48 Hours In... Falmouth
PUBLISHED: 17:32 17 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:11 20 February 2013
In this June issue we visit the exciting town of Falmouth, where you will find plenty of entertainment, as well as places to stay and eat
Lesley Double finds plenty of exiting things to do in this town
Blessed with possessing the third largest, natural, deep-water harbour in the world, it is no surprise that Falmouth grew up around sailing and the sea. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Falmouth Packet carried Royal Mail and rich passengers all over the world. It was from here that many families left the country in the mid-1800s, fleeing famine and deprivation, to start new lives in America or Australia. Then, with the arrival of the Great Western Railway, Falmouth began to attract tourists eager to lap up the Mediterranean climate, and it soon became a popular resort with sailors, artists and writers. Today the riverbanks are lined with boats of all shapes and sizes and the streets are filled with art shops and galleries, with the history of this town remembered everywhere in museums, beautiful old buildings and castles.
Where can we stay?
If you want to spoil yourself, several hotels in Falmouth not only offer spectacular views but also that something extra. St Michael's Hotel and Spa (01326 312707), right on Gyllyngvase Beach, has a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, solarium, steam room and gymnasium, and an AA Rosette for its Flying Fish Restaurant. At The Greenbank (01326 312440) you can spend your time just watching the boats as they come and go, up and down the river. The beautiful ivy-covered Green Lawns Hotel (01326-312734) is surrounded by award-winning sub-tropical gardens.
Melville Road leads down to the town, docks and harbour, and is conveniently close to Falmouth Town railway station. Here you will find Cotswold House (01326 312077), a charming small Victorian hotel, and Tudor Court (01326 312807), a mock-Tudor guesthouse. Just around the corner is Gyllyngvase House ((01326 312956), near to the beach and Princess Pavilion, and Wickham (01326 311140), which has views over Falmouth Bay.
To the south of Falmouth town, two caravan and camping sites inland are worth considering: Tregedna Farm (01326 250529) and Pennance Mill Farm (01326 317431) are both just minutes from the beach. Pendra Loweth Holiday Village (01326 317431) is in Maen Valley on the outskirts of Falmouth. It is open all year, consists of two- and three-bedroom cottages, and offers early and late short-break holidays.
There's so much to see in Falmouth that it's possible to wander round the town all day and spend very little money. The views from Pendennis Point over Falmouth Bay, into the town, or across the water to St Mawes and Flushing are simply breathtaking and there are always plenty of tiny boats or big ships to watch, so don't forget your binoculars! The Tudor castles of Pendennis and
St Mawes face each other across the Carrick Roads. Pendennis Castle is open daily and St Mawes Castle opens Sunday to Friday, courtesy of English Heritage.
Back in the town, the National Maritime Museum sits right on the edge of the river. Discovery Quay has a Continental feel, with modern shops, galleries and cafs with outside seating, and further seats where you can soak up the atmosphere while having a picnic.
A stroll through the town follows the riverbank and there are frequent glimpses through gateways and windows to the river beyond. Look out for some interesting buildings along the way. Today, Falmouth Arts Centre is full of the work of current artists but was once home to the first Polytechnic Society in Britain, and in 1835 boasted William IV as a patron. A brightly painted ornate faade invites you to enter St George's Arcade, originally the second largest cinema in the country, but now housing several unusual and specialist shops.
The bus station is situated in The Moor, where there are more buildings of historic interest, including the 80-year-old Post Office built on the site of the town's original market, the Methodist Chapel dating from 1887, and the Passmore Edwards Library, now over 100 years old.
Everywhere in the town you will see art shops and galleries, some with names evocative of the sea, such as Beside The Wave and Whistlefish, and many of which exhibit work by local artists drawn to the area because of its maritime history.
Three things to take home
Nautical bric-a-brac including model boats, globes, barometers, figureheads and knot boards from Tall Ships Trading, a maritime-themed shop in Church Street. If you like boats, you'll love this shop!
Jewellery from Meerkat Beads in Killigrew Street. This shop sells a wide selection of beads, including miyuki seed beads, shells and pearls, Czech beads and Swarovski crystals, as well as threads, tools and findings to make your own jewellery.
Military art, including prints signed by pilots, soldiers, etc, by artist Mark Littlejohn. A fascinating selection is available from the Arcs of Fire Gallery on The Moor.
For uninterrupted views across the bay and local mussels or Falmouth Bay lobsters on the terrace, it's hard to beat the town's only four-star hotel, The Royal Duchy (01326 313042). There are probably more places to eat along Arwenack Street than anywhere else in Falmouth: try the Italian menu at Caffe Venetto (01326 313983), or the Bistro de la Mer (01326 316509). The Quayside Inn (01326 312113) has live music every Saturday night and a large selection of real ales. There's Cantonese food at the Jasmine Garden (01326 312566), Spanish food at Bodenes (01326 210759), award-winning fish and chips at Harbour Lights (01326 316934) or pick up a pasty at Cornish Miner (01326 318111).
Booking a traditional Sunday carvery at the Maritime Museum (01326 214554) will allow you free entry to the exhibitions. Nearby you can sit outside at The Shed Restaurant and Cocktail Bar (01326 318502) or Harveys Wharf Bar and Brasserie (01326 314351) and pretend you're beside the Mediterranean! De Wynnes (01326 319259) is a tea and coffee house that was once a favourite meeting place of the 18th-century packet ship captains. Finally, a trip to Pendennis Castle (08703 331181) wouldn't be complete without a cream tea in their newly refurbished tearoom.
Things to do
As Falmouth exists because of the sea, it would be criminal to miss learning about some of the town's exciting history at the Maritime Museum. With special exhibitions and workshops, a look-out tower with a 360 panorama, even its own pontoon, the Museum is not just a reminder of times gone by, but tells of a modern, living working port.
Get out on the water! From the pier there are regular ferries to both Flushing and St Mawes, trips up the River Fal and the Helford River, to Frenchman's Creek, Trelissick and Malpas, as well as fishing trips. For the more adventurous, a trip on one of Orca Sea Safaris will give you memories to last a lifetime. Take a two- or three-hour sea safari and explore the coastline, or enjoy an evening shark watch. Orca works with various conservation groups and your trip will help gather information on many different species of wildlife.
The rivers and coast around here are lined with lush and sheltered valleys, perfect for gardens full of mature plants, many rare and exotic, and wildflowers. Visit the National Trust garden of Glendurgan and explore its laurel maze, Trelissick at the head of the Carrick Roads, with its panoramic views down the estuary, or Trebah Gardens, from where American troops embarked for the assault on Omaha Beach on D-Day.
Beaches on the edge of Falmouth Bay, especially Gyllyngvase Beach, are wide and sandy. But if it's too cold to swim in the sea, a visit to Ships and Castles is a must. Situated near Pendennis Castle, this very appropriately named leisure pool has geysers and bubbles, a wave machine, river ride and a flume.
Tourist Information Centre: 11 Market Strand
Fal River Links: 01872 861914, www.falriverlinks.co.uk
River Fal Trips: with Enterprise Boats, links Prince of Wales Pier, St Mawes, Trelissick, Truro and Malpas, 01326 374241
Aquacab Fal Estuary water-taxi service:
St Mawes Ferry Company: regular pedestrian ferry between St Mawes and Falmouth 01872 861910
The Maritime Line: a railway line between Falmouth and Truro, also known as the 'Rail Ale Trail' as there are 16 real ale pubs along the route. Timetable available from staffed stations 01752 233094, http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/