How to spend a weekend in Falmouth, Cornwall: Discover the best things to see, do, eat and drink in Falmouth in a two-day itinerary featuring this coastal town’s beaches, castles, pubs and seafood.
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Surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Fal River Estuary and Roseland Peninsula, the town of Falmouth lies on the Cornwall’s south coast. The sea’s long been a big part of life in Falmouth, and it’s still a working harbour, as well as a university town and seaside resort.
With its sandy beaches, historic castles, cosy pubs and delicious seafood, Falmouth makes a great weekend break. Whether you’re after summer sun or winter walks – or visiting for the annual Sea Shanty or Oyster Festivals – here’s my 2-day itinerary to help you plan the perfect weekend in Falmouth, with what to see, where to eat, drink and stay.
How to spend a weekend in Falmouth, Cornwall
Check into your accommodation then start your weekend in Falmouth with dinner at the Star and Garter, a waterfront gastropub overlooking the harbour. They focus on ‘nose to tail’ eating, with an Italian-inspired menu featuring smoked, cured and preserved meat and fish in dishes like pork chops with crispy oysters and BBQ monkfish tail.
Then finish the evening with a post-dinner cocktail at the quirky Dolly’s Tea Room & Wine Bar. This Georgian building is a tea room by day, but becomes a candlelit gin palace by night, with a huge range of gins and cocktails served in bone china tea sets.
The following morning, start the day with a trip to the Tudor fortress of Pendennis Castle, set on a peninsula around 25 minutes’ walk from the centre of town. Along with a matching castle across the bay in St Mawes, Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII to protect the Carrick Roads – the deep estuary at the mouth of the river Fal.
Pendennis Castle is one of a small group of circular fortresses built around 1540. It was never attacked in the end, but played its part in the Civil War, was used as an 18th-century military garrison and a command centre in WWI and WWII. You can take a tour of the fort, see the cannons and wander around the grounds with views of Falmouth and the estuary.
Then head west along the coast road past a string of beaches, starting with rocky Castle Beach and leading to the golden sands of Gyllyngvase Beach. It’s been given a Blue Flag Award for its clear waters so is a good place for a dip. (Though if you’re travelling with a dog, they’re not allowed on the beach from 15 May–30 September, 10am–6pm.)
From Gyllyngvase Beach you can carry along a stretch of the South West Coast Path which runs around the headland to the sheltered cove of Swanpool Beach (dogs not permitted 1 July–31 August), which is known for its colourfully painted beach huts.
And if you fancy a longer walk, you can continue along the same path for another 1.7 miles to Maenporth Beach. If it’s low tide, look out for the wreck of the Ben Asdale just before you reach Maenporth, a Scottish trawler which was wrecked here in 1978.
Then backtrack to Gyllyngvase Beach for lunch at the Gylly Beach Café, which is right on the edge of the sand. It’s a great spot to soak up the sun in summer or watch the waves crashing while wrapped up in a blanket in winter. Their lunch menu features seafood dishes like Cornish mussels and soused mackerel, and they have their own bakery on site.
After you’ve had lunch, walk back across to the docks to visit the National Maritime Museum. From marauding pirates to mail ships, the history of Falmouth is closely tied up with the sea. The museum has 15 galleries spread across five floors which tell the story of the sea’s influence on the history and culture of Cornwall.
As well as changing temporary exhibitions – currently on Monsters of the Deep – there are galleries on Falmouth’s history, boat-building, Cornish fishermen’s stories, a flotilla of small boats and giant model boat pond. There’s also the Tidal Zone with underwater windows into Falmouth Harbour and a Lookout Tower for views out along the coast.
Next browse the shops on Falmouth’s High Street, where you’ll find a mix of the usual chains stores as well as plenty of independents, including local surf brands, art galleries and interiors shops. Some of our favourites are the Falmouth Bookseller, Cream Cornwall for homeware, Whistlefish for prints and cards, and Ludgate House Antiques.
Stop for an ice cream at Roskilly’s Ice Cream Parlour on Arwenack Street, who use milk from Jersey cows on their Cornwall farm to make over 30 delicious creamy flavours (the Cornish Golden Fudge is fantastic) – and also do coconut-based vegan options.
That evening, have dinner at The Verdant Seafood Bar. Tucked away in a side street near the harbour, it’s run by the Verdant Brewing Co and serves their beers as well as small plates of seafood tapas, like soft-shell crab, scallops, squid and shrimp croquettes. They don’t take reservations though so it’s a good idea to get there early.
