Falmouth, Cornwall is the chosen town for a melting pot of creatives, entrepreneurs, surfers, sailors and many more. Located on the south coast of Cornwall, the seaside town of Falmouth is vibrant all year round, thanks to Falmouth University, and a fantastic festival schedule, not to mention the many independent shop owners who keep things exciting.
Think oyster festivals, sea shanties, pop-up vintage markets, boat races, live music, and multiple art galleries. Combine all this action with the stunning views of Falmouth Harbour and the golden sands of Gyllyngvase beach, and it’s no surprise Falmouth has been voted the best place to live in the southwest by the Sunday Times.
A Brief History of Falmouth
Falmouth’s accessible yet sheltered geographical location in Cornwall cemented its status in maritime history. With the third deepest natural harbour in the world, beaten only by Sydney Harbour and The Port of Mahon, this stretch of coastline has been a haven for many large ships. Falmouth Town was founded by Sir John Killigrew shortly after 1613 and was already a notable location due to Henry VIII building Pendennis Castle in 1540 to defend the Carrick Roads, where the River Fal meets the English Channel.
The development of the Falmouth Docks and railways brought prosperity and tourism to the town during the mid to late 1800s. The Cornish landscape charmed both sailors and artists alike with that famous Cornish light luring creatives to the southwest. The Falmouth School of Art was set up in 1902 and maintained a reputation for creative excellence. The school grew, offering classes in new disciplines and inviting renowned artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron and Bernard Leach to lecture.
Now known as Falmouth University, the institution is rated the No.1 arts university in the UK, with world-class facilities. Falmouth’s student population breathes life into the town today whilst honouring its rich artistic legacy.
FALMOUTH’S OLD HIGH STREET
Browsing Falmouth’s shops is easy, with one long High Street running parallel to the harbour. You’ll find the Old High Street towards the Greenbank Hotel, and it’s home to an eclectic mix of boutiques, jewellers, galleries, bakeries and independent shops.
You’ll find Inspire Makers here on the Old High Street, nestled between this brilliant bunch. A hidden courtyard houses the bars The Chintz Symposium and Underland, alongside Restaurant MINE. During hazy summer evenings, The Old Brewery Yard is the place to be, you’ll soak up the sunshine and the great atmosphere. In the mornings, treat yourself to fresh bread and pastries from Stones Bakery, and great coffee from Beacon.
One of the oldest streets in Falmouth, you’ll be charmed by the buildings on the Old High Street, which contains the old Falmouth Town Hall, and the brow of the hill marking the original entrance to Falmouth with a stunning view of the Fal River.
FALMOUTH’S HIGH STREET
Falmouth’s bustling High Street attracts visitors from all over Cornwall, and further afield. Falmouth’s shops are a brilliant mix of independents alongside our favourite bigger brands.
The Falmouth Bookseller is one of the leading independent bookshops in the UK, staffed by knowledgeable booksellers. If you prefer your books with a beer, legendary Beerwolf is a cosy bar complete with a bookshop, tucked away at the top of a passage between the shops of Market Street. Willow and Stone and Cloudberry Living are favourites for homewares and gifting, stocking a beautiful selection of products.
Falmouth is brilliant if you’re on the hunt for second-hand, with plenty of antique stores and charity shops to dig through. Retro Falmouth supports Cornwall Hospice Care and is very popular for second-hand fashion and homewares. Ludgate House Antiques are our neighbour, sitting at the front of a 17th Century merchants house, specialising in quality antiques from the 18th to the 20th century.
For clothing, Falmouth is home to Seasalt and Finisterre shops, both brands were established in Cornwall and have gone on to see huge success. With Fat Face, Joules, Musto, Quba, Saltrock, Mountain Warehouse, and Henri Lloyd, alongside surfing apparel shops Ann’s Cottage and Sessions, there’s plenty to browse! You can top up on the essentials, with Wilko, Boots, Superdrug and Tesco.
WHAT ARE THE TOP ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN FALMOUTH?
If you’re wondering what to do in Falmouth, we’ve got you covered. Once you’ve browsed the fantastic High Street, learn a little about Falmouth’s history at the National Maritime Museum, or stretch your legs and head to Pendennis Castle. If you fancy a change of scenery, the St Mawes Ferry makes sure you arrive at St Mawes in style.
