Falmouth is fast becoming one of the most exciting and diverse of Cornwall’s towns. From its high street full in independent shops, bars and cafes, to its fantastic beaches, its thriving University and historical working dockyards, this is a town alive with Cornish culture and a flourishing artistic spirit. It is the perfect destination for a fascinating day out, an adventure on the high seas or a relaxing beach holiday.
For Falmouth it has always been all about the sea. It has the 3rd deepest natural harbour in the world and for centuries was a destination for shipping from across the globe. These days however it is the cruise ships, paddle boards and private yachts rather than the famous Packet ships that take advantage of the town’s wonderful waterways.
This is a town packed with historical interest, it has seen its fair share of pirates, smuggling and war but for hundreds of years Falmouth has welcomed travellers from all over the world and it continues to do so with an enthusiastic zest. So here, in no particular order, is my guide to the top attractions and all the fun things to do in Falmouth:
- Take to the water: Whether it is a ferry, a paddle board or an inflatable duck spend the day mucking about on the water.
From the Prince of Wales pier you can take boats to Flushing, a pretty village just across the water from Falmouth or to St Mawes where you can visit the castle or take a walk to St Anthony Lighthouse. There is also a ferry that runs to the city of Truro, this is an extremely scenic trip through the beautiful waterways of the Carrick Roads. You also have the opportunity to hop off the Truro ferry at Trelissick a National Trust property with extensive formal gardens and hundreds of acres of woodland to explore.
You can hire paddle boards from WeSUP on Gyllyngvase beach just south of the centre of town, they will also provide you will lessons, tours of the bay and on-board yoga and fitness classes. This is a great way to see the town and the nearby coastline from a whole other perspective.
Falmouth’s two main beaches are Gyllyngvase and Castle beach, both are safe for swimming and Gyllyngvase has lifeguards during the summer season.
- Have a Wild Adventure: if there is one things that adults and children alike love it is getting up close to wildlife and in Falmouth this is relatively easy to do and doesn’t have to cost the earth.
At low tide the beaches provide ample opportunity for some excellent rock-pooling action! From starfish to sea slugs and from coral to cockles peel back the seaweed, peer under a rock and see what you find.
Going crabbing is another activity which requires only a little effort. With just a length of string, something as bait and a weight of some kind you can spend hours hanging out on one of Falmouth’s piers and have a competition to see who can catch the most crabs!
You can also take a number of organised fishing and wildlife watching tours from the town. These organised boat trips often spot dolphins, basking sharks, porpoise, seals and a wide range of sea birds. If the wide open sea isn’t what you’re after there are also leisurely river trips that also provide plenty of chances for wildlife watching.
- Visit an Awarding Winning Museum
For such a small unassuming space Falmouth Art Gallery actually holds one of the finest collections of art in the south west.
From old masters to French impressionists and modern surrealists, it really is a surprising hidden gem. The gallery is free to visit and has also won numerous awards for its innovative education programme. You will find inspiring and fun activities for both children and adults. Don’t miss their collection of automata too!
Opened in 2003 the National Maritime Museum Cornwall is a striking building which dominates Discovery Quay. The museum’s mission is to throw light on the history of the sea and man’s place is it, to help people connect to the watery world around them through stories and exhibitions. They have a collection of boats, galleries exploring Cornwall’s maritime history, an underwater viewing area and the Look-out provides awesome views of the harbour.
- Climb Jacob’s Ladder
Despite the biblical connotations of the name this set of 111 steps was actually named after a local business man. The precipitous flight stairs scales the hill from the Moor, the town’s square, to Vernon Place.
It was built in the 1830s by the builder and tallow-chandler (candle-maker) Jacob Hamblen to create a direct, if somewhat exhausting, route between his shop and house. These days you will find the Jacobs Ladder Inn at the top which serves excellent Sunday roasts and a well-deserved ale.
- Discover Hidden History
Tucked away down one of Falmouth’s tiny opes (alleyways) or sometimes hiding in plain view the town’s history is there for you to discover.
You can visit the spot on Fish Strand Quay where the story of Nelson’s death and the victory at Trafalgar first reached British shores. From here a messenger rode all the way to London with the news. See the Old Court House on High Street where the last ever cannibalism trail in the Uk was heard in 1884 or see the King’s Pipe on Custom’s House Quay, the name given to the furnace used to burn the smugglers illegal tobacco cargos.
Then there is the mysterious Killigrew monument, a 44ft high granite pyramid built in 1737 but no one is really sure why. And don’t miss the historic ship’s figurehead known as Amy who watches the goings on from the quite of Upton Slip Ope.
- Find a Tropical Haven
Cornwall’s mild climate means that many tropical plants and flowers found nowhere else in the country thrive here.
These can be seen in all their sub-tropical glory in Falmouth’s parks. Kimberley Park was established in 1877 and is the biggest of the town’s green spaces, it boasts 7 acres of ornamental trees.
The Fox family were very well connected and ship’s captains brought them new plants and flowers from across the globe. The result is the Fox-Rosehill Gardens, once their private haven now a park bursting with plants from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The Gllyngdune Gardens are tucked away behind the Princess Pavillions and are like a step into another world. From the original Edwardian bandstand to the shady grotto, beautiful shell house and secret tunnel to the sea this place is a little wonderland. And of course all the parks are free so take a picnic and a good book and just lie back and relax.
- Discover Pendennis and Little Dennis Castle
Pendennis castle is one of England’s finest surviving coastal fortresses and has been protecting Falmouth for more than 400 years. It was built by Henry VIII as part of his defences against invasion from Catholic Europe. During the civil war in 1646 Pendennis was one of the last Royalist strongholds, nearly 1000 men were held here under siege for over 3 months. Now owned by English heritage the castle plays host to all kinds of themed events including medieval jousts.
Just below Pendennis on the headland you can find Little Dennis, a blockhouse or gun tower built in 1539. This small castle is free to enter and has stunning views across the bay to St Anthony Lighthouse, a great place for little imaginations to run wild!
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