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Falmouth, UK

Falmouth (/ˈfælməθ/; Cornish: Aberfala) is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.


The name Falmouth is of English origin, which recent Cornish language enthusiasts have translated to "Aberfal" (or "Aberfala") based on Welsh precedents. It is claimed that an earlier Celtic name for the place was Peny-cwm-cuic, which has been Anglicized to 'Pennycomequick.'

Early history

Falmouth was the site where Henry VIII built

Pendennis Castle

to defend Carrick Roads, in 1540. The main town of the district was then at Penryn. Sir John Killigrew created the town of Falmouth shortly after 1613.

In the late 16th century, under threat from the Spanish Armada, the defenses at Pendennis were... Read more

Falmouth, UK


Falmouth (/ˈfælməθ/; Cornish: Aberfala) is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.


The name Falmouth is of English origin, which recent Cornish language enthusiasts have translated to "Aberfal" (or "Aberfala") based on Welsh precedents. It is claimed that an earlier Celtic name for the place was Peny-cwm-cuic, which has been Anglicized to 'Pennycomequick.'

Early history

Falmouth was the site where Henry VIII built

Pendennis Castle

to defend Carrick Roads, in 1540. The main town of the district was then at Penryn. Sir John Killigrew created the town of Falmouth shortly after 1613.

In the late 16th century, under threat from the Spanish Armada, the defenses at Pendennis were strengthened by the building of angled ramparts. During the Civil War, Pendennis Castle was the second to last fort to surrender to the Parliamentary Army.

After the Civil War, Sir Peter Killigrew received Royal patronage when he gave land for the building of the Church of King Charles the Martyr, dedicated to Charles I, "the Martyr."

The seal of Falmouth was blazoned as "An eagle displayed with two heads and on each wing with a tower" (based on the arms of Killigrew). The arms of the borough of Falmouth were "Arg[ent]. a double-headed eagle displayed Sa[ble]. each wing charged with a tower Or. in base issuant from the water barry wavy a rock also Sa. thereon surmounting the tail of the eagle a staff also proper flying therefrom a pennant Gu[les]".

The Falmouth Packet Service operated out of Falmouth for over 160 years between 1689 and 1851. Its purpose was to carry mail to and from Britain's growing empire. As the most south-westerly good harbor in Great Britain Falmouth was often the first port for returning Royal Navy ships.

19th and 20th centuries

In 1805 news of Britain's victory and Admiral Nelson's death at Trafalgar was landed here from the schooner Pickle and taken to London by stagecoach. On 2 October 1836 HMS Beagle anchored at Falmouth at the end of its noted survey voyage around the world. That evening, Charles Darwin left the ship and took the Mail coach to his family home at The Mount, Shrewsbury. The ship stayed a few days and Captain Robert FitzRoy visited the Fox family at nearby Penjerrick Gardens. Darwin's shipmate Sulivan later made his home in the nearby waterside village of Flushing, then home to many naval officers.

In 1839 Falmouth was the scene of the gold dust robbery when £47,600 worth of gold dust from Brazil was stolen on arrival at the port.

The Falmouth Docks were developed from 1858, and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) opened Falmouth Lifeboat Station nearby in 1867. The present building dates from 1993 and jointly houses Her Majesty's Coastguard. The RNLI operates two lifeboats from Falmouth: Richard Cox Scott, a 17-meter (56 ft) Severn Class all weather boat, and Eve Park, an Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat.

Near the town center is Kimberley Park. The land pre-dates 1877 and is named after the Earl of Kimberley who leased the parkland to the borough of Falmouth. Today the park boasts a beautiful array of exotic and ornate plants and trees.

The Cornwall Railway reached Falmouth on 24 August 1863. The railway brought new prosperity to Falmouth, as it made it easy for tourists to reach the town. It also allowed the swift transport of the goods recently disembarked from the ships in the port. The town now has three railway stations. Falmouth Docks railway station is the original terminus and is close to Pendennis Castle and

Gyllyngvase beach

. Falmouth Town railway station was opened on 7 December 1970 and is convenient for the

National Maritime Museum Cornwall

, the waterfront, and the town center. Penmere railway station opened on 1 July 1925 towards the north of Falmouth and within an easy walking distance of the top of The Moor. All three stations are served by regular trains from Truro on the Maritime Line. Penmere Station was renovated in the late 1990s, using the original sign and materials, and is now a fine example of an early 20th-century railway station.

