Day 5. Falmouth and a visit to the Glendurgan Gardens, Cornwall

It had rained overnight but fortunately we woke to another bright, sunny morning.  After breakfast in Camborne, we set off for Falmouth located on the south coast, which is one of Cornwall’s largest towns.  The journey took us 40 minutes and our 10.15 a.m. arrival afforded us ample street parking opportunities along the seafront cliff road.  Facing the sea are several grand hotels which were built in the days when Falmouth was a destination of choice for Victorians taking holidays on the Cornish Riviera.

Cliff Road, Falmouth
We parked along Cliff Road

Leaving the car, we enjoyed the view overlooking Falmouth Bay.  The tide was in  and we spent a few minutes watching the large waves crashing into the shore.  Perched high on the headland was Pendennis Castle, a fortress built by Henry VIII to defend the country from invasion.

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth
The National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth

It was quite blustery as we made our way from the exposed open sea at one side of the headland to its picturesque sheltered harbour on the other.  Within ten minutes we had reached Discovery Quay which is home to Falmouth’s premier attraction, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.  Standard adult admission is £14.50 and pre-booking a time slot to visit is recommended but not essential.  We had arranged to visit at 10.30 a.m. as this fitted in with our plans for the remainder of the day.

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth
The National Maritime Museum Cornwall based in Falmouth

This timber clad building opened in 2003 on the site of a former boatyard.  Its spacious interior contains 12 galleries arranged over three floors documenting Falmouth’s history as a harbour and of Cornwall’s seafaring heritage.

Boats on display in the main hall of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Boats on display in the main hall

The main hall features the National Small Boat Collection which was originally started by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.  Boats on display are all under 30ft (14.2m) and originate from all corners of the world.  A number of the boats are hung from the ceiling creating a hanging flotilla of small boats overhead.

Olympic winning Finn dinghy on display in the National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Ben Ainslie’s Olympic winning Finn dinghy on display

Included in this collection is Ben Ainslie’s Olympic winning Finn dinghy and a Falmouth Quay punt which was sailed to the Antarctic.  The museum also features the story of the solo round the world expeditions by Robin Knox-Johnston and Ellen McArthur as their voyages started and finished in Falmouth.

RNLI Rescue Gallery at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall
RNLI rescue craft on display

Another interesting gallery was the RNLI Rescue Zone featuring an RNLI quad bike, rescue boat and a rescue water craft.  The rescue boat called Arancia went into service at Fistral Bay in Newquay and on numerous occasions has ben put into use.

Climbing the museum’s lookout tower and taking the lift down to The Tide, an underwater viewing area, were both temporarily out of bounds due to the ongoing pandemic.  Still, there was much to interest us in this large museum and if you have a liking for boats and anything nautical then I’m sure you would also find it an enjoyable place to visit.

Naval and pleasure craft in Falmouth Harbour
Naval and pleasure craft moored in Falmouth Harbour

Despite being unable to take in the views from the lookout tower, we thought they were just as stunning from outside the building.  Falmouth harbour sits at the mouth of the River Fal and is the deepest natural harbour in Western Europe.  Moored in this sheltered estuary were boats as far as the eye could see with everything from Royal Naval vessels through to yachts and family cruisers, it really was a splendid sight.

Events Square, Discovery Quay Falmouth
Events Square, Discovery Quay Falmouth

To one side of Discovery Quay is a large open plaza known as Events Square.  It’s surrounded by numerous places to eat and drink and where Rick Stein has one of his seafood restaurants.

Custom House Quay, Falmouth
Custom House Quay, Falmouth

From the museum we headed down Arwenack Street with its shops and cafes that leads onto the bustling Custom House Quay.  This used to be Falmouth’s main harbour which gained importance with the coming of packet ships.  These small, fast ships were the news carriers of their day and it was to Falmouth that overseas news first reached Britain.  Nowadays the quay is lined with quaint pubs, each of them with stunning views of the picture perfect harbour.

Falmouth harbour
Falmouth harbour

Lying close to the quay is the Prince of Wales pier which was constructed in the 1900’s.  It’s now the starting point for ferries across the bay and up the River Fal.  We had considered taking a boat over to the village of St. Mawes but as all ferry services were suspended that day due to strong winds, it wasn’t possible.

