Fabulous Falmouth is a friendly university town on the south coast, a place utterly shaped by its relationship with the sea. A harbour town, the port has a deep-water dock, so is always a hive of shipping activity. Indeed, in 2020, it became a temporary home to The World residential cruise ship, home to 150 of the wealthiest people in the world, which took refuge in its waters.
However, Falmouth is also fast becoming one of Cornwall’s most exciting towns brimful of Cornish culture and artistic endeavour, with a fair scattering of independent shops, too.
Falmouth is relatively easy to get to from anywhere, even by rail. Great Western Rail (GWR) operates high speed services from London Paddington, South Wales and the Cotswolds to Cornwall. Cross Country Trains operate services into Cornwall from the Midlands, the North and Scotland. Alight at Truro and jump on the twice hourly Maritime Line train, which takes around 20 minutes to Falmouth.
National Express coaches serve Falmouth from destinations throughout the UK. Connecting services to Cornwall are available from Bristol, Birmingham and London.
By car, follow the M5 to Exeter, and join the A30 to Truro, then follow the signs to Falmouth via the A393, which takes around 30 minutes.
Fabulous Falmouth is well worth visiting for a stay or a day, but parking can be a little tricky. On-street parking is difficult to find in peak season.
The town has 3 short-stay car parks, but they are expensive. Run by Cornwall Council, they are Grove Place (168 spaces), Moor (34 spaces) and Well Lane (37 spaces). An hour costs around £1.40.
Long-stay car parks are a better bet; they include Church Street (168 spaces), Gyllyngvase (107 spaces), The Dell (105 spaces) and Town Quarry (281 spaces). Pricing is around £4.00 for 2-3 hours and £8.00 for 24 hours. There is a free car park (64 spaces) at Pendennis Point.
Cornwall Council’s Countywide Rover ticket can be used for one week in any Cornwall Council long-stay car park in Falmouth and elsewhere in the county, so buy one to cut any stress and expense if you are travelling around the duchy.
Why not try Falmouth’s seasonal Park and Ride for all-day stress-free parking with a view, and something a little different? Running 7 days a week, late May through to late September.
Parking for 500 cars is provided at Ponsharden, here you can take the bus into Falmouth town, close to the Maritime Museum. The Ponshardon site is open from 9am-9pm Monday to Sunday, with the first bus leaving Ponshardon 9:45am and the last bus leaving Falmouth town 6pm.
You can buy a Fal Mussel Card for unlimited hop-on hop-off travel between Truro, Falmouth, the Roseland Peninsula and Helford.
Falmouth is packed with foodie hotspots. Seafood is a speciality at The Wheelhouse Crab and Oyster Bar. Good, honest, local food will make your eating experience easy and enjoyable.
For a dog-friendly eating experience, check out The Grapes alehouse. The Grapes was founded in the 1700s on Fish Strand Quay, the first port of call for seafarers in the days when 300 ships in the estuary was not an uncommon sight. Now it is an independent family-run pub in the heart of the town, with panoramic views out to the water at the back.
In the heart of old Falmouth on the High Street at the harbour’s edge, the award-winning Victorian Star and Garter is said to be the best foodie gastro pub in the south-west. Fish comes direct from the Newlyn boat, and meat is direct from the farm and butchered locally in this ‘nose to tail’ restaurant, where nothing is wasted. A global wine list, world class whiskies and rums galore complement the food perfectly.
For morning coffee, Espressini is an independent coffee house based in Falmouth’s west end, which opened in 2010. Its mission is to seek out the best beans, the best growers and the best-tasting coffee for you. For that all-important caffeine fix with brunch or cake, it is a treat for aficionados. Folk rave about their Eggs Benedict, too.
A fabulous light-filled beach café right on Gyllyngvase Beach, minutes away from Falmouth train station, is an incredible place to eat, providing fine homemade, freshly-cooked food. Overlooking Henry’s VIII’s coastal fortress, picturesque Pendennis Castle, this family-run café provides a warm welcome. The café is open 364 days a year. By day, it’s a chilled beach café, by night a buzzing restaurant.
There are many attractive old pubs in Falmouth, most are gastropubs, serving food and often with live music thrown in. Ones to try include: Water’s Edge or The Flying Fish for fine dining with superb sea views. Oliver’s on the High Street which has received rave reviews. Rick Stein’s is here for fish dishes. The Brig is excellent for cocktails, and The Stable pizzeria at beautiful Custom House Quay replaces beer with cider. The Cove overlooking Maenporth Beach is said to be an elite dining experience but also offering a Prix Fixe menu which is very reasonable, while The Shack offers more ‘hands on’ food.
You are surrounded by water, so why not take advantage? Catch a boat from Prince of Wales Pier to the pretty village of Flushing, just across the water, or to St Mawes.
You can also take a ferry to Truro, a beautiful trip through the waterways of the Carrick Roads. For things to do in Falmouth itself, see below.
Check out Raze the Roof in nearby Penryn, which has soft play areas for children and laser tag and a climbing wall for older family members. Try a wildlife cruise to see if they can spot whales, dolphins and other marine life. Crabbing and rock pooling at the beaches is always a must- and it’s free.
You might not think of Falmouth as surfing territory but The Search Surf School is a mobile surf school, based at Gyllyngvase Beach, staying there if there is a wave, or taking you to the best beaches on any given day.
