After three nights at the wonderful Pig at Combe, we drove into Cornwall for the longest leg of our Honeymoon – 4 nights in Falmouth. We stopped in Padstow on the way for lunch at St Petroc’s Bistro, and then again at the ASDA next to the uni campus on the drive into Falmouth proper. We were excited to be spending a few nights on our own in an airbnb, so we stocked up on breakfast provisions, wine, crisps and biscuits. We even had a Gousto box waiting for us.
Reader, this airbnb was one of my favourites we’ve ever stayed in – a beautifully done apartment in a townhouse at the top of the hill, with stunning views over the harbour. We unpacked straight away, eager to settle into our new home for the next 4 nights.
After our day in Padstow we were pretty tired, but we couldn’t resist a quick exploration of Falmouth. This was Matt’s first visit, but I’m an old hand having lived here for a year during my masters degree. I couldn’t wait to retread old footsteps, show Matt some old haunts, and see how the town had changed in the last 8 years.
Exploring Falmouth Harbour
As we were staying up on Wodehouse Terrace, it made sense to start our initial tour at the south end of town by the Maritime Museum. This is a great activity for families, with a collection of small boats and three galleries devoted to the maritime history of Cornwall.
Another local sight this end of town is the massive Trago Mills. For anyone not familiar, this unique chain of department stores, started by ex-RAF serviceman Mike Robertson in the 1960s, stocks the most random collection of items, all at very low prices. The chain and its founder are somewhat notorious, with many controversies and legal disputes in its history, namely the loud supporting of Brexit in the lead up to the 2016 referendum.
There are three types of shopper/diner in Falmouth; poor uni students, rich tourists staying at the fancy spa hotels, and hippy surfers. This makes for an interesting combination of shops and restaurants along the high street, and you’ll see a high end eatery like Harbour View next to veggie bar & grill The Chic Pea, opposite quick-serve burger joint Meat Counter. There are also absolutely loads of places to drink, including a wine & tearoom, a sports & games bar, and a bookshop pub.
To get a great view back at the town, walk down any of the piers that jut out into Falmouth Harbour – Custom House Quay at the southern end of town, and the Prince of Wales Pier towards the northern end. You can catch a ferry from either of these to St Mawes. The Prince of Wales Pier is technically part of the South West Coast Path, following the ferry to St Mawes and then on to Place Creek where the path picks up again.
That evening we walked along Arwenack St, Church St and Market St (all of these join together to basically make Falmouth High Street), up Killigrew St, around the square and back down Webber St, then up Smithick Hill and the Lawn Steps to our airbnb on Wodehouse Terrace. A lovely little walk to welcome us to town, just over a mile, which you can check out here.
We had a great itinerary planned for our first full day in Falmouth, starting with a coffee on Gyllyngvase Beach, then a walk along the South West Coast Path to Swanpool and our lunch reservation at Hooked on the Rocks, followed by a walk back into town where we had tickets booked to see No Time To Die at the Phoenix Cinema. Amazingly the weather was lining up perfectly, with warm sunshine all morning, and grey clouds for our afternoon at the cinema.
Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth
This was my go-to study spot as a student, either stretched out on the sand or sipping a coffee or smoothie in Gylly Beach Cafe. Gylly Beach is a favourite among surfers, young families, dog walkers and retired swimming enthusiasts. All of the above can be found here whatever the weather, renting paddleboards, buying ice cream from the snack bar, or wading into the water.
Gylly Beach Cafe is always super popular, so be prepared to queue. The glass barriers shield the terrace from the wind off the sea, and awnings remain at the ready in case of incoming weather – this is a cafe built for a beach alright. We took a seat and watched the world go by in our shaded corner, sipping frothy coffee and saying hello to nearby dogs.
The South West Coast Path, Falmouth to Swanpool
After our coffee and chill, it was time to get some steps in before lunch. The South West Coast Path starts in earnest at the edge of Gylly Beach, having made its way from the previously mentioned Prince of Wales Pier, through town, around Falmouth Docks, up Pendennis Rise and around Pendennis Point. Here it meets back up with Castle Drive and then Cliff Road, where those fancy hotels are lined up gazing out to sea. The section between Gylly and Swanpool is very popular, with amazing views over Falmouth Bay. You can see our full walk for the day, from our airbnb down to Swanpool and back up to the cinema here.