High Street, Falmouth
Along Falmouth’s High Street

Instead, we continued along High Street which looked pretty with its rows of brightly coloured bunting strung across the road.  The town has a prosperous feel with lots of independent shops, cafes and galleries.  In 2018 it made the Sunday Times ‘Great Places to Live’ list and it’s easy to see why as it’s very appealing.

The Moor, Falmouth
The Moor, Falmouth

By the time we’d made it up to The Moor, a pleasant open square surrounded by civic buildings including the library and art gallery we were ready for some lunch so we popped into The Packet Station for a bite to eat and a little rest.  Feeling energised, we continued up to the top of the High Street from where we had more splendid views of the Fal River.

Views of the Fal River from the top of Falmouth's high street
Views of the Fal River from the top of the high street

It was then back to the car and just a seven mile drive to the National Trust’s Glendurgan Garden at Mawnan Smith.  This sheltered exotic valley is open Tuesday-Sunday with standard admission £10.50 and free to NT members.  The garden was planted in the 1820’s by the Falmouth pilchard magnate Alfred Fox and being tucked into a ravine, it benefits from a humid microclimate enabling numerous sub-tropical plants to flourish.

Helford River, Cornwall
Walking along the Helford River

There wasn’t much in flower at the time of our visit but we were still able to enjoy a pleasant walk down through the garden to the hamlet of Durgan on the Helford River.  This is accessed through a gated path at the far end of the garden.  From there, we followed a narrow footpath across some fields along the north side of the river.  After crossing a stile the path continued along the coastal path leading us to the small village of Helford Passage which looked very pretty with its cluster of stone cottages surrounding the small beach.

Helston Passage, Cornwall
Helston Passage, Cornwall

We were mindful of the time as the garden was due to close within the hour and as we didn’t want to get locked out and be unable to collect our car, we retraced our steps back along the path and into the garden.

Cherry Laurel Maze, Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
Cherry Laurel Maze, Glendurgan Garden

We actually made quite speedy progress despite there being a steep uphill slope back to the garden’s main entrance.  As we were following a one way route, the highlight of our upward trek was a view of the garden’s cherry laurel maze which dates from 1833.  In normal times it’s open to the public and is definitely Glendurgan’s crowning glory.

Boat seat in Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
An upturned boat seat in the garden

There was sufficient time to take a quick look in the gift shop before returning to the car for our journey back to Camborne.  The end of yet another fun filled day in Cornwall, this time exploring Falmouth and the Helston River.


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If you use Pinterest consider sharing and pinning the image below or follow me hereFalmouth & the Helford River



64 thoughts on “Day 5. Falmouth and a visit to the Glendurgan Gardens, Cornwall

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    I vaguely remember visiting Falmouth but only for a couple of hours so probably didn’t see as much of it as you did. It’s a lovely place though. I love the gardens that you visited too, that maze looks pretty cool 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Day 8. Padstow & Newquay, Cornwall – Love Travelling Blog

  3. Now you have me dreaming of the days foreign travel will again be possible! (Not that I wasn’t already, but your post was a wonderful virtual tour, and now I want to find a garden maze near me to wander through.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I always find coastal towns so peaceful and charming. How neat to learn more about Falmouth’s maritime history and see a variety of different boats. It’s too bad that the museum’s lookout tower and lift down to The Tide were closed due to the pandemic.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Went to Falmouth years ago but had totally forgotten how nice it was. So picturesque with a great museum and a wonderful harbour. What more could you need apart from the coffee shops and pubs to be open? Looks great and maybe somewhere we will try and get to once this lockdown is well and truly over.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. A “Cornish Riviera,” indeed! Always a delight to discover another part of Cornwall. I appreciate you sharing your adventures there, and I look forward to more coming up in the “Cornwall series!”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. There is nothing quite so pretty as the seaside in the morning after the rain stops. The bunting flags make a nice touch on the High Street. Looks like there is lots to see and do around Falmouth. Thanks for sharing Marion. Hope you are having a great Sunday. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Falmouth is a very attractive town and a very pleasant place to while away several hours Allan. Our walk along the Helston River was also very enjoyable. It’s a chilly, dull day here weather wise but we’ll no doubt venture out for a walk later. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

  8. There’s something so alluring about coastal towns, no matter where in the world I am. But I would dearly love to do a trip across some of England’s seaside communities. Falmouth looks lovely, oh to have a residence on Cliff Road overlooking the sea! Everything you highlighted in the article looks well worth doing and I particularly like the look of that river route. Nice work Marion.

    Liked by 4 people

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