5 Cornish Locations to Visit that Inspired Daphne du Maurier

Countless tourists have been inspired to visit Cornwall by the writing of Daphne Du Maurier – her uncanny knack of describing human relationships amid emotional turmoil against a backdrop of raging Cornish seas, rolling hills, secretive rivers and sinister moorland pubs has intrigued fans for decades. Since the latest incarnation of her 1938 novel, Rebecca, dropped on Netflix in October, we have been fantasising about the darkly romantic Manderley and the wild Cornwall of du Maurier’s imagination. According to her son Kits Browning, Daphne always said that places were more important than people – here are five locations in Cornwall that inspired the novelist and, we hope, you too.

Menabilly, near Fowey, and Polridmouth Cove

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ The immortal first line of Rebecca conjures up spine-tingling images of the novel’s secretive mansion, its eponymous ghostly mistress and the creepy Mrs Danvers. The gothic setting was inspired by Menabilly House, which has been the seat of the Rashleigh family since the 16th century. The abandoned Menabilly had entranced du Maurier since her early twenties, and she began a life-long love affair with the house, eventually moving in as a tenant in 1943 and remaining there until 1963. Sadly for us, like Manderley, Menabilly sits deep in its own estate, hidden from view. But perhaps some mysterious places are best left to the imagination: ‘a jewel in the hollow of a hand’. You can, however, visit the beach where the first mistress of Manderley, Rebecca, entertained her lover in her cottage. Just below Menabilly House is Polridmouth Cove, a secluded beach where du Maurier loved to swim. The cottages in the area could well have inspired Rebecca’s boathouse. Swim in the crystal clear waters and gaze through du Maurier’s eyes (and Rebecca’s) towards St Austell, as well as east towards Fowey.

Fowey

‘Fowey would be my salvation’ wrote du Maurier of the riverside town – and it is easy to agree with her. Not much has changed in the picturesque fishing village – wander through to get a real feel for the town as it would have been through du Maurier’s eyes and you can see how it would have fired her dark imagination. For stunning views of Fowey Harbour, try the National Trust’s Hall Walk – a spectacular circular coastal walk which includes two ferry rides: from Fowey to Polruan and Fowey to Bodinnick. The centre of town is home to the Daphne du Maurier Literary Centre, chock full of books and  displays dedicated to du Maurier’s works – a quiet sanctuary amid the hustle and bustle of Fowey’s busy cafes, pubs and restaurants. Make time to pop into Fowey Museum – small but perfectly formed in just one room, the focus is on Fowey’s history and there is an entire exhibition dedicated to Daphne du Maurier. Here’s an idea for next year: the Fowey Festival of Words and Music, organised by two du Maurier experts, will be running from 7-15 May 2021, promising arts events for all. 

View our collection of holiday cottages in Fowey here.

Bodinnick

Bodinnick on the Fowey estuary

Helford River

Helford River

The Jamaica Inn

The Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor

Frenchman’s Creek

It’s not hard to see why du Maurier was compelled to write about this mysterious inlet of the Helford River, where her heroine, Lady Dona St Columb, falls for French buccaneer Jean-Benoit Aubéry. It’s also where du Maurier spent her honeymoon, sailing around with her new husband, Tommy Browning. Koru Kayaking offers a downriver adventure through the mysterious Frenchman’s Creek, where you can gaze at the wildlife, swim at secluded beaches and drift past shipwrecks. You can also explore the creek on foot: the National Trust’s circular walk takes in village life, wooded valleys and sheltered coves. The walk can be enjoyed all year round but the woodland flowers are at their best in the spring and early summer.

Click here to view our holiday cottages near the Helford River

Ferryside, Boddinick

Du Maurier experienced her first taste of Cornwall on a childhood holiday from London. Years later, on another sojourn from Hampstead, the family spotted a ‘for sale’ sign at a strange-looking house, built like a chalet, before nipping to the Ferry Inn for lunch. They bought ‘Swiss Cottage’ in 1926, changed the name to ‘Ferryside’ and du Maurier lived there until 1943. Although the home is private, you can sneak a photo from across the river. You can pay homage to the writer by taking a pleasant 45-minute walk from Ferryside to the tiny St Wyllow chapel where she and Major Browning were married in 1932.

Jamaica Inn and Bodmin Moor

Du Maurier named her 1930 novel about murky Cornish smugglers after Jamaica Inn, the windswept pub on the unforgiving Bodmin Moor. Following losing her way one wet and wild night with a friend, their horses led them to the inn, where the women were regaled with tales of smugglers by the local rector. Now a pub, B&B and tourist attraction off the A30 at Bolventor, ghost stories abound, which may be connected to local smugglers’ desire to discourage surprise visitors. You will also find a gift shop and a smuggling-themed museum (the author's writing desk is one of the exhibits). Nearby, small country lanes will take you into the heart of Bodmin Moor on superb walks in all directions, where you can discover ancient ruins and rugged countryside and buckets of atmosphere. Don’t do a Mary Yellan – walk in the day time and take a map!

Browse our self-catering cottages on Bodmin Moor