Falmouth is one of Cornwall’s largest towns, having grown extensively in recent years due to the expansion of the close by Falmouth University. Situated on the south coast, it is often claimed it has the world’s third largest natural deep-water harbour, and it is because of this safe anchorage that the town has grown over the last 500 years or so since King Henry VIII ordered the building of castles at both Pendennis and St Mawes, guarding the harbour entrance. Its history abounds with tales of heroic maritime exploits and endeavours, from the days of the Packet ships, bringing mail from across the seas to the modern day conquerors of the oceans such as Robin Knox-Johnson and Ellen Macarthur. Today, Falmouths links with the sea are still strong. There is still a large dockyard there and during the summer it is often visited by cruise ships. Sailing boats of all shapes and sizes can regularly be seen enjoying the large expanses of open water and at the National Maritime Museum the history of our life on the ocean waves can be discovered through interactive galleries.
Tourists who visit Falmouth looking for water related entertainment are spoilt for choice. The Fal River and it’s adjoining rivers and creeks provide countless journeys of discovery, whether by the fleet of boats travelling between towns or independently by kayak or SUP. Falmouth’s beaches, such as Swanpool and Gyllyngvase, offer good snorkelling. There are also easily accessed diving sites from the beaches, including several U Boats dating from WW1.
Diving in Falmouth Bay offers a wonderful variety of sites, many rich in marine life. Because of the sheltered position of the bay, many ships were towed there to be salvaged, often ending their life on the seabed, only to be flattened by explosives so they were not a hazard to shipping. Nethertheless, there is still plenty to explore. Further afield, but easily reached by dive-boat from Falmouth, the Mannacles Reef is one of the most famous dive sites in the UK. Home to hundreds of wrecks including the SS Mohegan which sank in 1898 with the loss of 106 lives.
Much of the coastline around Falmouth is made up of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) including the Helford and Fal Rivers and the Roseland Peninsula. All can be explored using the South West Coast Path, a magnet for walkers, picnickers and families alike. The Helford estuary is also a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area recognised as one of the best sites in Europe for marine wildlife.