Many great writers have written about Cornish life, but none is so inextricably linked with the county as Daphne du Maurier. Although she was born in London, her family owned a holiday home in Cornwall, beginning a lifetime of writing stories set here.
Each year the much loved novelist inspires thousands of people to come in search of the real life locations featured in her work. With so many to choose from, what are the unmissable places that offer fans a real sense of the atmosphere that du Maurier conjured in her unforgettable books?
Daphne du Maurier Literary Centre, Fowey
Begin your journey in the historic fishing town of Fowey, where you’ll experience streets much as they were when the author lived here. It’s now home to the Daphne du Maurier Literary Centre where you’ll find a wealth of information about her life and work, as well as a great range of books and gifts. There is also an annual festival hosted by the du Maurier Society.
Catch the old ferry from Fowey to the east bank of the river and as you disembark you’ll see the du Maurier’s family residence on your right hand side. Ferryside provided the setting for her first book The Loving Spirit; she was inspired by the wreck of a schooner the Jane Slade, whose figurehead can now be seen, mounted on an outside corner beam at Ferryside.
Menabilly House, Tywardreath
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ So begins Daphne du Maurier’s most famous novel Rebecca. Its setting was inspired by Menabilly House where she later lived. Unfortunately like that famous dream you won’t be able to get into Manderlay either as it remains a private residence hidden behind great gates. However you can rent Polridmouth Cottage, which inspired the boat house in Rebecca and lies within the grounds of the estate.
The most famous of all du Maurier locations is this coach house and smugglers’ den which the author famously stumbled upon after getting lost on a dark, foggy Bodmin moor. The 1750 building still provides sanctuary for sightseers today, operating a functioning pub and gift shop. Although much of the original ambience is long gone, Jamaica Inn remains an unmissable part of any du Maurier fans’ itineraries.
Frenchman’s Creek, Helford
From Falmouth, take the ferry to the gorgeous village of Helford. With its whitewashed thatched cottages and thick stone walled pub it’s just like stepping into a du Maurier novel. Follow the winding path down from the village or hire a kayak and you’ll soon find Frenchman’s Creek. With ancient oaks casting deep shadows over the waters it was the ideal setting for the pirate love story novel of the same name.
Du Maurier’s final home was Kilmarth House, near to Par Sands in St Austell Bay. While researching the history of the property she got an idea for a new novel, The House on the Strand, a title which is a direct translation from the Cornish ‘Tywardreath’. The village hasn’t changed much since the author’s death in 1989 and you can still visit the church, marshes and experience the fabulous views that du Maurier enjoyed in her final years.