24 Hour Guides provide a snippet of what is available to do, see, and eat in a particular city. If you are looking for more 24 Hour Guides, check out these ones for Oxford, UK, the Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia, or St. John’s, Newfoundland.
I was lucky enough to get a great deal on an AirBnB and spend a whole month in Falmouth in the fall of 2022. Falmouth is one of the most popular towns in Cornwall; whenever I would ask a local where they would go to visit, they’d say, without hesitation, ‘Falmouth’. With nearly 25,000 people, this tourist town on the banks of the River Fal in South Western England is very popular with visitors and other Brits. In the summertime, much of England flocks to Cornwall for it’s white sand beaches, surfable waters, and high class restaurants.
24 hours in Falmouth is not nearly enough time to enjoy everything there is to see in the city – let along on the outskirts. I stayed a whole month, without a car, and never ran short of things to see and do, nor different areas to explore. But if you’re going to spend only 24 hours in Falmouth, it better be good.
Falmouth is located in Cornwall, an area of England known for good weather, beautiful beaches, and a sense of personality and independence. The Cornwall Peninsula juts out into the Celtic Sea and abuts the English Channel. The waters on the English Channel side spend all summer heating up, so by late fall, locals can be seen happily swimming (with and without wetsuits) and surfing in the ideal waves that wash up on the beaches.
In only five hours by car, or five hours by train, you can be back in downtown London at Paddington Station. If you are flying into Heathrow or Gatwick, it is probably best to stay the night in London, and start the train journey to Cornwall the following day. Stops and train changes will be required in likely two other stations, but you can book your seat on longer journeys through Great Western Railways.
Where to Stay
There are loads of AirBnBs to choose from in Falmouth so that’s always an option. For one night though, you might choose to splurge on a hotel or inn. The Greenbank Hotel is a bit further down the high street, but well within walking distance of town, and has lovely modern rooms, and a very well regarded restaurant. Or, if you have a car, you might choose to stay at Hotel Meudon, which is outside of Falmouth but still very accessible if you don’t mind the short drive. I didn’t stay at either, but I did have afternoon tea at Hotel Meudon which was lovely, and their extensive botanical gardens and beach access are certainly perks.
Coffee and Bagels
When you arrive in Falmouth, you can easily walk from the train station downtown to the high street. Make a beeline for Koala Karlous for a flat white an a bagel made in-house topped with haloumi and chili jam. You’ll need energy for all the walking you will do today.
National Maritime Museum Cornwall
24 hours in Falmouth must include a visit to Cornwall’s major marine feature: the National Maritime Museum. Once you’ve paid your admission fee, keep your ticket – it will continue to get you into the museum all year long, so you can come back as often as you like. The rotating exhibits will have something for everyone – we saw a fascinating study of the history of tattoos! – but be sure to also check out the hanging boats, and head up the turret for great views of the city.
Lunch at IndiDog
The best view in the city for lunch is at IndiDog Eatery, a high end restaurant just off the high street in the direction of the water. Get a seat in the window for a perfect view of the river and the boats going by. On a clear day, you can see straight over the river to the village of Flushing. The vegetarian burger is excellent – but make sure to leave room for their desserts!
After lunch, head to Pendennis Castle, the English Heritage site right in Falmouth. For a fee, you can go inside the castle and its grounds. Or, if you prefer to save money, you can wander the trail around the castle and observe it from the outside. I imagine it would be very nice inside, but I didn’t bother this time around. Follow the trail from the castle to the forts, and take in the views of the ocean, the English Channel, and St. Mawes – the town across the water. If you keep to the sidewalk nearest to the water, you can follow the road right around the point to the beaches.
From Castle Drive, to the Cliff Road, to the South West Coast Path – you’ll have traveled from downtown, to the Castle, and back around to the beaches. Three beaches sit in a row along Falmouth’s shore: Castle Beach is smaller, and a bit rocky, nearest the castle (unsurprisingly). Gyllyngvase Beach (also known as Gylly Beach because Gyllyngvase is simply unpronounceable) is next, and is the most popular. It has surf rentals and lessons, and a very popular cafe and restaurant. Early on weekend mornings, even in the late fall, this beach was full of surfers and swimmers. If you carry on the South West Coast Path, you would get to Swanpool Beach – but you haven’t got time for that today.
Visit the Shops on the High Street
As the sun starts to go down, pop around the High Street and visit the sweet shops. The Falmouth Bookseller is a delightful little bookshop, and there are loads of little indie spots to grab a souvenir.
Supper at Pennycomequick
Absolutely my favourite restaurant in Falmouth (and I got to try a lot of them in a month!) was Pennycomequick, a true English pub with a modern twist, on Killigrew Street (just down the street from Koala Karlous). Pennycomequick always had pleasant staff, and the food was unique and of high quality. Reservations are recommended if you plan to go after 6:30pm, or on a weekend. Have a cider and a black bean burger and enjoy the atmosphere.
The next morning, grab a breakfast pastry and a coffee at the Cornish Bakery. This chain feels complete not-chain-like, and had lovely treats and Cornish pasties- great for taking to go on the train. All their French pastries are made in France, flash frozen, and brought straight over to Cornwall to be sold the next day in bakeries, so your flakey croissant really is authentic.
Walk by the River
If you have time before heading out, take in the action of a true working port and walk along the boardwalk. Just off the high street is a lovely look out point, or if you go back toward the museum there is river access there as well. Before you leave, take note of all the restaurants that you haven’t had time to eat in yet – and start planning your next visit!