Cornwall Life Steps out in Falmouth & Penryn

PUBLISHED: 12:47 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 17:52 20 February 2013

Dee Hughes and Pam Tongue

Dee Hughes and Pam Tongue

Lesley Double explores the bustle and charm of these two maritime towns

Lesley Double explores the bustle and charm of these two maritime towns

Among the most picturesque towns in Cornwall, Falmouth lies on a major river and is the third deepest natural harbour in the world. There are always boats, from small dinghies to large cruise ships, to look at all along the waterfront. The town is an adventure to explore, with lanes and alleys leading to the waterfront and a fascinating array of architecture. Penryn sits next to Falmouth, on the Penryn River. In the 17th century it was a major port for exporting coal and tin. The old warehouses on the banks of the river are now shops and businesses, but the town is still a bustling place as the Tremough Campus, part of the University of Exeter, is situated here.

Get off to a good start

Arriving at Falmouth or Penryn can certainly lift your spirits. Theres no mistaking the importance of the sea and river here and wherever you look there are creeks and moored rowing boats, trees bending lazily over the water, ferries bustling about and the clink-clink of the rigging. The towns do not attract just one kind of person; there are young people from the university, families enjoying the beaches and amenities, retired couples strolling along the waterfront, environmentalists investigating the sea and river, artists in the dozens of galleries and shops, and fishermen and sailors everywhere.

Why visit now?

The tourist season has largely come to an end, so coffee shops and restaurants are less busy and the queues for ferries and amenities are shorter. If you like parks and gardens, there are a number to choose from in the area and it is interesting to see the variety of plants grown in each one, and the different styles from huge trees in Victorian gardens to Mediterranean, Chinese, sub-tropical and Japanese gardens.

Dont miss.

October is a month of festivals. The Falmouth Oyster Festival (14-17 October) is timed to coincide with the oyster-harvesting season, with cookery demonstrations and oyster tasting, as well as crafts, produce and working boat races. The Roseland Festival (17-31 October) is an arts festival with literature, music, dance, films and fine arts at various locations. The Falmouth Beer Festival (23 October) has over 100 different ales and ciders from all over the country, including a wide selection from Cornish breweries.

Treat yourself

Events Square at Discovery Quay near the Maritime Museum has many different kinds of restaurants and cafs, serving all manner of foods from crpes to pasta, cream teas to cocktails, tapas to fish and chips. Rick Steins Fish & Chips opened here earlier this year with a restaurant, take-away and oyster bar. For fabulous views over the water in a fascinating setting, a traditional Sunday lunch in the restaurant at the Maritime Museum is difficult to beat. Pre-booking will give you free entry to the galleries and exhibitions too. This very modern museum is divided into several floors, from a lookout with a 360 panoramic view over the River Fal, to the Tidal Zone where you can go under the water and watch the fish. The Museum is available for weddings, parties, dinners and receptions. If you like sailing and the sea, there can be few more exciting places to hold a special event than surrounded by dozens of boats from different countries and eras.

Go green

You can explore the Roseland and St Mawes quite easily with a combo ticket. This allows you to take a ferry from Falmouth to St Mawes, for example, walk to Place Creek and get a different ferry back. The Tourist Information Centre has details of walks from 2-15 miles, which takes in plenty of spectacular scenery, from inland to coast. For the more energetic there are cycle rides either along the roads or the Sustrans Cycle Routes, and various places to hire a bike. Try a tandem, tag-along or trailer for something different, or combine your ride with a ferry; bikes are welcome on ferries as long as you remove your panniers before boarding.

Enjoy the view

Some of the most inspiring views can be found at Pendennis Castle, or its sister castle across the river at St Mawes. Henry VIII built Pendennis and St Mawes as lookouts to protect the town and harbour, as important a feature in the 16th century as now. Today they are cared for by English Heritage and you can look around them at certain times of the day.

Falmouth Tourist Information Centre, Prince of Wales Pier, Falmouth, TR11 3DF. 01326 312300,

Dee Hughes and Pam Tongue

Dee and Pam are just two of the many artists working in Falmouth. Dee makes patchwork items and Pam makes ornamental glasswork. My favourite thing is sitting in a coffee shop and looking out over the river, watching the boats, says Dee. Falmouth is a slightly bohemian town, adds Pam. It attracts a wide variety of people and has a great sense of community.

Brenda Grieve and Anne Hunt

Usually Brenda and Anne can be found in the RNLI shop, but when there is a festival they run the shop in Events Square. Falmouth is a very convenient town, transport-wise, says Brenda, who has been living here for 10 years. Its not too hilly, agrees Anne, who has lived in Falmouth for 20 years, and its easy to walk from the town to the beach.

Steve Matta

Steve Matta has lived in Falmouth for six years, but only recently started work in the St Mawes Ferry ticket office. I love it here, says Steve. Ive worked in ticket offices before, but they were always a bit frantic. Here I can chat to people and theres plenty of time in between ferries to answer all their questions. The views across the river are fabulous too!

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