It was such a beautiful day when we did this walk, and this section of the path is completely exposed with no cover at all. I felt pretty smug having put on factor 30 face cream that morning. Matt was quickly being roasted and we had to stop under a few trees on our route. Does this mean he now puts on suncream in the morning? Of course not!
Swanpool is the beach between Gyllyngvase and Maenporth. This saline lagoon is protected by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust because of the unique fauna and flora that live there. The beach is lovely and quiet, with an adjacent snack bar and a nearby crazy golf course.
Lunch: Hooked on the Rocks, Swanpool
I’ve been recommended Hooked on the Rocks a few times, most recently by my parents who ate here on a previous holiday. This seafood restaurant over looks the beautiful Swanpool beach and nature reserve. Their menu specialises in fresh, sustainably-sourced seafood, and ended up being some of the most delicious food we ate all holiday.
I ordered buttermilk fried Newlyn monkfish with house chilli jam, pickled cucumber and a side of skinny fries. Matt had 1/2 Falmouth Bay lobster with garlic butter, lemon and chorizo, with dressed Cornish leaves and skinny fries. We also shared a side of samphire which I’d never tried before. Funnily enough, halfway through our meal we swapped plates and found we preferred each other’s food. Guys, I’m not a huge fan of seafood generally, but this lobster was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.
We were so lucky to have such amazing weather, and we thoroughly enjoyed gazing out to sea from the terrace of Hooked on the Rocks. As had become our custom, we skipped dessert in favour of cornish ice cream back on Gylly beach.
In the afternoon we walked up Meville Road and Western Terrace to the Falmouth Rugby Club at the top of the hill. Here, on Tregenver Road, is where I lived as a student, with an excellent view across the bowling green and out to sea. I was fully up for knocking on the door, but Matt was mortified by the very idea. Instead we headed down into town for our afternoon activity.
The Phoenix Cinema, Falmouth
The sky started to cloud over just in time for our trip to the cinema to see No Time To Die. The Phoenix Cinema is a great little place, awarded Best Independent Cinema in the UK by RAAM. The seats here are really comfy (they even have sofas in some screens), and the staff are super friendly.
Beerwolf Pub Bookshop, Falmouth
After the cinema we made our way to a must-visit pub to discuss the film. Beerwolf Books Freehouse opened in 2012 at the top of Bells Court, a hidden drangway off Market Street, and is one of my favourite spots in Falmouth. The mock-tudor outside is lit up by fairylights strung around the courtyard. Inside you’ll find a very traditional-looking pub with its own library, specialising in second-hand and remaindered books.
Matt ordered a niche Cornish ale and I soothed the post-wedding sore throat I’d been battling with a strong ginger beer. Each table has its own touch-sensitive light, which you can play around with and change the brightness and colour. We thoroughly enjoyed relaxing here, discussing James Bond’s most recent saga, before heading back to our lovely airbnb for a Gousto meal.
Day 2: St Ives
For our second full day staying in Falmouth I’d planned a day trip to St Ives, booking Porthminster Kitchen for lunch. It was another lovely sunny, day, and we relished strolling the cobbled streets of this popular harbour town.
We started with a coffee at Hub, before visiting each of the four nearby beaches – Harbour Sands, Bamaluz Beach, Porthgwidden Beach, and Porthmeor Beach. Porthmeor Beach is the largest of the four, half a mile of sand that’s hugely popular with surfers, bookended by two headlands – Mans Head to the west and St Ives Head to the east. This latter piece of headland is also known as The Island, home to the National Coastwatch Institution and crowned by St Nicholas Chapel.
After exploring the art studios dotted around the north end of St Ives, we made our way to Porthminster Kitchen for our lunch booking.
Lunch: Porthminster Kitchen
Our lunch at Porthminster Kitchen really was something else, with incredible views all up and down the harbour while we tucked into calamari, gnocchi and moules. Highly recommended.
After lunch we explored some more galleries and then drove back to Falmouth, ready for some fish and chips.
Dinner: Harbour Lights Fish & Chips, Falmouth
Next to Trago Mills you’ll find Harbour Lights, multiple winner of the National Fish & Chips Award. They serve MSC-certified cod, haddock and plaice. They get their hake, mackerel and pollock from a local fish merchant who delivers it daily. They’re part of the Marine Conservation Society and the Sustainable Seafood Coalition. Their chips are made from locally-farmed potatoes and the whole restaurant is plastic free. Go Harbour Lights!
