Things to Do In Falmouth Cornwall
Great beaches, boat trips on the estuary and at sea, museums, galleries and gardens - there are many things to do in Falmouth, whatever the weather, whether you're on a daytrip or are staying in the area, so here's a quick look at the area and what's in and around Falmouth.
Falmouth is located at the mouth of the River Fal, with the main town street following the waters edge, meaning you're rarely more than 100 yards from the waterside and its great views. Falmouth docks is a popular spot for large cruise ships to dock, so the shops are attractive and well-frequented by locals and visitors. Falmouth is one of the nicer towns to visit if you want to amble along and into shops or if you're looking for some good local Cornish produce to eat at restaurants and cafes with great water views. The trading part of the town is all on the level.
Events Square and the Millennium Quay areas were redeveloped at the turn of the 21st century and have now become the focus for public events and festivals, as well as being the home to the National Maritime Museum.
Deepest Natural Harbour in Western Europe
Although Falmouth is a quaint, Cornish, town these days, in the past Falmouth has been the location of some historical events. Falmouth docks, on the edge of town, are busy now, with trades ships, private yachts and cruise ships, but for 200 years between 1660 and 1860 Falmouth was the second businest port in the British Empire.
Falmouth boasts the deepest natural harbour in Western Europe and is the third deepest natural harbour in the world.
Between 1689-1851, the Falmouth Packet Service operated out of Falmouth - this service carried mail to and from Britain's growing empire.
Many famous people have ended their long voyages at Falmouth too, including:
- Charles Darwin landed at Falmouth at the end of his voyage around the world in The Beagle, 2 in October 1836, before travelling on to Truro to pick up the Stagecoach.
- Dame Ellen MacArthur received a hero's welcome at Falmouth upon the completion of her record-breaking 71-day circumnavigation of the globe on 9 March 2006.
There is plenty to do in Falmouth if you've a few hours and just wish to wander round. The main street through the town is part-pedestrianised and contains a myriad of small and independent shops to meander through.
Step behind the main street and you'll find the Quayside, with plenty of good water views, local produce to eat or bars with outside seating/dining spaces.
Beyond that, if you're in Falmouth for a full day, or a weekend or week, what else can you discover that's interesting, unusual, thought provoking, invigorating or simply pleasurable?
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Pendennis Castle is operated by English Heritage and was built in 1540 by Henry VIII when he wanted to protect the mouth of the estuary against French and Spanish invaders. There are many events held at the Castle itself, from re-enactment days and jousting to fun trails.
If you've not got the budget to pay the entry fee to Pendennis Castle, then follow the road along to the end of the headland and you'll find a small blockhouse to explore and some great views from the public car park. Along the road heading West round the headland there are also benches and picnic areas.
Morgawr: Falmouth Sea Monster
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Morgawr - the Falmouth Sea Monster, who has been seen and photographed a number of times
Look for the Sea Monster
Whichever beach you're on in Falmouth, you should always keep an eye out for the Sea Monster, Morgawr. This sea monster is like the loch ness monster and has been spotted on a number of occasions over the years.
There's also a carving of Morgawr in the Gyllyngvase Gardens if you're headed that way.
There are some fabulously sandy beaches in Falmouth, which you'll find if you head out of town to the West. Starting from the corner of the Castle headland, the beaches are:
Fairly small, but sandy. There are quite a lot of rockpools here, so it's a good beach for rockpooling. This end of the beach front is popular with divers and snorkellers too. This beach gets covered at high tide and car parking is either on the street, or a walk from a local car park. There is a small cafe on the seafront.
Going towards Gyllyngvase Beach, there's also Tunnel Beach, but it's indistinguishable from Castle Beach, so rarely mentioned.
The largest beach in Falmouth is Gyllyngvase Beach, where there's also a cafe and pay and display car park alongside. Gyllyngvase Beach has a Blue Flag Award and a large sandy area that is still exposed at high tide. This beach has liffeguards in season.
You can go SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding) from this beach.
The land train service goes along the sea front, passing Castle Beach and Gyllyngvase Beach.
Walk for 25-30 minutes west of Gyllyngvase Beach and you'll find Swanpool Beach. This is popular with water sports enthusaists. There are no lifeguards on this beach.
As well as the beach, there's a cafe, cheap public car park, lake and Crazy Golf.
This beach is close to Falmouth, but about 2-3 miles west. It's a lovely, wide, sandy beach with all facilities including a car park. There is no lifeguard at Maenporth.
These free entry gardens have on-site parking and lie just 100 yards back from the sea-front behind Castle Beach/Gyllyngvase Beach.
The gardens are over 100 years old, but were re-furbished and relaunched just a couple of years ago as part of a £2.3million improvement scheme.
See if you can spot the wooden carved Falmouth Sea Monster in the gardens.
Gyllyngdune Gardens is also the location of Falmouth Princess Pavilions - venue for a lot of music events and concerts throughout the year.
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There are dozens of short boat trips to be enjoyed from two ends of Falmouth town. You'll see lots of boards and kiosks offering boat trips if you're in town and close to the water's edge.
One of my favourite boat trips is to go up to the Smugglers' Cottage at Tolverne. This ancient, thatched, pub and tea garden offers a tranquil setting where you can enjoy a pleasant lunch, or Cornish cream tea. The tea is Cornish tea, grown locally at Tregothnan.
Cornish cream teas have protected status now, meaning the clotted cream's milk has to have been sourced in Cornwall - and don't forget, for a Cornish cream tea you have to put the jam on the scone first, then the clotted cream on top!
There are two main town quays where you can take a boat trip from, they both have a variety of small boats waiting to whisk you away across the water on your adventures:
Custom House Quay
This is on the outskirts of Falmouth town, near to Trago Mills and Discovery Quay - close to the National Maritime Museum.
