How to spend three days in Falmouth

Cheery, creative and cosmopolitan is how we describe Falmouth. The working harbour town on Cornwall’s south coast has a spicy maritime history – it was the first major port to greet adventurers and merchants from far flung places like Zanzibar. It no longer welcomes in gold, exotic animals and tropical plant species but that independent spirit remains in its pretty streets, exciting restaurants and creative residents. The result is an intoxicating blend of beach life, trendy bars and fabulous seafood. Here, we show you how to spend three days in Falmouth.

Day one: creative Falmouth

You’ll be spoilt for choice for your morning coffee in Falmouth. For an unusual twist, head to Jam Records on High Street, where you can browse a selection of new and used vinyl with your cuppa. Expect an eclectic interior along with the esoteric music – the charming, old-fashioned shop is full of old typewriters, TV monitors and ancient Apple Macs, which perfectly sums up Falmouth’s shabby-chic vibe. 

Once you’ve got your coffee hit, hit the craft shops. Many of Falmouth School of Art’s graduates go on to live and work in the town so there are loads of independent craft shops, from bookbinders to potters. In the centre of town, the Poly on Church Street brings together all Falmouth’s creative spirit in the form of a cinema, theatre, gallery, working pottery and exhibition spaces. It also has a shop, where you’ll find locally made jewellery, pottery, woodturning, prints and designs from Falmouth artists.

Wander back to your holiday cottage via Falmouth Art Gallery. This small but vibrant centre packs a real punch. The gallery has an outstanding collection of more than 2,000 artworks that range from Pre-Raphaelite and British Impressionist paintings to contemporary prints, photography and a children's illustration archive. Not everything can be on display but if you ask nicely, they will allow entry into their art stores for you to nose around. Currently on show is In Her Shoes, which explores the views of our world from Falmouth to afar by stepping into the shoes of the female artists who have depicted it. 

For lunch, why not order lunch to go and eat at one of Falmouth’s many beautiful picnic spots? Picnic Cornwall is a cafe, deli and hamper service using the best seasonal food and produce from the local area, giving you a true taste of Cornwall. Choose a hamper or create your own and the Picnic team will deliver it to you while you’re out exploring.

Round off a day immersed in Falmouth’s arty offerings by tumbling down the rabbit hole that is the Chintz – a bar that evokes the spirit of Alice in Wonderland with its vividly patterned wallpaper, walls of mirrors, secret rooms and gaudy vintage furniture. Specialising in cheese, charcuterie and cocktails, there is regular live music and a great party atmosphere.

Day two: Falmouth from the water

It’s time to explore Falmouth from the water, where you’ll find the best views of the town. From watching the commercial ships in the harbour tower over the sails of picturesque working boats to exploring the sheltered waters of the Fal estuary’s Carrick Roads, paddle boarding is the best way to see it all. WeSUP on Gylly beach organises tours, safaris of local shipwrecks, and even a sunrise paddle – seeing the first slither of sunlight explode with colour across the water is magical. You can then head for an early breakfast at the Gylly Beach Cafe, which has its own bakery next door, crafting artisan breads and pastries.

Falmouth is on Cornwall’s south coast where the waves are gentle and great for beginners. Head to Gyllyngvase beach for the best local breaks and, if the surf’s not pumping, this sandy crescent is the perfect family day out. It’s easily accessible for those with buggies and has lifeguards in the summer months. The beach backs onto the small formal Queen Mary gardens with a path leading along the coast towards Falmouth's other main beach, Swanpool. Here is another great spot for a family outing – there is kayak hire, trampolines, crazy golf and a nature reserve. If you don’t fancy getting in the water yourself but want to shop the local look, check out independent surf shop Freeriders on the Moor for low-key surf wear as well as used and custom boards from local shapers.  

After a morning in or on the water, treat yourself to a relaxing lunch at The Cove at Maenporth Beach. This unassuming suntrap serves up perfect views across Falmouth Bay alongside its spectacular seafood under chef Michael Caines – expect sea bream ceviche and Porthilly oysters as well as fish and chips or honey-roasted Cornish duck breast.

While away an afternoon at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall at Discovery Quay. This huge and beautiful building houses a treasure trove of maritime knowledge. Exhibitions range from Monsters of the Deep, a heady combination of legends, folklore and modern day science, to a photographic expose on the last surviving traditional wooden boatyard in Ireland. There is an undersea gallery where you can watch fish swimming in the harbour from the sea bed, and a 30-metre lookout tower to track the comings and goings of naval ships, superyachts, dinghies and cruise liners. Performances, storytelling and treasure trails make this a great family-friendly option during the holidays. Please note, however, that the museum will be closed from Tuesday 1 June to Thursday 17 June for the G7 summit.

Celebrate your holiday in Falmouth with dinner at the Star & Garter on the High Street. Watch the boats from the back windows and enjoy excellent nose-to-tail dishes from the kitchen’s wood-fired oven.

Day three: Falmouth history and culture

Just across the waters of Falmouth harbour is the village of St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula beyond. Hop across on the ferry service, which runs every half an hour and takes about 20 minutes. St Mawes is an attractive harbour village with steep, cottage-lined narrow streets leading up from the seafront. Pick up breakfast from Bear Cornwall – a cafe-cum-Citroen van at St Mawes Castle, which sells specialty coffee and cakes. 

Head back to Pendennis Point to watch some sea life – the best lookout in England for spotting seals, dolphins and basking sharks. While you’re there, explore Pendennis Castle – a mighty fortress built by Henry VIII to defend the country against invasion. The picturesque Tudor castle is a gorgeous setting for a family day out, full of history, storytelling and breathtaking views out to sea. Pendennis Point car park is also the starting point for a lovely walk on the South West Coast Path, taking in three of Falmouth’s town beaches: Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth.

More excellent seafood for lunch can be found at the wonderful Wheel House Crab and Oyster Bar, a small and unfussy restaurant serving locally caught fish, crab, oysters and mussels, all cooked in the open kitchen. 

Falmouth loves its festivals and, depending on what time of year you rent your holiday cottage in Cornwall, there are quite a few to take part in. They all have one thing in common: celebrating the sea in one form or another (OK, perhaps not the beer festival, but that one’s sadly been cancelled for 2021 because of Covid.) The biggest event is Falmouth Week from Friday 6 August to Sunday 15 August 2021 – a  major sailing regatta with lots of opportunity for sailors and landlubbers to enjoy a variety of daytime and evening events. A few days later, the Falmouth Tall Ships will set off in the Magellan-Elcano 500 Series 2021 race – a spectacular sight. Falmouth Oyster Festival in October celebrates Cornish seafood for three days.

End your holiday in Falmouth with dinner at Restaurant Four where the ethos is all about locally sourced and foraged food. It’s run by a husband-and-wife team who are passionate about their customers having a great time, whether it’s a quick lunch or a special occasion – the perfect place to round off your three days in Falmouth.

View our holiday cottages in Falmouth here