicatessen in Fore Street, and being a tourist town countless restaurants, pubs and cafes.

A water taxi service is available, contact Fowey Water Taxi on VHF channel 6, Mobile+44 7774 906730. Buses to Polperro and Looe are numerous from Hanson Drive. There is a train station at Lostwithiel connecting to high-speed trains from London and Bristol that stop at Liskeard, St. Austell and Truro. There are branch lines to Looe and Falmouth. Newquay airport handles mainly domestic flights.


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About Fowey

Fowey, first recorded as ‘Fawi’ in 1223, is named after the River Fowey. The river name is derived from the Middle Cornish faw-i meaning ‘beech tree river’. The town and river are pronounced ‘foi.


St Finbarrus
Image: Michael Harpur


Cornwall’s mineral wealth has attracted human activity since the earliest times and there is evidence of extensive human activity in the area since the Bronze Age (2500-600 BC). Earthworks uncovered at St. Catherine’s Point suggest it had an Iron Age (600BC-AD43) cliff castle. The fort would have been used to control and defend activity in the estuary and to provide a safe haven for its long-distance maritime trade.


Saint Finbar
Image: Michael Harpur
The roots of the town of Fowey go back to the early 6th century when a small Christian religious community built an enclosure or ‘lann’. The exact location for the enclosure is unknown but it is believed to have been on the higher ground close to the present day St. Fimbarrus church. The church settlement was called Langorthou, a 14th-century place name that survives to this day. The ancient name is derived from Middle Cornish lann Gortho, meaning ‘Gortho's church site’. The original monastic settlement would have consisted of a circular enclosure, formed by a bank and ditch, containing a small church, burials and dwellings. St. Fimbarrus church located nearby was rebuilt in 1336 to replace a previous Norman church on the site, then remodeled in the 15th century and restored in 1876. Its dedication to Saint Finbar, the patron saint of Cork (c. 550–25 September 623) who is said to have passed through Fowey, provides further evidence of Fowey’s early Christian origins.

From this Christian settlement, Fowey transformed into a small fishing village that was well established by the time of the Norman Conquest. The 1086 Domesday Book survey recorded manors at Penventinue and Trenant, and a priory was soon established nearby at Tywardreath. In the 12th-century, the village was gifted to Tywardreath Priory as part of a larger land package and the priory quickly set about creating a town. A formal town charter was established in 1190 and a royal charter in 1316 granting a weekly market and two annual fairs.


In early Medieval times Lostwithiel was the primary port of the River Fowey
Image: Michael Harpur


At this time Lostwithiel, which had handled the area’s historic tin exports since the Bronze Age, was the administrative capital of Cornwall and the principal port of the river. But sand and silt from the inland tin streaming works had started to clog the river as early as 1357 and seagoing vessels could no longer reach its wharves. So the trade moved downstream, first to St Winnow and then to more accessible Fowey at the mouth of the estuary. The excellent natural harbour then started to develop a trade with Europe, and local ship owners often hired their vessels to the king to support various wars. From the reign of Edward I (1239 - 1307) to the days of the Tudors, Fowey variously known then as Fawy, Vawy, Fowyk, held a leading position amongst Cornish ports and was an important trading centre.


Fowey Town Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


During these times the town also developed a reputation for piracy. Following the port's assistance during the Siege of Calais and the Battle of Agincourt, a group of privateers known as the 'Fowey Gallants' were given licence to seize French vessels in the Channel during the Hundred Years' War. Unfortunately, these activities became so profitable that the division between licenced and illegal piracy became mute and often difficult to establish. So as well as legal privateering, the 'Fowey Gallants' got a little overzealous in their pursuits and saw any ship in the English Channel, friend or foe, as fair game.


Fowey's pretty main street
Image: Michael Harpur


Fowey grew rich on the spoils of war, but was also regarded as corrupt and notorious for illegal piracy during these times. Mixtow Reach is named after the licensed privateer Mark Mixtow, where he moored his flotilla of three ships, and where there was plenty of rich picking to be had. One of his Privateer colleagues John Wilcock seized fifteen ships during two weeks in 1469 from aboard his ship Barbara. The piracy continued after England made peace with France and became an embarrassment to the crown. Edward IV finally asked the 'willing men from Dartmouth' to put an end to the Fowey piracy. The Privateers were tricked into attending a meeting in Lostwithiel which was a trap. The authorities then seized their ships and several pirates were then hanged to make the point clear.


Fowey's pretty domestic houses rambling up the slopes of its sheltering hill
Image: Michael Harpur


This notoriety, coupled with the exposed location at the river mouth left Fowey vulnerable to attack. In the 14th-century the harbour was defended by 160 archers. Despite these defences, the town was attacked and destroyed by fire during invasions by French, Spanish and other pirate ships in 1330, 1380 and 1457. Place House built by the church c. 1260 as a Priory headquarters, later became the seat of the Treffry family. During her husband's absence, it was successfully defended by Elizabeth Treffry against the French in 1457 by pouring melted lead from the roof down on the attackers.