During World War II, 31 people were killed in Falmouth by German bombing. It was also the launching point for the noted commando raid on Saint-Nazaire. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemy U-boats entering the harbor.

Historic estates

  • Arwenack, the estate which occupied the site before the development of the town of Falmouth, long the seat of the Killigrew family.

Economy, industry, and tourism

While Falmouth's maritime activity has much declined from its heyday, the docks are still a major contributor to the town's economy. It is the largest port in Cornwall. Falmouth is still a cargo port and the bunkering of vessels and the transfer of cargoes also keep the port's facilities busy. The port is also popular with cruise ship operators.

Further up the sheltered reaches of the Fal, there are several ships laid up, awaiting sailing orders and/or new owners/charterers.

With its Georgian townhouses converted into guesthouses and small hotels, often overlooking one of the beaches, Falmouth has proven a popular holiday destination and it is now primarily a tourist resort. The five main beaches starting next to Pendennis Castle and moving along the coast towards the Helford River are Castle, Tunnel, Gyllyngvase, Swanpoo,l and Maenporth beaches. The National Maritime Museum Cornwall opened in February 2003. The building was designed by the architect M. J. Long.

The Falmouth & Penryn Packet, first published in 1858, is still based in the town as the lead title in a series of Packet Newspapers for central and western Cornwall.

The West Briton newspaper, first published in 1810, is a weekly tabloid newspaper which also has a Falmouth & Penryn edition reporting on the area.


Falmouth has many literary connections. The town was the birthplace of Toad, Mole and Rat: Kenneth Grahame's classic The Wind in the Willows began as a series of letters sent to his son. The first two were written at the Greenbank Hotel whilst Grahame was a guest in May 1907. Reproductions of the letters are currently on display in the hotel. Poldark author Winston Graham knew the town well and set his novel The Forgotten Story (1945) in Falmouth.

The town has been the setting for several films and television programmes. British film star Will Hay was a familiar face in Falmouth in 1935 whilst filming his comedy Windbag the Sailor. The film had many scenes of the docks area. The docks area was featured in some scenes with John Mills for the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic. Robert Newton, Bobby Driscoll and other cast members of the 1950 Walt Disney film Treasure Island (some scenes were filmed along the River Fal) were visitors to the town. Stars from the BBC TV serial The Onedin Line stayed in the town during filming in the late 1970s. In 2011 Paramount Pictures filmed parts of the film World War Z starring Brad Pitt in Falmouth Docks and off the coast.

Falmouth has the first "Polytechnic": Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society which went into administration briefly in 2010 but is now a feature of the town with frequent art exhibitions, stage performances, and an art house cinema.

Falmouth is home to many theatre groups, including Falmouth Theatre Company, Falmouth Young Generation and Amity Theatre. Falmouth Theatre Company, also known as FTC, is the oldest local company with performances dating back to 1927.

The Falmouth Art Gallery is a public gallery with a diverse 19th and 20th-century art collection including many notable modern Cornish artists exhibited in four to five seasonal exhibitions a year, as well as a "family friendly and free" community and schools education programme.

Falmouth has its own community radio station Source FM broadcasting on 96.1 FM and online.


Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Falmouth, UK: Port Information

Only small liners can be moored at the port. In most cases, you are tendered from a mooring in a bay. It takes 30 minutes each way.
Small liners dock at the County Wharf. It is located not far from the center. Taxis are available. Besides, cruise passengers can take a shuttle bus (free).

Get around Falmouth, UK

Be warned: Falmouth is extremely hilly in places, and some roads (Killigrew Street, Trelawney Road) will have you cursing town surveyors. Fortunately, most of the attractions are between The Moor and Falmouth Docks, which is relatively flat. The town is generally cycle-friendly.

