by Barbara Fraser
Sailing up the Fowey River 100 years ago, a travel
writer described the approach to Lostwithiel as 'the loveliest
inland scenery in Cornwall'. He wrote 'in the richest pastures
of this luxuriant valley stands the old town of Lostwithiel'. Whether
one approaches by river, rail or road, this description is still
Situated at the tidal reach of the river Fowey, in
a beautiful wooded valley the town lies tucked away just off the
A390, a haven of peace and tranquility.
Central in Cornwall, it is within easy reach of the
coast and the moors, and well placed for exploring the whole of
the county, an ideal centre for a holiday.
Lostwithiel was a 'new town' 800 years
ago, founded by the Normans for the export of tin. Then the river
was wide and deep, and sea going ships tied up along the quay, loading
the tin destined for France and the Mediterranean ports. The town
was officially known as 'The Port of Fawi', and soon became
the second busiest port on the south coast of England.
The name 'Lostwithiel' comes from two old Cornish
words meaning 'the place at the tail end of the woodland',
and looking down the valley from Restormel Castle (the home of the
Norman lords who built the town) one can see how it came by this
In the 13th century Lostwithiel was further developed
by the Earls of Cornwall to become the County Capital. It was the
centre for the administration of county affairs and the main trading
centre for tin.
Earl Edmund called Lostwithiel 'Fairest of Small
Cities' and 'Lily of the Valley' and the mediaeval church, bridge
and part of the Great Hall (now known as the Duchy Palace) still
stand as testimony to its original splendour.
Ironically, tin, the source of the town's wealth,
gradually caused its decline. Rubble, carried down by tributaries
of the Fowey River from the mines on the moors, silted up the river,
preventing big ships from reaching the quay.
A further 600 years of history have left their mark.
The town suffered during the Civil War, when it was occupied by
Parliamentary soldiers and besieged by Royalists throughout August
1644. Eventually the Parliamentarians were routed, but the town
was left shattered, and its people starving. Gradually they recovered,
and there was much rebuilding in the late 17th century.
John Betjeman is reputed to have said 'there is
history in every stone in Lostwithiel', and this is evident
to the interested observer who walks the streets and lanes of the
Now it is a peaceful, friendly place; parking is free,
and members of staff at the Tourist Information Centre, (in the
Community Centre adjacent to the car park) are always ready to help
Set in this historic background are numerous antique
shops specialising in high quality furniture, curios and collectibles,
ceramics, Victoriana and glorious junk! Other shops specialise in
contemporary arts and crafts, paintings, lace, patchwork. One has
to explore the hidden lanes in the town to find some of these.
walks in this Ancient Cornish Capital take place every week
throughout the summer season, leaving the Community Centre
(TIC) on Thursdays at 11am.
There is a charge of £2.50 for the Museum, (Registered Charity
No. 0192141) children with adults free.
details from the
Tourist Information Centre
01208 872 207. No dogs please.
The museum, housed in the old Corn Exchange, has an
interesting collection of artefact and photographs reflecting life
in Lostwithiel over the past two centuries. The library, to be found
in a splendidly restored mediaeval house, has an excellent selection
of books on Cornwall, and there is often an interesting exhibition
in the upstairs gallery.
For the sports enthusiast, the challenging 18 hole
golf course is a must for golfers visiting the area. The Golf and
Country Club also offers tennis and swimming for none golfing members
of the family. There are squash courts at the Community Centre,
and licences for salmon and trout fishing are available. Horse riding
can be enjoyed at St Veep, a nearby village, and there are splendid
walks in every direction. Sailing, walking the Coastal Path, cycling
the Camel Trail, riding in the Bodmin Steam Train and a number of
different golf courses are all within a few miles drive.
There is accommodation in and around the town to suit
everyone, luxury hotel rooms with restaurant facilities, small inns,
comfortable bed and breakfast guest houses, and numerous self catering
holiday cottages. Restaurants, cafes and pubs provide food and drink
during the day, or freshly made traditional Cornish pasties can
be bought and enjoyed sitting at a picnic table beside the river.
