By Alice Tegg, Editorial and Marketing Assistant

If you ask me, Falmouth has it all: amazing food, a thriving art scene, beautiful beaches and buckets of character – I should know, I used to live there. Here I spill my insider tips on what makes this Cornish town the whole package…


Why Falmouth?

A few reasons would be the classic Cornish good looks, stretches of sandy shore, fresh-from-the-boat seafood and that quintessential soundtrack of seagulls. Falmouth is Cornwall’s most vibrant destination, with a 1km-long high street crammed with independent restaurants, trendy boutiques and traditional pubs where you’ll often find live music courtesy of the students that attend the town’s arts university. It’s also easy to reach by train, with two stations at either end of town serviced by a train from Truro; you can connect here for lines around Cornwall and the rest of the country, making it an easy car-free holiday.

A brief history

Before it became a holiday hotspot, Falmouth was an important gateway between England and the rest of the world. In 1540, to protect from possible French invasion, Henry VIII built two fortresses on the headlands that mark the entrance of Falmouth harbour. Today, Pendennis Castle and St Mawes Castle still face each other across the water but the only invasion they have to worry about is the summer holidays.

Falmouth has one of the deepest natural harbours in the world, which made it the perfect place for a busy port. It became an important Packet Station, shipping news and goods in and out of the country (news of victory in the Battle of Trafalgar landed here first). But once the railway was built, Victorians from ‘upcountry’ began to flock for its beaches and sea air, and tourism became the town’s main trade.

What to see in Falmouth

Explore the beaches

You’re in Cornwall, so if you really want to embrace the local culture, you hit the beach – which is easy to do without a car. Gyllyngvase (Gylly to the locals) is the top choice for most, especially families. It’s the biggest and most central, and it has the best facilities: a cafe/restaurant, a seasonal beach hut for chips and ice cream, loos and showers. For something simpler, follow the coast path south for 5 minutes to Swanpool, a smaller bay tucked into the coast that typically isn’t as busy as Gylly and arguably much prettier. It also has a wildlife reserve behind it that teems with bird life – hence the name. Or in the opposite direction, Castle beach is a thin stretch of sand overlooked by Pendennis. It’s rockier than the others, but this makes it great for rockpooling, and you may even spot the remains of an old shipwreck poking above the surface.


Take the ferry to St Mawes

Separated from Falmouth by a slither of the Fal Estuary is pretty St Mawes, where the pace of life is refreshingly slow. Take the ferry across for the day (operates year-round; journey time 20 minutes) to discover it’s attractive white-washed cottages and a smattering of pubs and hotels lining the hillside like a choir. The safe anchorage has made the village a favourite with the sailing community – so expect to be among an easygoing, boatshoe-clad crowd. While here, pop to Summer’s beach for a calming morning dip. Or wander among subtropical plants at Lamorran Garden – more on this below.

Discover glorious gardens

The warmer (and wetter) climate in Cornwall has meant rare, tropical and temperate plants can thrive here. One reason, perhaps, why there are more than 70 botanical gardens in the county, all open to the public. A good cluster of these happen to surround Falmouth, too.

My personal favourite is Trebah, a 15-minute drive from Falmouth. Whether it’s the hidden koi pool, the giant gunnera that makes you feel 2 inches tall, the vibrant blooms of hydrangea and rhododendron lining a vast pond, or the secret beach where real Cornish ice cream awaits – this place is nothing short of magical, even as an adult. Right next door is Glendurgan with a famous cherry laurel maze and spectacular wildflower meadows, or further afield there’s the renowned Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan.

If you’re visiting between April and September, Lamorran Garden in St Mawes is a must-see. Inspired by Italy, the subtropical plants frame sea views and hide elegant pavilions. If it weren’t for the salty sea air and distinctly British weather, you could easily believe you were in the garden of one of Lake Como’s grand waterfront villas.

Visit the castles

The twin Tudor castles that stand guard at the mouth of the estuary are worth a wander around. In the summer you can picnic on the lawns and watch historic re-enactments. Year round you can see the original canons, still pointing out to sea as they did back in the 1500s, and climb to the top of the forts for stunning 360-degree views.


Enjoy a leisurely boat trip

Falmouth has the river on one side and the sea on the other, so boat trips are an exciting way to explore the area. There’s a regular boat from Falmouth harbour that runs up the Fal estuary almost all the way to Truro, the only city in Cornwall. Along the way it stops at the very beautiful Trelissick, a National Trust property with gorgeous gardens, a grand Georgian house and a private beach. You can take tea in the old manor, admire the neoclassical columns and solarium, lose yourself in the acres of woodland and soak up the sweeping views all the way back to Falmouth. Back on the boat, the last stop is the little village of Malpas. From here you can walk along the river to Truro, or just take it easy with a pint and pub lunch at the waterfront Heron Inn.

