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Travel: Cornwall

The sat-nav proclaimed it to be the final turning after a 550-mile, nine-hour drive.

For the first time, the signpost read Tywardreath, a name that would have been meaningless before the pre-trip cramming. Now it brought a tingle of excitement.

Cornish for The House On The Strand, Tywardreath is the village that provided the setting and the title of the Daphne du Maurier novel which, written in the swinging sixties, was a Stevenson-esque account of chemical-fuelled mind distortion.

The names of umpteen farms and estates nearby feature prominently, fully entitling it to inclusion in the Fowey Festival, an eclectic 10-day arts gathering that has evolved from the du Maurier Festival.

A gently informative way to start a week-long trip, The House On The Strand walk brought the novel's setting to life, three hours spent not so much on a Hollywood-style window-peeking tour as meandering through the author's imagination.

We were staying at Trenython Manor, a superbly appointed complex comprising hotel, lodges and spa a few hundred yards from the village. Set in expansive grounds, it is run by an acutely environmentally conscious manager in Nick Waddington.

There are points of interest throughout, from the medieval carved panelling which adorns the dining room, to giant rabbits, to a delightful children's activity centre which has a bird box with camera feed.

It was also ideally placed for further exploration of the week's theme just a mile or so from the village of Golant. From there Encounter Cornwall, which specialises in kayaking trips on the River Fowey, guided us to the town by water and into a harbour surrounded by pubs and restaurants.

That trip offered a brief half hour to wander through the narrow streets which offered further evidence of why Fowey is an artists' paradise but also a first sighting of the next night's accommodation, Angelique Thompson's eye-catching Upton House.

Her rooms range from the border-line kinkiness of The Skullery, which she describes as a baroque boudoir, to the artiness of The Loft Suite which features a whirlpool bathtub positioned to offer a view over the rooftops to the river.

And so yet further south to The Lizard and the home of Victoria Vyvyan, quite literally lady of the manor at Trelowarren, a grand old family estate which provides another serene yet inspirational retreat.

Once again the tone was set by the accommodation, the quality of which would be difficult to overstate. After a couple of decades of globetrotting I found it matched anything I have stayed in, the building described as a cottage but superior to most family homes with its open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge areas, wet room and airy en suite bedrooms with balconies.

Each has a generous garden of its own within the 1000-acre grounds which border the Helford River, large enough for a visitor to have got lost the previous week.

We took the train to visit the Tate St Ives. In truth the quality of the exhibits was debatable, but it was well worth it for the setting - looking down upon a surfer's cove.

On return to Trelowarren that afternoon an hour and a half proved just about sufficient to circumnavigate the grounds in leisurely fashion ahead of a fine meal at the award-winning New Yard Restaurant.

Properly fuelled, the plan was to take on a 12-mile walk the next day, from St Hilary's Church north of Goldsithney. The main objective was achieved early, a briskish wall down country lanes and across fields, then through the town of Perranuthnoe to get on to the coastal path, before sighting the glory of St Michael's Mount. Having visited it a year earlier, walking out to it across the causeway before having to return by boat a couple of hours later once the tide rolled in, I knew there was no such thing as a bad view of St Michael's Mount. Putting in the leg work enhanced the experience.

A chance meeting in the Godolphin Arms in Marazion with a local lady led to a detour to a churchyard in Gulval and a paying of dues at the grave of what must have been one of the original pirates of Penzance, John Thomas, who was buried in a plot adorned by a stone bearing the skull and crossbones.

All deliciously macabre and so typical of the area with its dark tales of smuggling, witchcraft, pilgrimage and mythology, all set against this wild backdrop.


Kevin Ferrie was a guest of Trenython Manor (trenython.com; 01726 814797). Rooms start at £80 for B&B. Trelowarren (trelowarren.com; 01326 221224) has 18 cottages starting at £595 for a week (accommodates four to six people).

The Fowey Festival takes place May 10-17. Visit foweyfestival.com.

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