Surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Fal River Estuary and Roseland Peninsula, the town of Falmouth lies on the south coast of Cornwall. The sea’s long been a big part of life in Falmouth, and it’s still a working harbour, as well as being a university town and seaside resort. With plenty of beaches, castles, pubs and seafood, Falmouth makes a great weekend break destination. Whether you’re after summer sun or winter walks – or visiting for the annual Sea Shanty or Oyster Festivals – here’s my 48-hour itinerary for a weekend in Falmouth, Cornwall.
Read more: One-week coastal Cornwall by train itinerary
How to spend a weekend in Falmouth, Cornwall
Check in the Star and Garter, a gastropub on the waterfront overlooking Falmouth Harbour. Their three serviced apartments each have one or two bedrooms, a kitchen with a welcome pack of local produce, and the attic Crow’s Nest apartment also has a log-burner. Or we stayed in a cosy two-bed AirBnB apartment with an outdoor terrace near Discovery Quay.
Then start your weekend in Falmouth off with dinner at the Star and Garter’s restaurant. They focus on ‘nose to tail’ eating, with lots of smoked, cured and preserved meat and fish on their Italian-inspired menu. Then finish off your evening with a post-dinner cocktail at the quirky Dolly’s Tea Room & Wine Bar. A tea room by day, it 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 (entry £12.20 adults, £11 concessions, £7.30 under 17s or free for English Heritage members, and you must pre-book in advance). Along with a matching castle across the bay in St Mawes, Pendennis was built by Henry VII to protect the Carrick Roads – the deep estuary at the mouth of the river Fal.
Pendennis Castle is one of only a small group of circular fortresses built around 1540. In the end it was never attacked, but it did play 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 across Falmouth and the estuary.
Then head west along the coast road where you’ll pass a string of beaches, starting with rocky Castle Beach and leading to the golden sands of Gyllngvase Beach. From there you can follow a stretch of the South West Coast Path up around the headland to the sheltered cove of Swanpool Beach, known for its colourfully painted beach huts. And if you fancy a longer walk, carry on along the same path for another 1.7 miles and you’ll reach Maenporth Beach.
Backtrack to Gyllngvase Beach for lunch at the Gylly Beach Café, 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 you’re wrapped up in a blanket in winter. The lunch menu features a selection of seafood dishes like Cornish mussels and soused mackerel, and they have their own bakery on site.
After lunch, walk back across to the docks and the National Maritime Museum (entry £14.50 adults and £7 under 18s). From marauding pirates to mail ships, the history of Falmouth is closely tied up with the sea. The National Maritime 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 all about to the 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 where you look out of underwater windows into Falmouth Harbour and a Lookout Tower for views out over the harbour and along the coast (closed at the moment due to government guidance).
Next browse the shops on Falmouth’s High Street, where you’ll find a mix of the usual chains and independents including local surf brands, art galleries, potteries, book and interiors shops. Stop off 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 (my favourite’s the Cornish Golden Fudge) – and they also do coconut-based vegan options.
Head for one of Falmouth’s pubs for a pre-dinner drink. There’s a good selection to choose from, including Beerwolf Books, a bookshop-meets-bar serving beers from local microbreweries, or the Chain Locker on the water’s edge in one of the oldest buildings in Falmouth. Have dinner at Rick Stein’s in Discovery Quay, where the menu features crispy fish and chips cooked in beef dripping (including a gluten-free version) as well as curries, meat and veggie dishes.
If the weather’s looking good, start your Sunday by getting out on the water. Head down to Gyllngvase Beach where Gylly Adventures rent out double and single kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and bodyboards (as well as wetsuits if it’s not all that warm). Or if you’d prefer a guide, they also run a two-hour kayak trip on Sundays which explores the coast’s shipwrecks, caves and submerged reefs (£45 per person, no previous experience required).
Next catch the ferry across the Fal Estuary to the village of St Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula. Fal River Ferries shuttle people on the 20-minute journey to St Mawes from both Custom House Quay and Prince of Wales Pier around once an hour (a day return costs £10 adults, £9.50 students/over 60s and £5.50 for children, with a discount if you book online).
The trip on board one of the vintage wooden ferries gives you fantastic views of Falmouth Harbour and the Fal River Estuary, dotted with boats from tiny sailing boats to huge cruise ships. You can also see the twin castles of Pendennis and St Mawes protecting the mouth of 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, walk along the waterside towards St Mawes Castle, passing a string of pretty whitewashed houses looking out over the clear turquoise waters of the bay. You can take a tour of the castle (entry £6.90 adults, £6.20 concessions, £4.10 under 17s, or free for English Heritage members, and you must pre-book in advance) or 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, whose 13th-century church was described by Sir John Betjeman as ‘the most beautiful churchyard on earth’ (2.5 miles each way). Or turn right off the path after around a mile and head inland, climbing up onto the headland with views over the Carrick Roads before descending back to St Mawes (a 3.5-mile circular route).
Finally, catch the ferry back to Falmouth and finish off your weekend in classic British seaside style with fish and chips. At Harbour Lights restaurant on Customs 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 quayside where you can watch the boats in the bay for the perfect end to your weekend in Falmouth.
Have you visited Falmouth? Do you have any tips to add on what to see, do and eat?
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