Muddy Walks: Fowey to Polridmouth
This short circular walk from Fowey via Readymoney Cove and Polridmouth Cove with connections to Daphne du Maurier can be the basis for a beach day in summer and in winter, a scenic stretch of the legs.
This shortish circular walk takes in two beautiful coves (Readymoney and Polridmouth) as well as St Catherine’s Castle.
Polridmouth Cove is known to literary fans as Rebecca’s beach in Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca. At the back of the beach is Menabilly estate and the Georgian mansion that was home to Du Maurier from 1943 to 1969.
If you set off from Fowey town centre the walk is around 3 miles and will take you around 2 hours although time it right and you can make a day of it, pausing at either of the beaches for a picnic lunch. In summer, a small cafe is open at Readymoney Cove. (You could also start the walk in the middle at Coombe Farm National Trust carpark and adjust the route accordingly)
Parking for this route is best at the top carpark near to Fowey Hall Hotel, which has gorgeous views out over Fowey, the estuary and over to Polruan.
Ready? Let’s Go
1/ If you’re up by Fowey Hall and the car park, start by heading down Hanson Drive downhill to the right, turning left onto Gallant’s Drive and then left again at the bottom onto Tower Park.
Alternatively, if you start in the centre of Fowey instead, head down the Esplanade with the estuary to your left, away from the town centre towards the sea and you’ll get to Tower Park that way.
2/ After approximately half a mile you’ll drop down into Readymoney Cove, a tiny sandy bay facing south-east and sheltered by St Catherine’s Castle. The cottage where du Maurier lived during the Second World War, and in which she wrote Hungry Hill is nearby.
Watch out for the beach being entirely covered at high spring tides but at lower tides this makes a nice first stopping place for the kids to play in the clear waters and in summer enjoy the little cafe.
3/ From Readymoney Cove head up the road out of the cove where you can then pick up the south-west coast path.
4/ Turn left, keep left at the fork and then divert left to go up to St Catherine’s Castle. From here there is a fine view over Fowey and the estuary.
St Catherine’s Castle is a well preserved 16th-century gun fort guarding the entrance to Fowey and one of a series built by Henry VIII along the south-coast.
5/ Return to the coast-path and then you have a choice.
Either 6/ follow the coast path left along the cliffs, passing two more small coves before you reach Polridmouth Cove,
or, 6/ turn right back towards Readymoney Cove and follow the path up the hill to the National Trust carpark at Coombe Farm, heading back down to the coast-path at Polridmouth Cove.
The little cottage at the back of Polridmouth (or “pridmuth” as they say round these parts) Cove was the inspiration for the boat house in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. The ornamental lakes around the cottage were used as the basis of a decoy Fowey harbour during the Second World War – additional dams were built and lights set up to resemble the harbour.
At low tide, the sandy beach gives way to a beautiful shallow lagoon where the kids will enjoy swimming, and there is also a multitude of exposed rockpools. Further round towards Gribben Head look out for the remains of the wrecked ship Romanie, which inspired Rebecca’s not-so-sad demise. Be careful to keep an eye on the tide though as the majority of the beach is covered again by water as the tide comes back in.
When you tire of the beach, you can return to Fowey.
Either 7/ follow the path up the side of the woods, marked Coombe Farm, through a gate and along the edge of the fields until you reach Coombe Farm, where you can then follow the Saint’s Way back to Readymoney Cove.
Or, 7/ pick up the coast-path at the back of the beach and head away from Gribben Head, back towards Fowey.