While the maritime town of Falmouth on the West Devon coast is perhaps best known for its strong connection to the sea, it is also now one of the leading foodie destinations in the South West. Situated on the Fal Estuary, one of the largest and most beautiful natural working harbours in the world, it is the ideal place to spend some relaxing days away on the Cornish coast. Wonderful beaches, an award-winning maritime museum and the impressive Pendennis Castle only add to this vibrant market town's allure.
Have a read of our guide to things to do in Falmouth and discover why this seaside town is really gaining its place on the holiday map.
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Food and drink
The streets of Falmouth are packed with an interesting selection of independent shops, galleries and cafés, which spill down to the delightful harbour below. The third largest natural port in the world, it's a buzzy and colourful area, where fishing boats and cruise ships dock happily side by side, waiting for their passengers to alight. In the town centre itself, you'll find lots of friendly pubs and many different types of restaurants, so you'll always have a new place to refuel.
To get a taste of the town's fascinating past, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall overlooking the harbour is a must-see, as is the impressive fortress of Pendennis Castle. An important Battery Observation Post during the Second World War, it provided a round-the-clock watch to help keep the residents of Falmouth safe from attack. Having done its duty since Tudor times, it is now quietly in retirement and managed by English Heritage who bring the past alive to new generations via their excellent exhibitions and re-enactments.
A selection of beaches and gardens, as well as the South West Coast Path, are on offer for those visitors who like to spend much of their time outside. With various activities for all ages available including walking, golf, fishing and water sports, you will never be stuck for something to do when you want to explore.
Places to eat in Falmouth
The emergence of a vast array of restaurants, bistros and cafes has added to the foodie ambience of the town in recent years. A selection of niche cuisine eateries, including Japanese and South African, sit alongside Italian and British modern as well as award-winning vegan. With many offering mouthwatering locally-sourced produce, especially the famous Falmouth oyster, the town’s restaurants will leave tummies full and pockets happy.
Down at the harbour, drink in waterfront vistas as you sample the local's favourite ale at The Working Boat,a good old-fashioned Cornish pub. Support local producers at the gorgeous Hunkydory where even the spring water is Cornish! Try some fine cider at The Stable and if you are passionate about healthy food, head to The Greenhouse which has vegan, veggie and gluten-free down to a T.
As Falmouth is situated in an impressive natural deepwater harbour, why not enjoy some of the famous local fish and chips alfresco as you watch the comings and goings of harbour life? If the chill leads you inside, book a table instead at Rick Stein's Fish on Discovery Quay which is a must-do on any visit to the South West.
Run up the 111 steps of Jacob’s Ladder to the pub
Okay, you might want to walk up slowly if you are over the age of five! Either way, the views from the top of these steep steps just a mile from the castle are sublime, looking down at the boats on the harbour and across the estuary. While it’s not one for those who like their history all wrapped up neatly with a bow, these stony moss-covered steps are an iconic part of Falmouth’s heritage and great for a selfie – we’ll leave you to work out which Jacob the ladder is named after.
As a reward when you get to the top, stop to catch your breath at the Jacob’s Ladder Inn which will set you up nicely with some hearty homemade fare for the slightly easier return journey down. You'll love this cosy and traditional Cornish pub, so make sure your tummy's empty and ready to try some of their local cuisine - the walk down can handle it!
Beaches in Falmouth
With its excellent location on the west coast of Cornwall, Falmouth has access to some lovely beaches, offering a wide range of water sports and beach activities suitable for all levels and ages. Paddle-boarding on the Blue Flag Gyllyngvase Beach is a tranquil and fun way to take in the surroundings and when the tide is out, there's no better place to spend some family time rock pooling than Castle Beach. The soft sands of Swanpool were made for unwinding under the warm Cornish sun or enjoying a scenic winter stroll, sloping chalky cliffs providing a picturesque backdrop.
Outdoor activities in Falmouth
Being on the picturesque South West coastline, you’ll find lots of fun things to do on the water. The Falmouth School of Sailing is an established school, offering sailboats for a tranquil day on the water and powerboats for a bit more excitement.
If you prefer to sit back and let somebody else do the hard work, why not take a wildlife cruise at Falmouth Docks. AK Wildlife Cruises will take you on a bespoke journey of discovery amongst the stunning marine wildlife of the Fal and Helford rivers. Offering trips from two hours up to all-day seven-hour trips, you’ll have plenty of time to search for Common Dolphins and giant Fin Whales as well as discovering the beautiful Cornish coast to boot.
