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a riverside idyll

Lerryn Holiday Cottages

Tucked into the folds of Cornwall’s south coast, the idyllic village of Lerryn is like a scene from a bygone era — the setting, at the head of a tranquil wooded creek, is said to be the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Once you’ve parked up, you’ll have little inclination to get behind the wheel for the rest of your trip. It’s all here — a brilliant 16th-century pub and stores next door, village green with picnic benches for lunch on the riverfront, wooded creekside footpaths leading to medieval churches and smugglers’ coves, and masses of wildlife including kingfishers, herons and egrets. Most of the surrounding area is a designated AONB so wonderful walks abound. If you want to get out on the river, there’s SUP and kayak hire in Golant, just downriver. Paddle up to Lerryn and stop for lunch at the Ship Inn, or continue up the Fowey for an hour or so to Lostwithial for fish and chips by the river. Further afield, The Eden Project is five miles, and trendy Fowey is a morning’s paddle downriver.

You could stay in

The Lerryn guide

Making a splash

The name says it all: ‘Lerryn’ is derived from the old Cornish word lerion, meaning ‘waters’. Here, it’s all about adventures on the water. Kayak and SUP hire is available at Paddle Cornwall in Golant, giving beginners and experienced paddlers an introduction to the Fowey’s tidal waters and wildlife. Rent for a few days or a week and you can explore the river at your own pace. The large sand bars and mud banks which are exposed at low tide provide feeding areas for wading birds and all sorts of local wildlife. If you want to cover more distance, you can hire self-drive boats in Fowey and explore the pretty natural harbour, unspoilt creeks and backwaters. There are also various companies that can deliver kayaks and paddleboards to your holiday cottage, so you can paddle straight from Lerryn (though given the river is tidal, it’s always best to go with an instructor on your first time). Each winter, the sleepy village comes alive for the annual ‘Seagull’ race, during which competitors can race anything that floats as long as it is propelled by a ‘Seagull’ outboard motor to raise money for the RNLI.

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Walking

Picture perfect Lerryn is surrounded by beautiful walks. You don’t need a plan: just lace up and head out along either bank and find your own adventure. When it’s low tide, you can pick your way over the stepping stones to the other side and follow wooded creekside footpaths (don’t worry — there’s a medieval bridge further upriver so you won’t be stranded on the wrong side at high tide!). There are circular walks in the nearby National Trust owned Ethy Woods and the overgrown but still spectacular 19th-century Tivoli gardens on the opposite bank. The five-mile circular to the creekside medieval church at St Winnow is a particular favourite. On the way you’ll pass the Georgian manor House, Ethy House, thought to be the inspiration behind Toad Hall. Grab food at Angie’s Kiosk, a seasonal farm café and shop next door. Another popular one is the five-mile circular to St Veep with 15th-century church. If you’re looking for a day hike, follow your nose south for five miles and discover secret beaches along the South West Coast Path.

Castle near Fowey River holiday cottages by Forever Cornwall

Historical and literary connections

Lerryn and its surrounds are stuffed with literary connections; this is, after all, where Ratty, Toad and the rest of Grahame’s creek-dwelling creatures called home. Fans of Daphne du Maurier, who spent a large part of her life in Fowey, can discover the homes, local landmarks and coves that inspired the author’s novels. If you’re in the area in May, don’t miss the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature, hosted by the du Maurier Festival Society. History buffs should make a beeline for the medieval Restormel Castle, with well-preserved battlements near Lostwithial. The lovely St Winnow church — a delightful hour’s amble along the creek from Lerryn — is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, whilst the delightful Farm museum next door (free entry) has vintage tractors and all sorts of fascinating machinery. Lerryn itself has an intriguing smuggling past — for centuries, it was a convenient landing place for contraband (look out for “Brandy Lane” in the village). If you wander through Ethy Woods, you might even spot the entrance to a tunnel to Ethy House where smuggled goods were believed to have been stowed.

Places to eat

Lerryn River Stores

With plants and flowers for sale under the awning outside, this pretty shop on the green is the hub of the village, popular with walkers who come for lunch and homemade cream teas to eat on the picnic benches outside. It’s a real ambassador for Cornish produce, selling Cornish cheeses, dairy products from nearby Trewithen, Roddas and Roskilly’s and bread and pastries from local bakeries. Shelves are stocked with cider from Haye Farm Cider in the village; they also make Fowey River Gin with vodka, distilled from potatoes at Colwith Farm on the other side of the river.

