Falmouth sits in the center of the “Cornish Riviera,” England’s charming southwestern coastline, and the port is its lifeblood.

For centuries, the world’s third deepest natural harbor ushered in commercial and military vessels, and in the past 70 years it witnessed epic send-offs, including D-Day troops bound for Normandy.

Recently celebrating its 350th anniversary, Falmouth offers unique insights into England’s maritime history, along with pastoral excursions.

Here are four ways to experience this seaside gem:

RAMBLING PATHWAYS

Explore the South West Coast Path—England’s longest public footpath at 630 miles—as you walk to sandy Swanpool Beach and on to Pendennis Castle, built by Henry VIII in the early 16th century to protect England from French and Spanish invasion.

The fortress, Cornwall’s largest, withstood a five-month siege during the English Civil War, which you’ll witness through re-creations inside the Tudor gun deck. Afterward, enjoy Cornish pasties (meat pies) in the castle’s tearoom.

St Mawes Castle and its larger sibling, Pendennis, were built by Henry VIII to protect the south coast of Cornwall. (Photo by Skip the Budgie, Flickr)

St Mawes Castle and its larger sibling, Pendennis, were built by Henry VIII to protect the south coast of Cornwall. (Photo by Skip the Budgie, Flickr)

NAUTICAL NODS

Sitting in a Falmouth hotel room, Kenneth Grahame penned letters to his son, whom he affectionately called “Mouse.” His epistles inspired The Wind in the Willows, in which he wrote, “There’s nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.”

Stop by the Greenbank Hotel to see Grahame’s notes before hopping aboard a ferry bound for St. Mawes. Once there, tour cloverleaf St. Mawes Castle, or continue your nautical adventure along the Percuil River. Look out for herons and egrets while paddling upstream (St. Mawes Kayaks offers rentals).

FROM THE SEA

Seafood restaurateur Rick Stein runs a culinary empire in Padstow, a historic fishing village on Cornwall’s quiet northern coast, and recently opened an eponymous restaurant in Falmouth. Stein admired the “romantic port” before setting up shop beside the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

Kynance Cove, a picture-postcard stretch of beach on the Lizard Peninsula (Photo by zooK2, Flickr)

Kynance Cove, a picture-postcard stretch of beach on the Lizard Peninsula (Photo by zooK2, Flickr)

Dig into fish-and-chips before playing coast guard at the Maritime Museum’s interactive search-and-rescue exhibit. Check out Rita—the vessel that brought Ben Ainslie his three gold medals for sailing at the 2012 Olympics.

HIDDEN COVE

Tourists flock like seabirds to Land’s End—the most westerly point on England’s mainland—but you can skip the crowds in favor of a relaxed outing to the Lizard Peninsula.

Soak up rays at Kynance Cove before treating yourself to ice cream topped with clotted cream at the Kynance Cove Café. Or visit wooded Trelowarren Estate, a thousand-year-old property owned by the same family for 600 years.

This article was written by Millie Kerr for the August/September 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. 

Comments

  1. Amenah Al Janabi
    New York
    November 5, 2013, 9:31 pm

    Wow! How beautiful; looks very peaceful. I wish I was ther now. Besides, it’s going to snow soon here. : (

  2. aseema sana
    India
    October 17, 2013, 9:11 am

    Beautiful place….I have explored a lot of coastal beaches and this was really wonderful. http://relishyachtdubai.com/

  3. maria
    Dingli,Malta
    October 2, 2013, 6:29 am

    lovely!Wish I could be there.Visiying Cornwall has been one of my dreams for a long time.Hope to make it one day