Then head to one of Falmouth’s pubs for a post-dinner drink. There’s a good selection to choose from, including Beerwolf Books, a bookshop-come-bar which serves beers from local microbreweries. Or the Chain Locker on the quayside in one of the oldest buildings in Falmouth, with big balconies looking out over the water.
If the weather’s looking good, start your Sunday by getting out on the water. Head down to Gyllngvase Beach where Gylly Adventures hire out double and single kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and bodyboards (as well as wetsuits if it’s not all that warm).
Or if you prefer to have a guide, they also run a two-hour ‘Caves and Shipwreck’ kayak trip on Sundays at 10am. It explores the coast’s caves, gullies, submerged reefs and shipwrecks, and is a good chance to see coastal wildlife. You don’t need any experience and the minimum age is 12 (though under 18s must be accompanied by a parent).
Next catch the ferry across the Fal Estuary to the village of St Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula, which take 20 minutes from Custom House Quay or Prince of Wales Pier. The vintage wooden ferries give you fantastic views of Falmouth Harbour and the Fal River Estuary, dotted with boats from tiny sailing craft to huge cruise ships.
You can also see the twin castles of Pendennis and St Mawes protecting the estuary. Once you dock, call into the St Mawes Bakery Shop in St Mawes to pick up a traditional Cornish pasty for lunch from a family bakery that’s been making them for 100 years.
After lunch, take a walk along the waterside towards St Mawes Castle, passing a string of pretty whitewashed houses which look out over the clear turquoise waters of the bay. You can take a tour of the castle, which is more elaborately decorated than Pendennis Castle and has some beautiful grounds which stretch down to the water’s edge.
Otherwise carry on walking along the coast road. After passing some even more impressive-looking houses, you can join the coast path and walk as far as St Just in Roseland (2.5 miles each way). The village is known for its 13th-century church, which was once described by poet Sir John Betjeman as ‘the most beautiful churchyard on earth’.
Or alternatively if you turn right off the path after around a mile and head inland instead, the route will take you up onto the headland with views over the Carrick Roads before descending back towards St Mawes (a 3.5-mile circular route).
Finally, catch the ferry back to Falmouth and finish your weekend in classic British seaside style with fish and chips. At Harbour Lights restaurant on Custom House Quay their fish is sustainably sourced, with much of it and their potatoes coming from Cornwall.
And the queues out the door are testament to how good it tastes. Grab a spot on the quay and watch the boats go by for the perfect end to your weekend in Falmouth.
Map of things to do in Falmouth, Cornwall
How to get to Falmouth
Falmouth has two train stations – Falmouth Town and Falmouth Docks. You can get to Falmouth by train* in 4.5 hours from Bristol or 5 hours from London. You can also take the Night Riviera sleeper train from London Paddington, which leaves at 11.45pm and arrives into Truro at 7am, where you change for the 20-minute train journey to Falmouth.
If you’re driving, Falmouth is 66 miles from Plymouth, 178 miles from Bristol or 272 miles (around 5.5 hours) from London. There’s paid overnight parking at the Town Quarry (TR11 2BX) and The Dell (TR11 3HP), or free parking at Pendennis Point (TR11 4WZ).
The nearest airport is in Newquay, 20 miles away, where you can hire a car or take the A5 bus into Newquay to catch the train to Falmouth, which takes around 2 hours.
Getting around Falmouth
The centre of Falmouth is fairly compact and easy to get around on foot. To get to neighbouring St Mawes you can take the Fal River Ferries from Custom House Quay and Prince of Wales Pier in Falmouth, which run once an hour and take 20 minutes.
Where to stay in Falmouth
The Greenbank Hotel* is Falmouth’s oldest hotel, dating back to 1640. It’s located on the water’s edge, just north of the town centre. The décor is light and bright, with subtle nautical touches. You can moor your boat on their pontoons or take a boat trip. And there’s also a spa and a 2 AA Rosette restaurant, bar and the Working Boat pub.
St Michaels Resort* is a four-star development opposite Gyllyngvase Beach with a relaxed feel and reasonable prices. The 92 bedrooms are a mix of traditional and modern, some with balconies. And there are tons of facilities – a spa, pool, hydrotherapy centre and fitness studio, tennis courts, two restaurants, a bar, gardens and terraces.
Or if you prefer self-catering accommodation (with a restaurant and bar downstairs just in case), there are three serviced apartments above the Star and Garter* gastropub, with views over the bay. They have one or two bedrooms, an open-plan kitchen/lounge with a welcome pack of local produce, and the attic Crow’s Nest also has a log-burner.