Within the Cornish town of Falmouth and the immediate vicinity there are a number of beaches. Starting in the north these are Castle Beach, Tunnel Beach, Gyllyngvase (Gylly) Beach, Swanpool Beach and Maenporth Beach. This is a brief guide and review of the various beaches.
Castle Beach is connected to Pendennis Point, and is thus the most northerly of all of the Falmouth beaches. The northern portion of the beach, nearest Pendennis Point, is very rocky, although this is interspersed with areas of sand. This is quite good for getting a private area, and is also a good place for late night bbqs/bonfires, especially as there is often various bits of driftwood washed up. Further away from Pendennis Point the beach becomes predominantly sand as it approaches Tunnel Beach (the two are joined). Out of all of the Falmouth beaches, Castle Beach, along with Tunnel Beach, is the most exposed, and least sheltered by the headlands and so is probably one of the less child friendly. However, like all of the Falmouth beaches it is protected by the Lizard peninsula from the worst of the Atlantic storms, and if the waves are from the north it can be protected by Pendennis Point. Depending on the tides, the whole beach/practically the whole beach can be covered at high tide, and so this is something that needs to be remembered.
Compared with some of the other beaches in Falmouth, the facilities are rather modest, with only a small snack/ice-cream shack which opens up in the summer and a toilet block, and I believe there is no lifeguard service even in the peak season. There is no dedicated car park for this beach, although there is plenty of road parking nearby, along with a couple of modest car parks on Pendennis Point,
Travelling south from Castle Beach and there is another of Falmouth's beaches - Tunnel Beach. Tunnel Beach is probably named after the way it can be accessed - through a very small narrow tunnel. The tunnel runs under the promenade to steps to the beach, and is accessed via a spiral staircase. At low tide it is possible to walk to both Castle Beach and Gyllyngvase Beach from here. At high tide Tunnel Beach is completely covered, and so this is probably the least used Falmouth beach. There are no facilities for Tunnel Beach, other than on street carparking, and so there is the need to walk to one of the adjacent beaches for snacks or toilets.
Gyllynvase Beach is probably one of the, if not most popular beaches in Falmouth. This is because it is a large sheltered beach, and there is still lots of beach space available at high tide. Whilst being slightly further away from town than Castle Beach and Tunnel Beach it is still within 10 minutes walk. In addition, many of the hotels are located very close by, such as St Michael's Spa and the Falmouth Beach Hotel. The beach itself is more sheltered than Tunnel Beach and Castle Beach and is so more suitable with families, and for approximately half the year from just before Easter there is a lifeguard cover on this beach.
Gyllyngvase Beach has relatively extensive facilities. There is a large cafe/bar (the Gylly Beach Cafe) which is built over the beach and this is open all year round. In addition in the summer an adjacent building is opened up from which take-away food, ice-cream and beach goods are sold. There are relatively large toilets which are kept in good condition. Travelling by road to Gylly Beach is relatively easy - in addition to on road parking there is a large car park. However, even this is sometimes not enough parking for peak summer months. There is a volleyball net on the beach, which is popular with students. The main part of the beach is sand, and the sea is generally clear and calm (so not very good for surfing!), although sometimes there can be buildups of seaweed. In the summer BBQs and drinking is banned on large parts of the beach, and there are often beach patrols by the police, and so this adds to making the area more family friendly. In the peak summer months the council also rakes the beach first thing in the morning with a tractor, which is presumably to freshen the beach up and clear any litter - which makes the beach even better. The only disadvantage to the beach, if there is one, is it can become extremely busy, particularly on fine days during the summer school holidays.
Swanpool Beach is in it's own little cove. Behind the beach is a large body of water, which makes up the majority of Swanpool Nature Reserve. This is now separated from the beach by the road. The road lies on a sandbar which previously separated the sea from the area which is now the nature reserve. The pool was originally freshwater, but in the Victorian times a conduit was built and so the pool is now partially saltwater. This means that the pool is now of international importance as not many places within the UK are like this. It is definitely worth walking around the pool to see the wildlife (especially if with children who will probably love seeing all the swans and ducks - just remember to take some bread if with children!). Such a walk will easily be completed in under half an hour.
The beach itself is relatively large although probably not quite as big as Gyllyngvase Beach. In addition, as it is in it's own bay it isn't linked to any other beaches which give the impression that it is larger. At Swanpool there is a small building which serves take-away food. In the holiday season beach items are sold from another building on the beach. There is a bouncy castle on the beach itself, along with the opportunity to hire surfboards, bodyboards, sea canoes etc. By the beach there are a number of beach huts, and I believe some of these are hired out in the summer.
The beach is predominantly sand, although nearer the cliffs it can be slightly more rocky, and there is also a small stream which many children (and not so small children!) enjoy trying to dam! Across the road from the beach there is the large carpark - there is a charge upon entry for this although in the winter the little booth is empty and the charge is paid at the take-away place. This small carparking booth also doubles up as the entry point for the small crazy golf location. In addition the beach is also the scene of firework displays. The fireworks are launched off of a boat in the bay and everyone watches this from both the beach and the surrounding cliffs. These happen both to celebrate the end of the summer season and for bonfire night and it truly is worth seeing. The final attraction of Swanpool Beach is the "Hooked on the Rocks" restaurant which overlooks the bay and often gets great reviews both for the location and the quality of the food.
Maenporth Beach is the most southerly of the main beaches which are in the Falmouth area. Maenporth is a rather large beach, yet is in it's own cove. It is also the most remote of all of the beaches in Falmouth, which means a large proportion of the surrounding land is farmland, which most people will agree increases the visual amenity of the site. However, whilst this leads to the sea being sheltered a lot of the time, at other times the coastline amplifies waves, and so out of all of the beaches in Falmouth it is the one where surfers are most likely to be found. Even considering this though, under most conditions it is not considered to be as good a beach for surfing as those found on the north Cornwall coast such as Fistral and Gwythian. Meanporth is though probably the most watersports friendly of all of Falmouth beaches, with it being possible to go scuba diving, kayaking and many other activities with more details being available here.
The facilities at Maenporth are some of the most extensive of all of the beaches in Falmouth, with only Gyllyngvase being comparable in this respect. Like Gyllyngvase there is a restaurant and bar, although this isn't actually on the beach like the Gylly beach cafe. This is called The Cove, and is slightly more expensive than Gylly Beach Cafe, with evening meals starting at about £15. Due to the location of this restaurant, and it's size and general facilities it is popular as a reception venue for weddings.
Maenporth has a takeaway which is right on the beach, which again this serves the basics such as light snacks and drinks. This also sells beach items such as buckets and spades. As with the majority of beaches in Falmouth, there are toilet facilities.
There is ample parking right by the beach. This is useful, since the beach is approxiamtely 1 hour's walk away from the centre of Falmouth, and longer if the scenic coastal route via all the other beaches is taken. However, such a walk is very pleasant on a good day, with fantastic views up and down the coast, so it would be highly recommended - just remember to take a camera and money for ice-creams at one of the beach side shops!
Maenporth beach is also famous as being the site of the Ben Asdale shipwreck, and this boat can still be seen at low tide, and is also visible on Google earth.
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