Local Information

Falmouth Today

The Cornish port of Falmouth is set amongst some of the most beautiful coastline and countryside in Britain. Its southerly position provides a pleasant climate, featuring mild winters, allowing access to watersports and other outdoor activities all year round. The Cornwall Coastal Footpath leads south and west from Falmouth, first through sandy beaches, rockpools and soft coastal features to the Helford River and then on to the rugged granite cliffs of the Lizard, the most southerly point in Britain, and eventually on to Land’s End, as far west as you can go!


The Fal Estuary, dominated by Henry VIII’s twin castles of Pendennis and St. Mawes, is a very special place, surrounded by unspoiled hills and creeks and yet always active with pleasure craft and shipping bound for distant shores. The Fal River is arguably the most beautiful area of creeks and rivers in the country. Its warm waters and gentle currents make it one of the best day sailing locations in the world. Once the prime port for the Packet Ships and first port of call for the wool and tea Clippers, it is now a favourite spot for transatlantic sailors, and home of one of the last fishing fleets in the world to work exclusively under sail. In winter, classic sailing dredgers work the shallow banks for oysters; small fishing boats bring home their catch of mackerel and shellfish; from spring through summer to Christmas, yachts and dinghies race in the Carrick Roads; in August the whole estuary and bay is awash with colour and sound, first from the 300 strong Falmouth Classics Rally and then for Falmouth Week  through to the Oyster Festival; ferries and trip boats ply to and fro; tugs, pilot vessels and ships manoeuvre off the docks; passenger liners anchor for day visits ashore.


For an up-to-date list of events in Falmouth, visit: https://www.falmouth.co.uk/


A Brief History of Falmouth

Falmouth was founded as a market town and port in the 17th century by a man called Sir John Killigrew. In 1540-1545 King Henry VIII built two forts to guard the entrance to the Carrick Roads, Pendennis Castle and, opposite, St Mawes Castle. During the civil war of 1642-1646 Pendennis Castle was the second-to-last fort held by Royalists to surrender. Nevertheless, after the Civil War, Falmouth continued to grow. 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 defences 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 to King Charles II in 1660 who gave Falmouth a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). In return the Falmouth townspeople built a church in dedication to his father, King Charles the Martyr. The new church was consecrated in 1665. In 1688 Falmouth was made the Royal Mail packet station. Ships carried mail all over the world and as a result Falmouth grew at a fast rate, into a fairly important town.

In Falmouth fishing was a major industry. Fish Strand Quay was built in 1790. Another important industry in Cornwall in the 18th century and early 19th century was smuggling! The Kings Pipe is a brick chimney, which was used to burn tobacco taken from smugglers.

The Falmouth Packet Service operated out of Falmouth for over 160 years between 1689 and 1851. The Post Office Packet Ships stopped leaving Falmouth in 1852.

This was a blow to the town but it soon recovered. Its purpose was to carry mail to and from Britain’s growing empire. As the most south-westerly good harbour in Great Britain, Falmouth was often the first port for returning Royal Navy ships. 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 her noted survey voyage around the world. That evening, Charles Darwin left the ship and took the Mail coach to his family home in Shrewsbury. 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 a gold dust robbery when £47,600 worth of gold dust from Brazil was stolen on arrival at the port.  The St Anthony’s Lighthouse was built in 1835, and the Falmouth Docks Company founded in 1859.

The town was soon very busy. The Falmouth Docks were developed from 1858 and on 24 August 1863 the Cornwall Railway reached Falmouth. The railway brought new prosperity to Falmouth as it made it easier for tourists to reach the town. The town now has three railway stations Falmouth Docks railway station, Falmouth Town railway station and Penmere railway station.

Falmouth became a thriving sea side resort as well as being a busy port. The main industry today is still tourism from the land and sea. The town is vibrant all year round and with the new university of Cornwall on the outskirts of the town, this has encouraged more people to visit this beautiful town on the south coast of Cornwall.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) opened Falmouth first Lifeboat Station nearby in 1867.  present building dates from 1993 and also houses Her Majesty’s Coastguard.

The Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee tour came to Falmouth on 1st May 2002 when Her Majesty launched the brand new Falmouth lifeboat, the RNLI Richard Cox Scott on the National Maritime Museum pontoons.

The National Maritime Museum was opened on 14th March 2003 by the Duke of York, HRH Prince Andrew. Many notable sailing achievements have taken place in Falmouth waters, with perhaps the two most well-known being Robin Knox-Johnston’s, who became the first person to sail single handed and non-stop around the world in 1969 and Ellen Macarthur’s who did it in 2007, becoming the fastest person in the process, to do so. Falmouth has its own university, the Falmouth University; with two campuses. They offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses mainly in the fields of Art, Design and Media.