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Charteroak Holiday Lodges in CornwallCharteroak Holiday Lodges in Cornwall

An author's inspiration

Although described as a romantic novelist, Daphne Du Maurier’s novels have a decidedly gothic edge, with moody depictions of isolated moorland, haunted country estates and captivating creeks filled with the illicit promise of debauchery and sin. Du Maurier’s attachment to Cornwall began when her family bought a holiday home (Ferryside) in Bodinnick during the 1920’s. The area went on to inspire her first novel, The Loving Spirit , published in 1931. The novel drove Frederick Browning to sail the coast in search of the author and, once he did, they married, honeymooning on a sailing boat around the Helford, which ultimately became the setting for Frenchman’s Creek. 

Du Maurier eventually moved to Fowey with her young children after falling in love with Rashleigh Estate and Menabilly, upon which she based some of her most lorded novels, telling the secrets of a house that captivated her almost as much as the heroines themselves, and where she happily lived for 25 years. The resounding effect that Menabilly had on Du Maurier is first seen in her acclaimed novel Rebecca , a haunting tale of lost love orientated around the fictionalised version of Menabilly, Manderley. The house itself has an almost character like representation in the story, intricately intertwined in the plot and reflecting Du Maurier’s deep fascination and yearning for the building.

Located just outside Fowey, Menabilly is the Cornish home of the Rashleigh family. Hidden from prying eyes, it rests in a valley surrounded by extensive lands reaching far down to the sea, with the beautiful Polridmouth Cove just a walk away. Du Maurier discovered Menabilly as a young woman, the house was empty and neglected, the owner Dr John Rashleigh choosing to live elsewhere, but it held a magic that drew her back to it time and time again and inspired both Rebecca and The King’s General.

Another Cornish location that inspired Du Maurier was the Jamaica Inn, located on an atmospheric stretch of Bodmin Moor (just 17 minutes from Southern Halt). Published in 1936, The Jamaica Inn tells a rattling tale of smuggling and sin against the backdrop of the bleak Cornish moors. The haunting story revolves around a headstrong heroine who is forced to move to the inn when her mother dies, to live with her aunt and abusive uncle. The story was inspired by a haunting experience Du Maurier herself had when she was caught out in the fog on the moor, and eventually had to resort to dismounting from her horse and trust that it would lead her to safety. It led her to The Jamaica Inn, where she was regaled with stories of the inn’s rich smuggling past, providing the perfect inspiration for the novel and inducing an edge of desperation that may mirror the complete isolation of open moorland, and the panic of the unknown, which Du Maurier herself experienced. 

If you want to discover more about Du Maurier’s connection to Cornwall, then a visit to The Du Maurier Literary Centre in Fowey is a must. Peruse the collections, see the private residences of Kilmarth and Menabilly showcased through pictures and maps and discover the places she visited. One of the best, and most enjoyable ways to discover Du Maurier’s love of Cornwall, however, is by foot. Follow in her footsteps as you walk along the scenic route towards Gribbin Head, passing Readymoney and Polridmouth coves where Du Maurier lived in Point Neptune and Menabilly respectively. Alternatively, head out in the other direction from Fowey and you’ll see Ferryside in Bodinnick, a whitewashed house with bright blue shutters which was Du Maurier’s first Cornish home and which is still owned by the family today. Travel further down the coast to the Helford river and explore the hidden coves and secret beaches that inspired Frenchman’s Creek . Whether you explore by foot or by boat, you’re sure to be just as captivated by the area as Du Maurier herself.

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