The best way to enjoy Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature in 2022

Fowey in Cornwall, which as a literature festival in May

Fowey looking beautiful on a summer's day - Credit: David Joyner Getty Images/iStockphoto

This month sees the harbour town preparing for a highlight of the year, we reveal what to look out for at the festival, where to stay, and the best places to eat during your Fowey stay.

Words and water. Fowey has both in abundance, especially when it’s hosting one of its famed festivals. This south coast town on the mouth of the River Fowey is always awash with activity, thanks to its harbour and estuary setting, and to its historical literary associations. 

The town was once home to Daphne Du Maurier, who fell in love with Fowey when she first visited in 1926. Her family’s holiday home was Ferryside, on the Bodinnick side of the river and she later lived near Menabilly, where she wrote some of her most famous novels. Other famous names came to Fowey, including J. M. Barrie, Arthur Quiller-Couch (known as ‘Q’) and Kenneth Grahame, whose Wind in the Willows was inspired by the landscape. 

"The Cornish town of Fowey and its church on a summers day, UK"

Looking across the estuary over the parish church at Fowey - Credit: David Joyner Getty Images/iStockphoto

Festival Highlights

This month Fowey celebrates its literary connections with the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature. The line-up includes Roger McGough, Lauren Child, Michael Morpurgo and Patrick Gale, and music-wise there will be appearances by Seth Lakeman, Show of Hands and the Fisherman’s Friends. With workshops, walks, talks, film nights, concerts and theatre, it’s an all-encompassing event that certainly brings in the visitors. Fowey’s streets contain cafes, bars, restaurants, independent shops and a good number of art galleries. Running at the same time as the festival is the Fowey Art Trail which this year has an impressive 35 exhibitions at 21 locations. 

Shipping and sailing is central to Fowey’s character. Its maritime history includes dramatic pirate sieges and a French invasion (albeit just a few weeks’ long). Copper, tin and china clay were exported from the town and china clay still is, although a declining trade, with around 500,000 tonnes shipped from Fowey each year. Either on or off the water, watching the boating activity is all part of the Fowey experience. Keep an eye out for the Troy Class yachts, made in the town since the 1920s and the colourful sails of the Fowey Rivers, little sailing dinghies, also built in Fowey, which have seen a recent revival. The Fowey Royal Regatta takes place during the third week in August and is one of the longest-standing and most popular sailing events in the country. Alongside the racing, there’s music, carnival and a fantastic firework display. 

The Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature runs from 6-14 May.

Where to Stay

Stay at The Old Quay House, Fowey, Cornwall

Stay in a harbour view room at The Old Quay House - Credit: The Old Quay House

At least one visit to Fowey should include a stay at The Old Quay House Hotel. It sits on the waterside in the heart of town. The Victorian building was once a refuge for sailors and it’s now a luxury boutique hotel with 13 rooms over three floors. Several of the rooms have small balconies so you can relax and watch the boats in the harbour. The hotel also boasts a fine dining restaurant, headed up by chef Richard Massey, and it’s waterside terrace area is a stunning place to sit, whether that's for a lazy breakfast or romantic evening meal.

The Old Quay House hotel and restaurant in Fowey

Stay at The Old Quay House and enjoy breakfast on the terrace deck - Credit: The Old Quay House

Fowey has plenty of places to stay, including many self-catering properties. Try No. 2, Old Station Master’s House, by the old railway and just 100m from the river, or Barnacles, a waterside apartment for two in an old chandler’s. Havener’s Bar and Grill on the quayside has a collection of contemporary, coastal-themed rooms and an apartment to stay over in, perhaps after a seafood supper downstairs. 

Most Read

The Food and Drink Scene

Andy Appleton, former Jamie Oliver Fifteen head chef, has opened Appleton's in Fowey, Cornwall

Andy and Lyndsey Appleton moved their Padstow vineyard restaurant to Fowey in 2020 - Credit: John Hersey

Appleton’s Bar and Restaurant offers rustic Italian dishes with a contemporary twist, with chef patron Andy Appleton (former head chef of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall) using the finest Italian and Cornish ingredients. It’s open for lunch and dinner and, as a treat, you can pop in for brunch on Sunday.

Rustic Italian dishes with a contemporary twist at Appleton's in Fowey, Cornwall

Enjoy rustic Italian dishes with a contemporary twist at Appleton's - Credit: John Hersey

Fitzroy follows three successful London neighbourhood restaurants, and is situated in an old bank building in town. Its focus is local and sustainable small plates, with an emphasis on seafood. There’s a choice of natural wines too. Just along the road, its sister venue, North Street Kitchen, is a call-in lunchtime offering serving a great selection of fish dishes, cooked fresh off the boats on the grill and served simply and perfectly. Indulge in a taste of Spain, while sitting in the sun on the Esplanade at Pintxo, a very relaxed, neighbourhood-style tapas and sherry bar. 

Looking over the Estuary of the river Fowey

Looking over the estuary of the River Fowey - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More to do

When it's raining

Discover more about the marine life around the Cornish coast, from shannies and crabs to conger eels, at the Fowey Aquarium. The town’s museum is not far away, housed in a 15th century building, and containing an eclectic mix of artefacts, some of which came from the archaeological discovery of a medieval garderoom – or toilet! 

A day at the beach

Readymoney Cove is a sandy, sheltered beach tucked away near the mouth of the estuary where it meets the sea. Its Beach Shop sells all the seaside necessities, along with a range of beautiful crafts and gifts, and foodie treats, including proper Cornish pasties. The cove is ideal for spending some time, relaxing, taking a dip or exploring its rockpools and it’s within walking distance of the town centre. 

Up to the castle 

Walk from Readymoney Cove, up through the trees to St Catherine's Castle, a former artillery fort, which dates back to Henry VIII’s reign. It was built to defend the harbour and has sweeping views across the estuary. It was modified in the 19th century during the Crimean War and again in the Second World War, when it housed an anti-aircraft gun and was used as an ammunition store. 

Want more from Cornwall Life?

Check out:

You can also subscribe to Cornwall Life Magazine for more amazing and exclusive content here, or sign up for our newsletter here