The ancient stannary town of Lostwithiel, whose name is composed from two Cornish words meaning ‘the place at the end of the woodland’, is found in an enchanting wooded valley at the tidal reach of the River Fowey. Situated in the heart of South Cornwall, it is perfectly placed for both the north and south coasts, as well as the moors and surrounding countryside. This interesting town is also peppered with twisting narrow alleyways full of independent merchants and eateries, just the place to head to if you want to pick up an antique or two, and is home to some impressive historical places of interest, perfect for a day out.
Have a read through our local's guide to Lostwithiel to see why this area of Cornwall is a great place to base yourself.
About the town:
Whether you arrive in Lostwithiel by car or public transport, the approach treats you to some of the most beautiful scenery in the area. In the town itself, old narrow streets house colourful brick and stone cottages as well as restaurants, pubs and cafes and some interesting little antique and arts and crafts shops. The main historical focus of the town is a medieval bridge, parts of which date back to the late 13th century. Now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, it sits at the point of the lowest crossing of the River Fowey, giving a clue to its use as a busy port during the tin boom of the area.
The 700-year-old, grade I listed Old Duchy Palace is a building of significant interest in the town, as is the beautiful old 12th-century church, both of which give a taste of the splendour of the area in times gone by. The Church of St Bartholomew’s great east window is in fact, known as one of the finest in the county. Those wanting to discover the town's past should head to the local library. Situated in the former Corn Exchange, you will find a fascinating collection of Lostwithiel’s history as the medieval building is home to exhibitions and a permanent selection of great books.
The town was founded by the Normans about 800 years ago as a base for the export of tin, destined for Europe. With a wide and deep river, it was ideal for large ships and it soon became the second busiest port in the south. By the 13th century, Lostwithiel had become the county capital and Cornwall’s main stannary town. While tin originally brought much wealth to the town, it sadly led to its decline as rubble from the mines up on the moors made the river unusable to larger vessels. Badly damaged during the civil war, it was rebuilt in the late 17th century to become the town we know today.
Keen historians will be pleased to know that the nearby Bocconoc was home to Charles I during the Siege of Lostwithiel in 1644. Though it is now used as a centre for events, its gardens are sometimes open to the public and at only 4 miles from the town, it's worth seeing if you can visit while you are there.
Overlooking the river valley just a mile from the town is the impressive 13th-century circular Restormel Castle. Originally home to the Norman lords who built the town and twice visited by The Black Prince, it is now managed by English Heritage and open to the public. It is one of the four main Norman castles in Cornwall, the others being Tintagel, Trematon and Launceston.
Drink in the breathtaking views from the top of the castle wall, climb the steps to look down on the remains of the rooms and see if you can spot the 'Tetraphasis Obscurus', the 'Black Pheasant' found dotted about the castle grounds and woodland. On a sunny day, there is no nicer spot for a picnic, so stock up with some scrumptious Cornish pasties and salad and dine alfresco with the castle as a backdrop.
Without doubt, the Eden Project is one of the county’s most famous attractions. Just 6 miles from Lostwithiel, it is the largest indoor rainforest in the world, with two huge biomes with plants collected from many different types of climate and environment.
Coastal lovers will love Lostwithiel, as at just 8 miles north of the Polperro Heritage Coast, you are within driving distance of some great walking and cycling spots along the South West Coastal Path. With a particularly impressive part of the path stretching from Par along to Looe, there are lots of places you can join, either for a short stroll or some serious hiking. Pass by unspoilt fishing villages, gorgeous beaches and secluded coves, many of which have provided ample opportunity for smuggling in the past!
For those who want to experience inland Cornwall, join the ancient Christian pilgrimage route of the 27-mile Saint’s Way which links Padstow in the north to Fowey in the south. Having been used by Celtic holy men travelling between Ireland and Wales on their journey to France, it is well marked with crosses, churches, chapels and holy wells along the way. Starting at the pretty Padstow harbour, it passes various interesting spots such as Little Petherick Creek and Helman Tor before arriving at the River Fowey. It would take you two or three days to fully walk it so you might want to pick it up for just a few hours if walking isn't your reason for coming to Cornwall.
If you've got kids with you, head 5 miles out the town to Cardinham Woods where you can bomb around on bikes or join the Zog the Dragon adventure trail. With spectacular viewpoints for the adults and various woodland trails for all ages, it makes a great afternoon out, whatever time of year.
Golfers can experience a new course and some delightful scenery at the town's golf course, where its challenging front nine reward you with spectacular countryside views, and the picturesque back nine run through leafy parkland, surrounded by the waters of the River Fowey.
There are lots more activities to try around Cornwall – have a look at our ultimate bucket list and see if you can tick any off while you’re here.
The food and drink:
Lostwithiel has a great selection of restaurants, cafes and pubs to suit all tastes. Eat out at the elegant Asquith’s Restaurant in North Street which serves modern British food with locally-sourced seasonal ingredients – from sea vegetables from the nearby coastline, fresh fish from Cornish waters to dairy products from a local supplier, they are sure to get your taste buds tingling.
Long lazy afternoons were made for a visit to Muffins Tea Room, where a mouthwatering traditional cream tea awaits hungry visitors. Warm homemade scones, scoops of clotted cream and fruity strawberry jam - just make sure you follow Cornish tradition and put the jam on first! The cosy Duchy Coffee Shop is a popular drop-in with its fabulous lunches and afternoon teas as is the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery Café, where you can also pick up some local plants or gifts to take home.
Bellamama Deli is just the place to pick up mouthwatering Cornish pasties and cheeses for picnics and if you fancy a taste of 16th-century Cornwall, head to the Earl of Chatham Cornish inn where you can sample some of the real ale with the friendly locals, either inside in front of the wood burner or outside in the sunny beer garden.
One of the attractions of Cornwall is the lure of a tranquil setting within easy reach of things to do. Test the theory out at Bridge Lodge, a one-bedroom log cabin-style property with views over a small lake. Ideally placed for romantic countryside strolls, it is the perfect couples’ retreat. Spend days enjoying picnics by the small lake, followed by romantic evenings stargazing on the veranda, hot chocolate in hand and blanket at the ready.
If you want to spend some time at the coast, why not finish your holiday with a few days at one of our waterside properties? We have a wonderful selection of properties with sea and river views, from cosy fishermens' cottages 5 miles away in Fowey and Polruan to stone retreats and coach houses further up the coast at Looe. The charming Trebarfoote in Polruan enjoys lovely views across the harbour over to Fowey - relax on the glass-fronted balcony leading out from the living space and take in the harbour and sea views as you sip a sundowner. Bliss.
If you are coming to visit with a special occasion in mind, have a look at our luxury sea view cottages in Cornwall.