The Ship Inn

This unpretentious pub with rooms on the river in the heart of Lerryn dates back to the 16th century. The large menu features classic pub fare — pies, burgers and pizzas, as well as some less traditional options; they have a Japanese fish grill in the warmer months, cooked up on the outside terrace. There are benches to the front on the riverfront for summer dining, but if you want to enjoy your drinks down to the river you can buy them to take away. The pub also sells a range of real ales, such as Betty Stoggs, Cornish Knocker and Lerryn Ale. Check out the regular themed food nights.

Forever Cornwall Kynance Cafe Menu Board

Angie’s Kiosk

Cross the stepping stones spanning the river and wander along the riverbank for a couple of miles to the tiny hamlet of St Winnow, on the banks of the Fowey estuary (or it’s a gentle half-hour paddle in a kayak). Here you’ll find Angie’s Kiosk, a converted horse box with tables and chairs out the front selling delicious hot rolls, homemade pasties, cream teas and cakes to be enjoyed on the banks of the river, served by the friendly Angie. There an intriguing agricultural museum next door — a big old barn full of vintage tractors and fascinating farm machinery — and the medieval church is worth a wander round, too.

Beaches
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Lantic Bay

The half-moon crescent of sand and shingle is one of south Cornwall’s most spectacular swimming spots. Its waters turn a bright turquoise in the summer, and with sailing boats anchored in the bay and lush green cliffs in the distance, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into the pages of a Caribbean brochure. It’s the inaccessibility of this beach that makes it particularly special — the steep climb down the cliff and lack of facilities only adds to the feeling of blissful isolation. Many arrive by boat, anchoring their vessels in the bay and swimming ashore for lazy beach days and sunset barbecues.

Lansallos

This sandy, sheltered National Trust beach is at the end of an old smugglers’ path, about a mile’s walk along the coastal path from Lantic Bay. Backed by high verdant cliffs and accessed by a winding path which follows a stream through woods from Lansallos village, half a mile away, it’s sheltered waters make it a popular beach for swimming, snorkelling, diving and rockpooling. The stream cascades down a waterfall on the beach, then runs down the middle of the beach — great for tinies to splash around in.

Polkerris

The harbour beach of Polkerris, a couple of miles east of Fowey, is the place to head to for sunset suppers — facing southwest, it gets all the afternoon sun until it sinks into the ocean. There’s watersports hire and lessons from the outlet on the beach, so you can sail the seas in a dinghy or explore the coastline by kayak or paddleboard. There are several places to eat on the beach — a beachside inn housed in the old coastguard station, a restaurant serving wood-fired pizzas and a cafe serving Cornish ice cream, hot chocolate and snacks.

Things to do

Cycling around Lanhydrock

Depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, there are various colour-coded bike trails around the Lanhydrock Estate, from easygoing, family-friendly paths which wind through woodland and conifer trees, to more fast-paced moderate trails and the challenging dual slalom racetrack, with jumps and drops. Don’t worry if you haven’t bought your bike on holiday; bike hire is available at the house, open all day Friday-Tuesday. The trails are free to use, though you’ll need to pay for the car park.

Porfell Wildlife Sanctuary

Home to a variety of well-cared-for exotic species, including giant leopard tortoises, monkeys, zebra, ostrich and an ever-growing gang of meerkats, the Porfell Wildlife Park is a small, peaceful animal sanctuary a few miles from Lerryn. With woodland walks, owl displays, meerkat feeding and peacocks strutting around the grounds, the centre makes a good half-day trip for families. Youngsters will love getting up close to the exotic breeds, and there’s a small cafe onsite and a climbing fort for children.

Castle near Fowey River holiday cottages by Forever Cornwall

Restormel Castle

The magnificent 13th-century circular keep with battlements and extensive internal walling sits in beautiful countryside just beyond Lostwithial. Standing on an earlier Norman mound, this lesser-known Cornish castle has far-reaching views across the valley to the River Fowey from the circular wall top walk. Once a luxurious retreat for its medieval owners, the site is now looked after by the English Heritage and is open Weds-Sun. Bring a picnic to eat in the grounds, which are covered in daffodils and bluebells in spring.