Day 3: Kynance Cove
On our third full day we set out again to the lizard peninsula, the southern-most point of the UK. Here you’ll find Kynance Cove, an absolute gem of a beach with a cracking little cafe.
We only planned to spend an hour or so at Kynance Cove to grab some lunch, so we didn’t time our visit around the tide. If you’re planning to make a day of it, make sure you check the tide forecast and aim to arrive for low tide. This will mean you can explore all the natural caves and rock pools in the cove. Because we arrived at high tide we couldn’t really go onto the beach, so we did some of the South West Coast Path instead.
Lunch: Kynance Cove Cafe
Kynance Cove Cafe is such a good spot, perfect for lunch or an afternoon tea break (the scones are terrific). I love how sustainable it is – it even has solar roof tiles that pumps power back into the national grid.
After clambering about the rocks of Kynance Cove, we spent the later afternoon chilling in our airbnb. Then we headed out for some pre-dinner drinks. We began our evening at Pennycomequick, a traditional pub on Killigrew St with a great google rating. The staff were all super cool, and one of them made me one of the best bloody mary cocktails I’ve had. We asked the barman for his other favourite drinking spots and he recommended The Chintz, which also happened to be right next to our dinner booking.
Dinner: Restaurant Four, Falmouth
Unfortunately the Chintz was booked out for an event, so we decided to go straight to dinner at Restaurant Four. This is where we received the cutest welcome ever, with a congratulations card and banner on our table.
Restaurant Four, named after the chef’s four children, has a totally unpredictable menu which changes from day to day depending on what can be locally sourced. For the life of me I cannot remember what we ordered. It involved a lot of freshly-caught Cornish fish, which was all delicious. Mine had homemade gnocchi and was topped with a preserved egg yolk which was creamy, rich and delicious. Plus, look how lovely the plates are!
Day 4: Bodmin Moor
Our last morning in Falmouth we left our luggage in the car and went seeking sustenance before our planned day out, which we appropriately found at Fuel.
Breakfast: Fuel, Falmouth
While we tucked into our full english breakfasts, the place gradually filled with hungover students. The staff were really lovely to everyone in their tender states, and it had a really nice local vibe which we loved.
After breakfast we walked through town some more, delaying our departure. We’d had such a wonderful time in Falmouth we simply didn’t want to leave. We wished we’d had time to try Dolly’s Tearoom, and visit Pendennis Castle. We made ourselves feel better by buying overpriced surfer shirts from Jam Industries, and walked back up the hill to our car. The next stop on our Honeymoon road trip was 3 nights at Hotel Endsleigh near Tavistick, and we were hoping to stop in Bodmin Moor on the way for a walk.
Jamaica Inn, Bodmin Moor
Right in the middle of Bodmin Moor, and supplying both a handy car park and coffee stop, this pub/hotel is just the most bizarre place. Built in 1750, Jamaica Inn is self-lauded as “Cornwall’s most famous smuggling inn”. It served as a sort of 18th century service station to all the travellers heading down to Cornwall through the moors. The convenient location meant the inn was often used to smuggle contraband, and legend has it that half of all brandy smuggled into the UK came through here from the Cornish coasts. The idea that Jamaica Inn was named after all the rum smuggled through from Jamaica, is actually a myth. It’s really named after the 18th century Trelawney family, local landowners, who served as Governors of Jamaica.
If you’ve heard of Jamaica Inn before, it’s probably from the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, which is also set here. She was inspired by her 1930 visit, when she got lost in the moors and recovered from the ordeal by staying at the inn. During her stay she collected the many ghost stories and tales of smuggling from locals, and she returned many times even after she published her book. The inn became even more famous in 1939 when Alfred Hitchcock turned the book into a film, and then again in 2014 when the BBC adapted it for TV.
After popping inside for a cappuccino, we managed to find a little route online, to the top of one of the nearby hills. Slight warning – to tackle this you need to be cool walking next to a very busy road where cars are exiting the A30, and then walking through what is potentially private property.
Once you get to the top of the hill, it’s all worth it for the incredible panoramic views, with wild moors stretching out in every direction.
Falmouth is one of my favourite places, and now Matt loves it too! It was the perfect homebase to explore Cornwall from, and our beautiful airbnb along with all the top notch restaurants made it a really special holiday, worthy of a Honeymoon. If you’re thinking about it, I really recommend going in October like us, when the weather is still balmy and the tourists have mostly left. You can slot in with all the locals and really see what it’s like to live here.