High Five: Fowey for families

July 31, 2014

I’d covered a lot of Cornwall over the years, but had never been to Fowey (pronounced ‘Foy’), a colourful, medieval harbour town at the mouth of its eponymous river on the county’s south coast.  A recent family trip certainly, I hope, won’t be our last – there’s so much there that adults and children can enjoy together, like hiring a little speedboat, kayaking and horse riding. The narrow streets are flanked with interesting, independent shops (as well as the fully expected Fat Face and White Stuff), and restaurants are a high cut above your average seaside fare.

Here are my top five stay, eat and activate options for families:

Best hotel
The inspiration for Toad’s stately home in The Wind in the Willows, Fowey Hall overlooks its namesake estuary and the sea. In the Four Bears Den, kids cook and make music, jewellery and papier mâché masks; in the drawing room, parents read the papers. There’s an indoor pool, two trampolines, a zip wire and Bramble – the resident spaniel – to walk. Adults dress for dinner, leaving children to play Wii and watch a movie (or, there’s baby listening for little ones).

Best self-catering property
There are lots of appealing self-catering properties in and around Fowey, but The Garden Apartment (sleeps six, plus two cots) is rather special. One of six stylish abodes within the elegant, Regency Carnethic House, guests have shared use of a swimming pool that’s indoor but with retractable walls and roof, enabling it to be open-air in hot weather. There’s also a hot tub and sauna, plus luxurious accommodation with oak flooring, leather sofas, plasma TV and wireless broadband.

Best lunch
Sink your teeth into a freshly baked, buttery, multi-grain bagel oozing with locally-caught crab at The Lifebuoy Café on Lostwithiel Street. It’s a cute little place, far from twee and full of substance. Keeping it real for kids, there are basic options such as fish fingers and peanut butter sandwiches – plus colouring books and puzzles to keep them entertained while they wait. Leave some space: a couple of doors down is Fowey Fudge. Cornish Butter Tablet is the best of the many I tried.

Best dinner
Sam’s on The Beach, a former RNLI lifeboat station on lovely little Polkerris Beach, isn’t in Fowey itself but is a ten-minute drive away, tops. Arrive early in the evening, unless you’ve made a booking much in advance, or you won’t have a hope of getting a table. Such is the small scale of the beach that children make friends immediately and play on the sand right in front of you, leaving you to soak up the day’s last rays, savour a pint or a Prosecco, and ponder whether you’d prefer scallops and black sausage or a stone-baked pizza for supper.

Best activity
For children and rusty adult riders alike, Polmartin Riding, 25 minutes from Fowey, is an exceptionally good and safe experience. Jane and Eric, the owners, are good people and run a professional, friendly stables. My husband and I hadn’t ridden for over 20 years but, with their encouragement and the promise of bombproof ponies, we joined our child on a hack into the uplifting surrounding countryside, riding along trails which avoid any roads and listening to Jane’s tales of her career as a stunt horse rider.

Mischa Mack