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Boasts the deepest natural harbour in Western Europe

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National Maritime Museum
Pendennis Castle
Gyllyngvase Beach
Falmouth, in Cornwall, boasts the deepest natural harbour in Western Europe. The town grew after Sir Walter Raleigh visited the place, and saw its potential. He recommended that it be developed as a port, and before too long, work had begun. It soon became what was arguably the most important harbour in the United Kingdom, with hundreds of ships in its waters at any time of year.

Falmouth Harbour
Photo The Local People Photo Archive
The port has played an important role in the country's naval history. During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, it was home to the Falmouth Packet Service, which delivered mail all across the world. It was also an important base for the Navy. This was the first place to receive news of Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, and also of his mortal wounding. In 1836, Charles Darwin landed here after successfully completing his long voyage around the world. More recently, the town's residents gave Dame Ellen MacArthur a hero's welcome, when she returned from her record-breaking 71-day circumnavigation of the globe.
Falmouth's nautical history is recounted at the National Maritime Museum, which is located appropriately on the water's edge. The building exhibits a huge amount of objects and information, as well as a large collection of full-size boats. Several of these are famous craft, including a few that were used to win gold medals in the Olympic Games.

Inside the National Maritime Museum
Photo electricinca
If you're interested in getting out on the water for yourself, then Falmouth offers endless opportunities for sailing and watersports. Many national and international events are held here, such as the "Falmouth Week Regatta", which is the largest in the southwest. The event consists of all sorts of races and competitions, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the town. A more relaxing way to explore the local waters is on one of the pleasure cruises, which gives you a chance to spot seals, dolphins, or basking sharks.
Back on dry land, there is one major landmark that actually precedes Falmouth's maritime history. This is Pendennis Castle, which was built in the 16th century to defend against the French. It stands on top of a hill at the tip of the land, and would have presented an imposing sight to any would-be invaders. Today, the castle is filled with interesting sights and exhibits, including prison cells, secret tunnels and gun emplacements. From the battlements, you'll be able to see St. Mawes castle, which matches Pendennis on the other side of the River Fal.

Pendennis Castle
Photo cyrildoussin
Along the coastline, Falmouth has four separate beaches, which are another of its major draws. Gyllyngvase is the most popular, and has all the facilities and high standards of cleanliness that you hope for in a beach. Swanpool doesn't have as many facilities, but is of a similar size, and hosts firework displays several times a year. Castle beach is smaller, and is often covered by the tide. When the water recedes, though, this can be one of the best places to take a break from the crowds. The fourth beach is further away, 3 kilometres along the shore. It's worth making the journey, because by taking this step back you can enjoy great views back up the coast, of both Falmouth, and Pendennis castle.

Gyllyngvase Beach
Photo Tim Green aka atoach
With so much to see and do around the shoreline, it's easy to forget that this is also a busy town, with a bustling centre. Of course, the shops and restaurants here reflect the aquatic atmosphere, and you'll find many places selling fresh seafood, watersports equipment, and sailing-related souvenirs.
Visitor Information
Falmouth Tourist Information Centre, 11 Market Strand, Prince of Wales Pier, Falmouth, TR11 3DF. Tel: 01326 312300
Pendennis Castle is open daily from 10am to 5pm (4pm in winter). Entry costs around £6.30 for adults, £3.80 children. Castle Close, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 4LP. Tel: 01326 316594

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