Fowey as seen from the memorial to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch on Penleath Point
Image: Michael Harpur


Following the 1457 raid, blockhouses were built on either side of the estuary mouth. A chain spanned between them that could be raised to close the channel in times of need. A small castle was built on St Catherine’s Point as part of the Henrician defences of the south coast. The small D-shaped, two storey structure was completed, around 1540 and this and the other defences proved their worth when a Dutch attack was beaten off in 1667.

Fowey as seen from Polruan
Image: Michael Harpur
The fortunes of the harbour became much reduced in the 16th and 17th century being eclipsed by Falmouth and Plymouth on either side. In 1631 the town was described as ‘decayed in shipping, mariners, fishermen and all sorts of people living by trade’ after 'being spoiled by Turks and pirates’, the account goes on to state ‘many people have abandoned the town and gone to other places to seek a living’.

Although no longer the premier Cornish port, Fowey continued to be a busy mercantile trading centre, but local merchants were often appointed as privateers and did some smuggling on the side. The fishing industry expanded during the 17th and 18th-centuries and fishing companies developed large purpose-built fish cellars on its medieval quays. The town’s fishery continued to expand with massive pilchard catches recorded during the late 18th-century. During this time the town became noted for its literary associations with Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) and the academic, critic and author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944). Du Maurier lived in a number of nearby locations, including Ferryside, Bodinnick, Menabilly and Readymoney Cove. She was inspired by the history and character of the area and many of her novels have a Cornish setting.

The decline of mining and fishing, so devastating to other areas of Cornwall during the 19th century, was to some extent balanced in Fowey by the rise of the china clay industry. The extensive use of the port for the export of clay, the arrival of the railway, and the growth of tourism, contributed to the development of the town as a residential resort.

Fowey remains a popular residential resort, tapping into niche yachting and cultural tourism markets. Tourism is an important source of income, contributing £14m to the local economy and accounting for more than half of the jobs in the town. But Fowey also retains its deep history of trading minerals from the river. Carn Point Docks, conveniently tucked away upriver and away from the pretty historic docks, continues to operate as a significant industrial port exporting approximately 750,000 tonnes of china clay annually. Fowey is also home to a busy fishing fleet, and of course, a major yachting centre.

Polruan
Image: Michael Harpur


Set in the South Coast (Eastern Section) of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty it is easy to see why the town is attractive to tourists. Set on the western shore of the picturesque estuary with its historic core close to the water's edge, and with pretty houses rambling upwards into its sheltering screen of hills, it is a very attractive location. The church of St Finbarrus and behind it, the grey tower and castellated walls of Place House, still dominate the town and the estuary is set off by its multi-period legacy of defensive structures.


Polruan Blockhouse
Image: Michael Harpur


Place House, home of the Treffry family since the 13th century, is not the original building. The house was rebuilt in the first half of the 19th-century to the designs of the mining tycoon, Joseph Treffry. The medieval remains of the 15th century Polruan blockhouse overlooking the entrance may be visited on foot and it provides a good view of the remains of Fowey blockhouse. The later 16th century Henrician St Catherine’s Castle is accessible on foot from Readymoney Cove. The Fowey Gallants are remembered today by the sailing club near the harbour office.


St Catherine’s Castle overlooking the entrance
Image: Graham Rabbits


Fowey's pretty architecture is steeped in historical charm. Extending as a thin, linear band along the waterfront, it is by turn Elizabethan, Edwardian, Georgian and Victorian, reflecting the non-stop development of the port from medieval times it continues to define the character of the core of the town. Its steep, narrow streets lined with jostling cottages, shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants are a joy to explore. There are many historic buildings in the town, most notably on On Fore Street is the Old House of Foye, a medieval house built in 1430. It is one of the oldest buildings in Fowey and is now a shop. The walls, beamed interior and fireplace are scarcely altered from the original. The colourful history of Fowey is told in the town's museum.


St Finbarrus with Place House behind it
Image: Robert Pitman via CC ASA 4.0


The Anglo-French writer and historian Hilaire Belloc (1870 – 1953) best said it when he noted that 'Fowey is the harbour of harbours, the last port town left without any admixture of modern evil. It ought to be a kingdom all of its own. In Fowey all is courtesy and good reason for the chance sailing man ...and I have never sailed into Fowey or out of Fowey without good luck attending me.' He must have experienced Fowey on a mooring in the early morning when mist still hangs over the river and the heat of the morning sun starts to burn through to reveal bright greens and blue skies. Or at dusk, when the sun sets and the lights of the town, rising up its sheltering slope, glimmer enchantingly on the river waters.

Yacht alongside Albert Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, Fowey has it all. It is a fine and historically salty port with excellent accommodation and facilities for visitors. It has everything a coastal cruiser might want including a deep water approach that can be accessed night or day.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Polkerris - 1.2 miles W
Par - 1.6 miles W
Charlestown - 2.9 miles W
Mevagissey - 4.3 miles SW
Portmellon - 4.5 miles SW
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Lantic Bay - 0.8 miles ESE
Polperro Harbour - 2.8 miles E
Looe Harbour - 4.4 miles E
River Tamar & Tributaries - 11 miles E
Plymouth Harbour - 11.9 miles E

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Fowey.













































































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