Lostwithiel is growing, new housing developments are
bringing more people into the town, adding to the vitality and well-being
of the community. Lostwithiel people care very much about their
town, they take pride in it and are happy to welcome others and
share its delights with them.
The castle, originally built by the Normans on a spur,
overlooking the river valley, stands proudly one mile upriver from
Lostwithiel. It was rebuilt by Edmund, Earl of Cornwall in the late
13th century, as a splendid residence for himself. The bailey (a
large courtyard where the retainers lived) has now disappeared,
so has the deer park, where Edmund kept 300 deer. The Black Prince
held court here briefly in 1354, and in 1644 the Castle was held
for a short time by the Parliamentary Army, before being captured
by the Royalists.
The Castle still belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall.
It is administered by English Heritage and is open to the public.
Various events are staged here from time to time, bringing history
to life. The views over the valley from the top of the castle wall
A tiny hamlet on the East bank of the river is a place
of quiet and solitude and worthy of a visit. There is an interesting
Farm Museum, and the ancient church has some outstanding stained
glass and bench ends. The church was used in the filming of a wedding
for the BBC production of 'The Poldarks'.
This is a pretty village set on a tidal creek of the
River Fowey, fed by its own small tributary. The bridge was rebuilt
by order of Queen Elizabeth I in 1573. There are stepping stones
lower down stream which can be used at low tide. The riverside walks
through Lerryn's woods are said to have been the inspiration for
Kenneth Graham's classic 'The Wind in the Willows'
Now National Trust property, Lanhydrock was the home
of the Robartes family for over 300 years. It was largely
rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1881, but the long gallery, famous
for its carved plaster ceiling, and the valuable library it contains,
escaped and can still be seen in all its glory. The house perfectly
reflects the life of the Victorian and Edwardian gentry. The gardens
at Lanhydrock are cared for and developed continually, and are a
source of delight to thousands of visitors. Although the house is
closed from 31 October to 31 March, the park and gardens stay open
throughout the year.
Boconnoc is a private estate which has been in the
hands of many interesting and colourful families since the Norman
Conquest. Charles I stayed here during the Siege of Lostwthiel
in August 1644. It is said that Charles was the first person to
bring a wheeled vehicle into Cornwall. Such was the state of the
roads, he was only able to make progress because he had enough servants
attending him to carry the coach! Boconnoc still has its deer park,
and the gardens are open to the public on four Sunday afternoons
in May, in aid of charities.
The 97 foot tower of St Brevita's Church in this village
can be seen from the sea beyond the estuary of the River Fowey,
and has been a landmark for sailors for centuries.
Lanlivery is on the route of The Saints' Way.
Churchtown Farm Adventure Holiday Centre for disabled
children and adults is situated at the heart of the village. It
offers a range of exciting holiday activities, including canoeing,
sailing, exploring the coast and moors, climbing, abseiling and
caring for farm animals.
A small village, well known for the Treffry Viaduct,
built of granite, supported by ten arches, and originally carrying
a stream, a path and a light railway for 700ft. across the beautifully
wooded valley, at a height of nearly 100ft.
The Saints' Way.
This route across Cornwall linking Padstow and Fowey
is so named because it was used in the Dark Ages by Celtic holy
men travelling between Ireland, Wales and France. It is marked by
a series of crosses, churches, chapels and holy wells dedicated
to those early saints. The name is misleading, in that the route
had probably been in use for centuries before then, by merchants,
traders and itinerant workers. There are pagan shrines, menhyrs
and numerous tumuli along the way, giving evidence of human habitation
at least three thousand years ago. The overland route was used by
travellers of old, rather than risk the hazardous sea voyage round
Lands End. The Saints' Way can now be walked in its entirety by
the enthusiastic walker, or split up into short sections, and explored
in a more leisurely manner.
The Eden Project.
This splendid botanical enterprise, developed in
an old clay pit, 5 miles west of Lostwithiel, needs no introduction.
It is already internationally acclaimed.