Or head out to sea in search of vibrant marine life with AK Wildlife Cruises. Along with the best views of the southern Cornish coastline, these trips provide a chance to spot seabirds, dolphins, seals, porpoises, Minke whales and more that reside in the Falmouth Bay. When conditions are right, they also run snorkelling safaris to get you even closer to the rich underwater wildlife of the area.

Find your festival

Beaches and boats are a given when it comes to a Cornish holiday, but I bet you didn’t expect festivals to be just as big a part of the lifestyle. The Cornish love a party, and Falmouth’s events calendar has something for everyone. It eases in with the Spring Flower Show in March and the Food Festival in May, followed by two big hitters in the same weekend in June: Falmouth Classics (a regatta) and the International Sea Shanty Festival. Though it sounds like something only sailing-obsessed sexagenarians would love, you’ll find a mixed bag of ages all embracing the nautical theme. There’s live music in every pub, a colourful array of boats in the harbour and an infectiously upbeat atmosphere across the town.

Falmouth Week in August is the main event of the year. Though it is technically another regatta, dating back to 1837, there’s so much going on in town that landlubbers feel fully catered to. The diverse entertainment includes a Red Arrow display over the sea, live music each night covering every imaginable genre, markets, fireworks, parades and more. Then there’s the Fal Oyster Fest, Reggae Fest… you get the idea.


Browse the boutiques

Make sure you leave room in your suitcase because you won’t be leaving empty handed. Falmouth has the best independent business scene in the whole county, with a kilometre-long high street bursting with little boutiques and beachy brands. You can browse rare antiques and vintage records on the Old High Street, pick up some handcrafted homeware from Willow and Stone, or bag some cool points from the Gen Z in your life with a quirky-and-queer gift from The Bean Hive By The Sea. The art scene thrives here, too, thanks to the arts university, so there’s an abundance of galleries and studios selling one-off pieces that make extra special souvenirs.

Where to eat in Falmouth & St Mawes

Being by the sea, fresh, local fish is obviously readily available, but Falmouth has a varied and exciting selection of restaurants offering all sorts of cuisines, and is known for being very veggie and vegan friendly. But if seafood is what you’re after, Hooked on the Rocks above Swanpool beach is the place to go. They serve sustainable, beautifully presented seafood with arguably the best views of any restaurant in town. Or head below the high street to Verdant Seafood Bar where classic fish dishes have been reimagined in a tapas-style menu. Verdant is a local brewery, so you can expect lots of delicious craft beers to sip alongside.

For great pub grub and hearty Sunday roasts, a town favourite is The Boathouse at the very top of the Old High Street. Another great choice close by is The Working Boat, which is super cosy in winter and has waterside seating in the summer. If you want a lighter lunch, pasty shops and cafes are everywhere; of the latter, Good Vibes would be my pick for the homemade cakes and mostly vegetarian menu that even meat-eaters love, but I’ll let you find your favourite pasty for yourself.

Indidog Eatery is a chic and stylish brasserie with a glass-fronted dining room that opens out to the harbour. Along with fine British dining they do a mean selection of cocktails. And for something sweet, head to Ciuri Ciuri for real Italian gelato – just keep it hidden from the seagulls.

Where to stay in Falmouth

The Sandy Duck

The Sandy Duck is our favourite boutique B&B in Falmouth. Ideally situated between Gylly and Swanpool beaches, the gorgeous grey townhouse contains 8 stylish bedrooms. Owner Freyja has created a warm, laidback atmosphere that keeps guests coming back for more.

Rooms from GBP 109.

Where to stay nearby

  • Hotel Tresanton is part of esteemed hotelier and designer Olga Polizzi’s collection. Rooms are bright and comforting, with big windows and terraces that open onto brilliant views of St Mawes harbour. Rooms from GBP 311.
  • On the other side of the harbour, The Idle Rocks has a fun, youthful vibe running through it. It has 19 nautical-chic rooms and one of the best restaurants in St Mawes. Rooms from GBP 311.
  • The trio of St Mawes Hideaways are perfect for families, sleeping up to 12. The luxurious houses come with a helpful concierge service and unrivalled views of the whole village. House rental from GBP 148/night.