Prince of Wales Pier
This is right in the town centre of Falmouth.
National Maritime Museum at Falmouth:
National Maritime Museum at Falmouth:
The National Maritime Museum at Falmouth opened in February 2003 and is dedicated to the story of the sea, boats and the maritime history of Cornwall. The Museum additionally manages the National Small Boat Collection, which was moved to Falmouth from Greenwich.
With dozens of boats on site, some of significant historical importance, this is the country's premier museum for boats and maintains a national register of small boats. There are three separate galleries within the building, as well as a lookout tower, cafe and various exhibitions.
As well as the tall lookout tower, you can also go into the basement area, where there's an underwater view into the Fal.
Regattas and Festivals in Falmouth:
There are a lot of large and very popular festivals held in Falmouth every year, mostly based around local produce, seafood and music, including:
Fal River Festival: May
The Fal River Festival started in 2006 and is a 10-day festival encompassing over 150 events varying from music & drama, the arts & heritage to gig racing, swimming, walking & more. Individual events are free or will be tickets only.
Fish Festival: May
Falmouth Fish Festival started in 2010 and is held over a 3-day weekend in Events Square. There's cookery demonstrations, live entertainment, sea food stalls, local Cornish produce, arts and crafts stalls and a champagne and wine bar. Usually held over a 3-day weekend of Saturday to Monday, this is a boats in the estuary.
Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival: June
Held annually since 2004, the Sea Shanty Festival celebrates the age old past-time of singing and the maritime history.
Cornwall is home to many local sea shanty groups, but one group from Port Isaac caught the ear of a holidaying music mogul back in 2010. Known as The Fishermen's Friends of Port Isaac, they've gone on to record albums and tour.
Opening in Events Square, this 3-day festival is held at various venues, with main stages at Custom House Quay, Events Square and The Moor in Falmouth.
There are often tall ships to be seen visiting Falmouth, but in 2014 The Tall Ships Races will have Falmouth on their route. Visit Falmouth during the Tall Ships Races week and see hundreds of sailing vessels, with huge sails, sailing up the estuary and reminding you of days gone by.
- Tall Ships Race 2014
The Tall Ships Races are returning to Falmouth in 2014 - visit to see hundreds of old-fashioned, magnificent sailing boats in the estuary.
Falmouth oysters are caught by traditional methods. Falmouth Working Boats were built at boatyards around the Fal, with some of the oldest boats in the Oyster Fishery dating back as far as 1860.
Ancient laws were put in place to protect the natural ecology of the riverbeds and oyster stocks and the oystermen that fish in the Port of Truro Oyster Fishery are prohibited from using engines.
Only sail power and hand-pulled dredges must be used to gather the oysters.
This is the only oyster fishery in Europe, if not the world, where such traditional methods must be used.
The oyster season runs from October to March each year.
Falmouth Oyster Festival
The 4-day Oyster Festival at Falmouth is an annual event, in October each year.
The Oyster Festival in Falmouth celebrates and marks the start of the oyster dredging season as well as highlighting the diversity and quality of Cornish seafood. Falmouth is one of the last remaining traditional oyster fisheries, dredging by sail and hand punt.
Opened with a cookery master-class from a celebrity chef, followed by a book signing, there's ample opportunity to enjoy good local Fal Oysters and local beers and wines. There's also a town parade, competitions, entertainment and the usual stalls and tastings.
Some of the boat trips on offer around the estuary will take you past the Fal Oyster fisheries, where the local Oysters are grown and harvested. These simple, floating, pontoons are quite simple.
If you're a keen walker, Falmouth is on the South West Coastal Path and you can simply follow the coast path along for as far as you want, then catch the bus back or enjoy a circular walk.
Guided walking tours are also available, the tourist information office will have details of these.
Activities and Prices
Many of these activities are free - but many have ticket prices and admission prices. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly how much any one activity will cost you as there are variations, chip prices, concessions, OAPs and some "free entry for children" options. However, to give you a rough idea of what an activity might cost you, so you can get it onto your radar, I've produced the quick look table below:
Activities and Budgets:
Budget (Adult prices)
Aged 4 and Under
Falmouth Martime Museum
Aged 5 and Under
If you want to see what's happening in Falmouth right now, check out these Falmouth Webcams, some of them require Adobe Flash to be installed:
- Falmouth Harbour, from the Tower of the Maritime Museum Out to Sea: Falmouth Webcam Sea
- Falmouth Harbour, from the Tower looking up river: Falmouth Webcam River
- Live Webcam from the King Harry Ferry: Ferry Cam
- Live Gyllyngvase Beach Webcam: Gyllyngvase Cam
- Park & Float Cam - lioverlooking the river where the river taxi departs from: River Taxi Cam
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Genuine Cornish Pasties:
Around Falmouth you've find a wide array of Cornish pasties for sale. There are many locally produced genuine Cornish pasty brands for sale in the small shops along the main street - and many of the cafes and restaurants will also have Cornish pasties on their menus.
The Cornish pasty shops will also offer a dazzling aray of alternative flavours for those of you who prefer something a little spicier, or vegetarian pasties.
Many of these shops will also sell boxes of Cornish pasties if you want to take some home with you.
Money Saving Options
There are a number of ways of saving money, or getting more value from your money if you're visiting Falmouth for more than a few hours, some of these are:
Fal Mussel Card:
A discount card, pay once and enjoy some discounted water travel covering Truro, Falmouth and the Roseland. One example of the savings you might make is: Unlimited hop-on hop-off travel across the area by bus, train or ferry for just £7/day if you buy the 6-day card (£42); this card also gives discounted entry to some attractions.
English Heritage Membership
If you're a member of English Heritage, you get free entry to Pendennis Castle
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