Falmouth Art Gallery is well worth a visit, as it contains over two thousands art works, from pre-Raphaelite to British impressionists, including masterpieces by Gainsborough and Tuke, along with an impressive photographic exhibition by Lee Miller.
There are four beaches to choose from in Falmouth, Gyllyngvase, Swanpool, Flushing and Castle. Gyllyngvase (or Town Beach) offers fabulous sunsets south of Falmouth town, west of Pendennis. It is sandy, with a car park and takeaway nearby for fabulous food, including vegan pasties. The water is clear, and lifeguarded during the summer.
Swanpool is a small shingle beach with plenty of activities going on, such as mini-golf and watersports. Check out the ‘quirky ice creams’. Safe for swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding, the colourful beach huts add to its attraction. Family-friendly, with a duck/swan rich nature reserve nearby.
Castle Beach is mainly covered at high tide but has a variety of rock pools and a small cafe in the summer. Rocky rather than sandy, it is more for walking and activities than a sunbathing beach. A lovely location and the more northerly of Falmouth’s beaches situated along Pendennis Point.
Flushing Beach is across the estuary in Mylor. Sandy and peaceful, it is the place to go to escape the crowds. Offering a different view of Falmouth, it is charming to see a fresh perspective. Small, no frills, but safe for little ones to have a paddle, and lots of hermit crabs around for rock poolers. No toilets or lifeguards, though. The estuary is full of similar creeks if you travel farther afield.
Falmouth’s town centre is bustling with well known high street brands and small independent shops.
Special outlets are the knowledgeable Falmouth Bookseller, the Bosun’s Locker for chandlery of all kinds, Picnic Cornwall local deli, alongside the Courtyard Deli, Lanes for gifts and Blink for clothing.
Try Cream Cornwall for British-made curated interiors with a coastal twist, Uneeka with its Scandi vibe, Finisterre for surfing quality, Un-Rap for zero-waste, the Grey Lurcher gift shop, the Bean Hive gift shop, and Parade for womenswear.
If you are taking your dog on a stand up paddleboard, you might want to invest in a doggie buoyancy aid, available at Windsport at Mylor.
The obvious answer to a wet weather day is the award-winning Maritime Museum, which also has a pirate-themed play area for small children. They offer arts and crafts events, storytelling and crabbing because if the kids are happy, so are you.
Meanwhile, if you are trying out watersports, rain really doesn’t matter too much.
About six miles away at Mawnan Smith is Glendurgan Garden Maze. Its serpentine twists and turns are a really pretty challenging living puzzle, but great fun, too, for all the family, as is the rotating rope swing called Giant’s Stride.
Or try the Fox-Rosehill Gardens, named after the Fox family and awash with plants from the southern hemisphere. You may enjoy the hidden away Gyllyngdune Gardens with its secret grotto, monolithic arch and fabulous views to the sea.
Pendennis Castle, © English Heritage
Pendennis Castle was erected in 1540 by Henry VIII to protect the Carrick Roads, a deep water part of the Fal Estuary containing numerous creeks, which could otherwise have provided a weakness for invaders. It has the third deepest harbour in the world, after Sydney and Mahon, so why not immerse yourself in its history?
Along with Pendennis’s counterpart at St Mawes, the estuary was well protected from attack. The town itself was created in 1613 by Sir John Killigrew, gradually attracting tourists with the arrival of the railway – it has three stations, Falmouth Docks, Falmouth Town and Penmere.
In the town, Jacob’s Ladder has 111 steps – that’ll keep you fit!
iWalk Cornwall offers some lovely circular walks around the Falmouth area. If you want to explore the town itself, try the historic town trail, which takes you to all the buildings of note. Or don’t follow a map, just follow your sense of adventure and wander at will.
There are some lovely landscape walks, too, though some are difficult requiring good levels of fitness, such as the Pendennis Headland. Take in views of Falmouth Docks and Pendennis Castle.
The South West Coast Path is accessible from Falmouth (it crosses the Fal River entrance) from where it is easy to walk to Swanpool Beach, and even Maenporth. Set your own agenda for coastal or hinterland treks and strolls. Spellbinding scenery is guaranteed. At Customs House Quay, smuggled illicit tobacco was burned in the King’s Pipe.
See if you can find out why Killigrew Monument is there. The pyramid is named after Falmouth’s founding family but no one knows quite why it exists.
Fish Strand Quay is the place where news of the victory of Trafalgar, and Nelson’s death first reached Britain.
If you have a taste for the macabre, the Old Court House was the site of the last ever UK cannibalism trial in 1884, when two sailors were acquitted of eating a cabin boy when their ship sank and they were cast adrift.
July is usually the best weather month with pleasant average temperatures that range between 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) and 25 degrees Celsius (77°F). The coldest month is February and the wettest November. April is usually the driest month.
The climate is mild which is reflected in local plantlife, so make the most of it in the great outdoors at Kimberley Park with its seven acres of ornamental trees.
If you need to spend a penny, public toilets are available at Prince of Wales Pier, Grove Place, Castle Beach and Swanpool Beach.
Fabulous Falmouth is a friendly university town on the south coast, a place utterly shaped by its relationship with the sea. A harbour town, the port has a deep-water dock, so is always a hive of shipping activity.