Those whose sea legs are a little wobbly can discover the beauty of the coastline from dry land. Serious walkers will have already studied their routes along the South West Coast Path, where an interesting part of the trail winds its way around the peninsula, to then be picked up slightly further south, taking you down to Sunny Cove, Falmouth Bay and the beautiful sandy cove of Maenporth. Across the river from the town, there is a marvellous walk from Flushing up to Mylor which is definitely worth considering if you have come to see the real Cornwall by foot.
St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula
The pretty harbour village of the same name is just across the water from Falmouth, with cottage-lined steep streets down to the sea and crabbing boats which sail in and out of the harbour, hoping to catch the freshest seafood for local restaurants.
Hop on the ferry from the port which runs every half an hour throughout the day and join the various members of the Royal family who have also enjoyed this exclusive haven over the years. Just behind lies the beautiful Roseland Peninsula, its quintessential villages peppered amongst rolling countryside, beautiful coastline and wooded creeks – if you have the car, zoom along to Portloe, Portscatho and Portholland to join the yacht set and taste the delights of the sea at one of the superb restaurants.
Boat trips in Falmouth
The brilliant thing about this part of Cornwall is that wherever you go, you’ll be close to a waterway. With countless opportunities for jumping aboard a boat to see the sights from the sea or the winding River Fal, you’ll be treated to lots of different viewpoints that you wouldn’t be able to see on foot. Experience the beauty of the Helford River with Falmouth Pleasure Cruises or take the hour-long trip along the Fal Estuary to the county town of Truro with Enterprise Boats, admiring the beautiful historic houses and riverside scenery as you glide along.
Those who have come to get a glimpse of the coastal wildlife won’t be disappointed either with award-winning wildlife tours, or a spot of whale and dolphin watching put on by AK Wildlife Cruises. Or hire a small boat and see the sights yourself!
Want to do what the locals do? Have read through our local's guide to Falmouth with all the best places to eat, walk, visit and stay.
Uncover the local history at Pendennis Castle where 450 years of history await at this superb fortress. Once one of Henry VIII’s coastal strongholds, it was last used as a secret Second World War base. Children will love the Discovery Centre which has lots of interactive activities to keep little brains engaged and the restored underground Victorian and WWII defences with the sounds and smells of the time are fascinating for older teenagers and adults. Along with its compatriot across the river, St Mawes, it is managed by English Heritage and open to the public.
Watch the garrison at Pendennis come to life in the War Shelter and experience the recreation of Pendennis at War. There’s so much to see there and better still, you can end the day with a traditional Cornish cream tea in the castle tea room.
For a touch of Maritime history, head over to the award-winning National Maritime Museum Cornwall which has an exciting timetable of events and exhibitions throughout the year. Overlooking the harbour, this imposing building is well placed to enjoy harbour life, with seafood restaurants and interesting shops below.
If art is more your thing, pop in and have a browse of some of Falmouth’s greatest art at Falmouth Art Gallery. Over 2000 artworks including British impressionist paintings, 19th and 20th-century Master painting, contemporary prints and a children’s illustration archive are on display to the public.
You can’t visit Falmouth without a visit to the RNLI Lifeboat Station – discover its impressive Severn Class all-weather lifeboat and Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat with a free tour while also finding out about the important activities of the RNLI. There’s also a souvenir shop if you want to take a little maritime souvenir home.
Evenings are taken care of at the town's cinema where you can catch the latest movie or if you fancy a show, head to the Princess Pavilion where fabulous live music and theatre are on offer all year round.
Wander around the pretty sub-tropical Trebah Garden
Falmouth is well-known for its tip-top gardens, bursting with beautiful blooms that benefit from its mild coastal climate. Possibly the most famous is Trebah Garden with its subtropical specimens and secluded beach as well as the National Trust’s Glendurgan Garden - three valleys full of fun, sub-tropical plants leading down to the Helford River at the fishing village of Durgan.
If you want to remain in town, spend a few tranquil hours at Fox Rosehill Gardens which has a selection of exotic specimens on display from all corners of the globe including palm trees, lemon trees and banana trees. Not something you’d expect to find on the Cornwall coast but it’s always good to have a touch of the tropics on your UK hols!
Stay in Falmouth
If you relish the thought of waking up in the morning to the sound of the sea, have a look at our selection of coastal and country properties.
But fear not, those who like to be close to the action – we have properties just minutes away from Falmouth’s hub of restaurants, cafes and bars, perfect for a lazy brunch before discovering the town. The idyllic An Dyji is a perfect romantic bolthole and a great base for exploring the wonders of western Cornwall.
If we've persuaded you that your next escape should be to the delightful West Cornwall coast, our selection of accommodation in and around Falmouth will be sure to greet you with a traditional Cornish welcome.
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