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Falmouth

Notre Dame de la Garde

About Falmouth

Gateway to the dramatic county of Cornwall in the most southwestern corner of England, Falmouth is home to one of the world’s most celebrated harbors among mariners. Third deepest in the world, and the deepest in Western Europe, its harbor aided in the launch of D-Day fleets and has been the starting point for many voyages around the world. It was also the port, in 1805, to which news arrived of Admiral Nelson’s death, and Britain’s triumph, in the Battle of Trafalgar. Just 31 years after, the HMS Beagle docked here with Charles Darwin on board, having just completed one of his historic voyages.

In 1540, Henry VIII famously built his Pendennis Castle here to defend his country and the waters of Carrick Roads, an estuary of the Fal River, from France and the Holy Roman Empire. Not long after, in 1613, the town of Falmouth was created. With the building of the Cornwall Railway in 1863, prosperity followed with an influx of tourists and the easy transport of goods from the port. Today Falmouth is served by three railway stations, and its docks are still a major contributor to the town’s economy. Each year travelers are lured here by the picturesque landscapes and coastal splendor.

Falmouth Lifestyle and Culture

A popular tourist resort among Britons for its seaside charm and tranquility, Falmouth combines maritime history and rugged landscapes with a lively university atmosphere and thriving arts culture. A distinctly British town with truly unique beauty, its gray granite architecture climbs its hillsides from the harbor, culminating at the hilltop college.

Falmouth has served as the backdrop for countless film and television series, including Walt Disney’s 1950 film Treasure Island. Today you can meander through the city’s art galleries and take in its scenic harbor vistas. Nearby, the county of Cornwall provided inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows, and the open air Minack Theatre presents live performances on a breathtaking stage carved into cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean.

There’s always something to do in Falmouth, host to numerous events throughout the year. The town’s seafaring past and artistic present are celebrated during the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, one of the biggest maritime music concerts in Europe. In fall, bivalve lovers gather here for the nationally recognized Falmouth Oyster Festival.

Falmouth Sights and Landmarks

Pendennis Castle is one of a pair of fortresses built to protect the Fal Estuary from French and Spanish invasion. Both are part of a chain of coastal castles constructed under King Henry VIII. The vast grounds, governor’s bedroom and Tudor gun deck provide a taste of 16th-century life. A 20-minute ferry ride delivers visitors to St. Mawes, the second edifice and widely regarded as the best preserved and most elaborately decorated of all the coastal castles.

The National Maritime Museum overlooks Falmouth Harbor and its busy shipping area. Its 12 impressive galleries each focus on a different aspect of the industry and its illustrious past. At the heart of the complex is the Flotilla Gallery, where small boats are suspended from the ceiling. Maritime reference books can be found in the Bartlett Library, and stunning 360-degree views can be had from the Lookout Tower.

Arwenack House, the oldest building in Falmouth, lies opposite the National Maritime Museum. Originally built in 1385, it was mostly rebuilt in the 16th century by Sir John Killigrew, the first Governor of Pendennis Castle. The Killigrews were the most powerful family in Falmouth, and lived in the house for 16 generations until their dynasty ended. It was last restored in the 1980s, and currently serves as private residences.

Falmouth Entertainment and Activities

With such dramatic coastlines, it’s no wonder Cornwall, the scenic county surrounding Falmouth, is home to more than 300 beaches. Helford Passage Beach, on the shores of the Fal River, is a beautifully wooded location surrounded by wildlife. For a sandy alternative, try Swanpool Beach, a top-rated cove on the outskirts of Falmouth.

To enjoy the wonderful local gardens, an afternoon stroll should be part of any itinerary. Enys Gardens, dating back to the early 18th century, is thought to be the oldest in Cornwall. Follow its paths through the formal flower gardens, around the ponds and toward the open meadow. Due to Falmouth’s microclimate, delicate plants like the Peruvian laurel and maidenhair fern thrive here. Best known for its perfectly manicured laurel maze, modeled after the Sydney Gardens in Bath, Gelndurgan is home to subtropical plants from around the globe, including rhododendron, magnolias, persimmon and hydrangeas. This National Trust property is located near the fishing village of Durgan.

Being in England, pubs naturally contribute to the social scene. Plume of Feathers is an old-style pub dating from the 18th century, with worn wood and chatty locals. Reflecting the town’s literary past, Beerwolf Books offers a selection of titles to peruse while sipping a pint. For another interesting combination, head to Dolly’s, a frilly teahouse that offers tea and cakes by day and cocktails and jazz by night.

Falmouth Restaurants and Shopping

Though Falmouth and Cornwall are known for fresh seafood, Cornish cream teas and the iconic Cornish pasty all beg to be sampled. Stroll down Arwenack Street for a host of different dining options. For do-it-yourself crab, scallops and mussels in an eclectic atmosphere, head down a narrow alley to The Wheel House, a Falmouth favorite. Reservations are recommended.

Oliver’s is another popular choice requiring advance booking. This intimate restaurant serving Mediterranean-inspired cuisine opened to rave reviews for its beef filet, duck breast, wild sea bass and foraged ingredients. Cove Restaurant & Bar overlooks Falmouth Bay, combining gorgeous views with the freshest of seafood. Opt for their prix fixe menu or selection of tapas. For a delicious Cornish hand pie, look no further than Choak’s Pasties. Run by a third-generation Cornish family, you can watch the famous pasties made on-site using a recipe that’s more than 60 years old.

The Cornish Store on Arwenack has souvenirs for family and friends back home.