Tucked away in a valley at the head of the Fowey estuary, deep in the wooded Cornish countryside, lies the charming little town of Lostwithiel. Its name, derived from two old Cornish words that translate to ‘the place at the tail end of the woodland’, seems only too fitting. Conjuring up imagery of a secluded and enchanting place just waiting to be discovered. Often overshadowed by its larger and better-known coastal neighbours, Lostwithiel’s rich heritage and thriving community make it one of the south-west’s best-kept secrets.

A town encompassed with the past

Founded just 800 years ago by the Normans, Lostwithiel once played an essential role at the core of Cornwall’s tin mining trade and proceeded to become the county’s ancient capital.

Ironically, it was this very same source of its prosperity that kick-started the town’s decline. Rubble from the mines on the moors settled on the river bed and gradually accumulated until ships could no longer reach the quay. Misfortune struck the town again a few centuries later when it was seized by Parliamentary soldiers and recaptured by Royalists during the Civil War.

While the siege left Lostwithiel in such a state of devastation that much had to be rebuilt in the late 17th century, a few of its original buildings are still standing strong today and serve as remnants of the city’s former splendour. Among those that survived are St. Bartholomew’s Church, the Tudor bridge and part of the great hall, Duchy Palace.

A thriving community

Fast-forward to today and Lostwithiel has been restored to a new variant of its past prestige. Its side-streets scattered with independent shops selling everything from studio pottery to vintage kitchenware, Lostwithiel has emerged as Cornwall’s centre for antiques and collectables.

For some of the region’s finest collections be sure to visit Dower House and Deja-Vu Antiques and Books which boast an impressive selection of quirky antique and speciality goods. The town’s fortnightly Antiques and Collectors Market is also one of the longest running and most successful of its kind, with a whole host of stalls selling all manner of fine items.

With a full calendar of events and festivals, Lostwithiel draws in crowds from all across Cornwall. Carnival Week and the annual arts, crafts and music festival, LostFest, are particular highlights, and the popular Cornish Cider Festival which takes place in mid-October celebrates local produce in all its variations. A plethora of regular fairs, markets and workshops have further contributed to the town’s warm and lively community.

In the heart of Cornwall

In easy reach of the coast and moors, Lostwithiel’s location makes it a perfect base for exploring all the county has to offer.

Just a mile upriver of the town is the moated Restormel Castle which sits high above the surrounding farming land. Administered by English Heritage, its well-maintained circular shell and battlements have retained their original majesty, offering spectacular views over the Cornish countryside. Heading just a bit further north west you’ll come across the grand country estate and mansion of Lanhydrock.

Refurbished in high-Victorian style and set among 1000 acres of wooded parkland, the extensive grounds emanate a real sense of grandeur, while providing visitors with a network of zig-zagging footpaths and splendid gardens to be explored.

And with the internationally-acclaimed Eden Project and the enchanting Lost Gardens of Heligan just a few miles away, Lostwithiel has some of Cornwall’s finest attractions right on its doorstep.

Feature image courtesy of Robert Pittman.

Sounds like a little piece of heaven right? You can start planning your trip to Cornwall right here. If you’re in need of some more inspiration why not check out the best Cornwall delicacies? Or the best things to do in Cornwall?

Susannah Taplin

Originally from the UK, I'm currently enjoying post-graduate life in Berlin, where you'll find me wandering around fleamarkets and brunching the weekend away. I'm a big fan of slow breakfasts, old bikes and cosy cinemas. Favourite cities: Amsterdam, Sarajevo, Berlin (of course!)