This impressive Tudor fortress is just a ten-minute walk from Falmouth High Street, via the coast path. Dominating the headland, Pendennis Castle houses Tudor, Napoleonic, Victorian and 20th century weaponry. Set in acres of green grass, you can follow the tunnels down to Half Moon Battery, and step back in time. With plenty of information on each room and how it was used, visiting Pendennis Castle is a great way to learn about Falmouth’s history. It also boasts incredible 360° views of Falmouth, looking out to sea, and over the town.
National Maritime Museum
No pun intended, but visiting the National Maritime Museum is a voyage of discovery. With 15 galleries over five floors, the custom-designed building is majestic and a fitting location to explore the influence of the sea on history and culture. The hanging flotilla in the main hall is quite a sight, as is the visual way the museum tells the story of Falmouth’s maritime history and the UK’s.
Falmouth makes it easy to enjoy your surroundings and the company of loved ones, with an incredibly high standard and wide range of shops, restaurants, and galleries. A five-minute walk from the High Street, you find Gyllyngvase and Castle Beach, popular for swimming and sunbathing. Gylly Beach Café is dog-friendly and is right on the beach to warm you up after a cold swim! The beach is dog friendly from October – 15 th May. During peak season from the 15th May – 30th September dogs are allowed on the beach before 10 am and after 6 pm. Explore the Falmouth coast by joining the South West Coast Path and head towards Swanpool beach and Maenporth beach.
ST MAWES TO FALMOUTH FERRY
The St Mawes Ferry connects Falmouth to St Mawes, a village on the end of the Roseland Peninsula, on the eastern side of Falmouth Harbour. With a fleet made up of four classic wooden ferries, the ferry provides a year-round service, with up to three ferries an hour during the summer, and an hourly service during the winter. The pretty village of St Mawes is an old fishing port and a popular luxury destination. The Idle Rocks award-winning restaurant has a dining terrace which overlooks the water and is perfect for a special occasion. Hotel Tresanton, one of the Polizzi Collection, is made up of a collection of whitewashed buildings offering the finest food and accommodation. Whether you opt for crab sandwiches on the beach or fine dining, St Mawes is one of Cornwall’s gems.
BEST ART GALLERIES IN FALMOUTH
Artists have long been inspired by the spectacular coastline, changing seasons and golden light in Cornwall. Falmouth nurtured many of these creatives at the Falmouth School of Art, and today Falmouth University continues to help creatives hone their practice. We have a selection of brilliant galleries in Falmouth showcasing and supporting Cornish talent.
Beside the Wave
Established in 1989, Beside the Wave is one of Cornwall’s most well-known and recognised contemporary art galleries, with an international following of collectors. Acquired by Ingrid Heseltine in 2007 and now run by her daughter Florence Lowry, they have exhibited some of Cornwall’s most well-known artists, including Richard Tuff, Benjamin Warner, Amanda Hoskin and Andrew Tozer.
Inspire Makers has a dedicated gallery space that hosts a programme of short exhibitions by Cornish artists. We’re passionate about encouraging others to engage with art, so we regularly hold workshops and ‘meet the artist’ sessions with our exhibitors. Inspire Makers are proud to have held collections by Victoria Pond, Chloe Woods, Debbie Martin, Rachel Kinmond, and many more. If you would like to be considered to exhibit your work, please send us an email.
The Poly is a live arts venue, art cinema, gallery and community pottery and makers guild – right in the middle of Falmouth. A registered charity, The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society aims to promote innovation in the arts and sciences, focusing particularly on Cornwall. Located in an iconic listed building, the Poly is a celebration of Cornish talent well worth visiting. Their exhibitions cover a wide range of topics and disciplines, from painting to textile art, to interactive art and more.
Relatively new to Falmouth is Morgans. The family-run gallery is located in a five-storey building in central Falmouth and has five artists working from studios upstairs. Morgans exhibits a wide range of creative disciplines and encourages young and emerging artists alongside well-established artists. Each show is curated by the family, who have a style that has been making waves. To name just a few, artists include Martha Holmes, Harry Wade, Maxine Hart and Sophie Harding, alongside ceramicist Tor Harrison and furniture maker Will Nock.
Falmouth Art Gallery
Falmouth Art Gallery is owned and operated by Falmouth Town Council, and offers an impressive art collection alongside new exhibitions. The gallery collection has over 2000 artworks, across a range of movements from Pre-Raphaelite to contemporary works. The changing current exhibitions explore community and creativity in Cornwall.