Falmouth is also on the South West Coast Path, which makes for some excellent walks


What to see in Falmouth, UK

  • Pendennis Castle, Castle Close, TR11 4LP, ☎ +44 1326 316594. 1 Apr-30 Sep: daily 10 AM-6 PM; Oct 1-31: 20 AM-5 PM; 1 Nov-23 Dec and 3 Jan-12 Feb: Sa Su 10 AM-4 PM; 12-25 Feb: daily 10 AM-4 PM; 26 Feb-29 Mar: W-Su 10 AM-4 PM;. One of the finest surviving examples of a coastal fortress in England. Successive remains chart developments in military engineering and weapons technology and the organization of coast defense from the Tudor period until the Second World War.
  • National Maritime Museum (Cornwall), Discovery Quay, TR11 3QY, ☎ +44 1326 313388. Home of the National Maritime Museum's small boat collection and other exhibits.
  • Glendurgan, Mawnan Smith, TR11 5JZ (south of Falmouth), ☎ +44 1326 252020, e-mail: glendurgan@nationaltrust.org.uk. National Trust Garden.

What to do in Falmouth, UK

  • Boat trips. Regular services take you across the river Fal to surrounding villages and also in the direction of the city of Truro and west towards Helford.
  • Ships & Castles. A swimming pool, gym and small café contained within a modern building with a beautiful glass façade facing towards Falmouth town and the Docks.
  • Ocean Bowl. A Ten-pin bowling alley located next to Falmouth station. Having Eleven lanes, a bar, restaurant, and amusements, it has the potential to be great fun for family and friends. The prices can be steep, go during the day.
  • Jacob's Ladder. You've not properly visited Falmouth until you've gone up (or down) Jacob's Ladder, a stairway that literally takes your breath away. Fortunately, there is a pub near the top, and it's well-lit at night. If you take a left after the pub you get some brilliant views over the estuary.
  • Visit a beach. Falmouth has two beaches:
           - Gyllyngvase Beach which has an excellent cafe (try the hot chocolate)
           - Swanpool Beach (a 20-minute walk from Gyllyngvase). Swanpool also has a cafe that does very good ice creams and backs on to a minigolf course. 

What to eat and drink in Falmouth, UK


  • Harbour View Cafe. Views across the harbor from this small cafe. Most of the seating is outside covered with large umbrellas and heaters. The food is locally sourced, with a large array of seafood fresh from Cornwall.
  • Five Degrees West. Gargantuan burger meals and a sleek modern interior to boot. 
  • The Quayside. 
  • The Harbour Lights. Home-style fish & chips.
  • Kessell's Kitchen. On "The Moor" great sandwich shop. 
  • The Packet Station. Wetherspoon's through and through. 
  • Willy Dynamites. Good burgers.


Falmouth has a special place in every hardy drinkers heart. It's main shopping street runs in a straight line and has a pub every 50 meters on average: with more than 15 bars within a square mile, the town is designed for pub-crawling. Beginning at the Maritime Museum, bars include:
  • The Watersports. 
  • Five Degrees West. 
  • The Front. 
  • The Quayside. 
  • The Chain Locker. 
  • Rumours Wine Bar. 
  • The King's Head. 
  • Mango Tango. 
  • The Grapes. 
  • The Waterman. 
  • Finn M'Couls. 
Here the road splits. Head up 'The High Street' to find:
  • The Prince of Wales. 
  • The Star and Garter. 
  • The Boathouse. 
Head towards the Moor to find:
  • Nancy's. 
  • Remedies.
  • Wodehouse Arms. 
  • The Seven Stars. 
  • The Mason's Arms. 
  • The Killigrew Arms. 
  • The Packet Station (JD Wetherspoon's). 
Outside the main shopping street there are more pubs to be found including:
  • The Oddfellows Arms. 
  • The Seaview Inn.
  • Jacob's Ladder. 
  • The Four Winds Inn. 
  • The Red Lion. 
  • The Ferryboat. 
  • The Trelowarren Arms. 

Shopping in Falmouth, UK

  • The Shop Gallery. Run by students of Falmouth's art college, the shop gallery sells exciting and original print, craft and photography.
  • There is a good range of shops for surfers in Falmouth: these can be found around Market Street. If it's Cornish merchandise ye be wantin', have a look round Church Street, which also has an excellent bookshop.

Safety in Falmouth, UK

Visitors to Cornwall should at all times be aware of the unpredictable and dangerous nature of some of the tides and currents around the Cornish coast and seek advice from local lifeguards before swimming or surfing. It should also be noted that there is a small chance of getting great white or tiger sharks off the south coast, but it is very rare, and there have been no known attacks.

Crime rates are low in Cornwall. Occasionally, outsiders can attract attention in local pubs, but it is no worse than in other areas of the country.

Language spoken in Falmouth, UK

English is the official language.


5:36 pm
May 19, 2022


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