RESTAURANTS IN FALMOUTH
Think Cornwall is just good for Fish & Chips? Think again! Although we do Fish and Chips very well (Harbour Lights Fish & Chips), Falmouth’s restaurants explore a multitude of cultures and foods. Verdant Seafood Bar is a must-visit if you like seafood, with small plates celebrating fresh local produce, and eight lines of beer from Verdant. Indidog is a casual brasserie with a seasonal menu, with stunning views of Falmouth harbour. The award-winning Star & Garter partners with some of the best artisan suppliers in the county and cooks over an open fire, selecting their menu each day. Bodega Tapas Bar celebrates the gastronomy and lifestyle of Spain, featuring a selection of contemporary and classic tapas. Amanzi is a favourite of meat lovers and offers South African cuisine with a fantastic atmosphere. Pho Bar celebrates Cornish produce in the style of Vietnamese Pho noodles and tasty fresh sides and is great for larger parties.
INSPIRE MAKERS’ GIFTS FROM FALMOUTH
During your visit to Falmouth, we’d love you to pop in and say hello to us at Inspire Makers. Our shop stocks the work of over 50 Cornish artists and makers, and our dedicated gallery space holds exhibitions showcasing local artists. We also work with creatives who are experts in their fields to hold workshops so that everyone can tap into their creativity.
If you’re looking for a special object to remember your time here, or a gift for loved ones, here are just a few of our favourites in the shop:
Lucy Loves This
Location-inspired typographic art prints, homeware and greeting cards. Starting with the letter B, for Brixton where she lived at the time, the Lucy Loves This collection now features over 160 letters. Each one is made up of an intricate illustration containing the landmarks and icons that celebrate each destination. We might be biased, but we love her Falmouth F which was specially commissioned and exclusive to us!
Glorious Mud Ceramics
Cressida combines her love for old maps with her love for working with clay, creating special objects which reference a location. We stock a range of Cornish homewares proudly displaying the map of Falmouth.
Article Jewellery and Article Glass is the work of the resident maker, and Inspire Maker’s owner, Vicki Glaister. Vicki designs and makes a selection of functional and decorative glass objects right here in her Falmouth studio. She is also a silver clay artist which is a way of creating silver jewellery from recycled silver particles in clay binder, shaped and fired at high temperatures to create solid silver pieces.
Photographer Sarah Hertzog combines her love of photography and Cornwall to produce eye-catching images of Cornwall’s landscape and history. These are a wonderful connections to Cornwall whether you live here or would like to be reminded of the county when you’re far from home.
So there you have it! Our ultimate guide to things to do in Cornwall. Whether you’re tempted by the art, food, shops, or beaches – there is something for everyone. Falmouth is proud to be a friendly, creative destination, marching to the beat of its own drum. We’re very happy that visitors love it as much as we do.
QUESTIONS ABOUT FALMOUTH
How Many Beaches Are There in Falmouth?
Falmouth has four main beaches, these are Castle Beach, Gyllyngvase Beach, Swanpool and Maenporth. All are sandy beaches, and popular for swimming and sunbathing, with parking nearby. Each of the four beaches have cafés for refreshments, and Gyllngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth have public toilets close by.
What Are the Most Popular Things to Do in Falmouth with Children?
One of the many great things about Falmouth is that everything is within walking distance, even for those with little legs. Many of the eateries offer children’s menus – The Stable (pizza and pasta), Chainlocker (traditional pub food), Boo Koos (burgers) and Harbour Lights Fish & Chips are just a few options. Blow away the cobwebs and learn something new with a circular route around the headland where you’ll find Pendennis Castle. Hidden tunnels, a tearoom, huge lawns, and a soft play area all make it family-friendly. The National Maritime Museum has plenty of children’s activities and is both interesting for adults and children alike. If the sun is shining, we recommend rock pooling at Gylly beach, followed by a hot chocolate.
What to Do in Falmouth When it Rains?
With plenty of shops, and cosy pubs and restaurants to duck into when it rains – you almost hope that it does. The Poly arts cinema and Falmouth’s Phoenix Cinema are the perfect places to spend a couple of hours shelter. Channel your creativity at pottery painting café Star Glazers, or take part in our workshops at Inspire Makers. From making your own jewellery to painting watercolours, bookbinding and more… it’s a great way to feel productive and stay indoors.