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Falmouth

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Overview





Falmouth Harbour is situated on England's southwest coast about fourteen miles northeast of Lizard Point. One of the English Channel’s major ports and the world's third largest natural harbour, it offers a wide range of berthing opportunities to visiting craft.

Falmouth Harbour is situated on England's southwest coast about fourteen miles northeast of Lizard Point. One of the English Channel’s major ports and the world's third largest natural harbour, it offers a wide range of berthing opportunities to visiting craft.

The deep water harbour offers complete protection from all conditions. The entrance and its channels are well marked and may be safely accessed in all reasonable conditions, at any stage of the tide, night or day.



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Keyfacts for Falmouth



Last modified
March 26th 2019

Summary

A completely protected location with safe access.

Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideWaste disposal bins availableDiesel fuel available alongsidePetrol available alongsideGas availableShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaInternet via a wireless access point availableDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaChandlery available in the areaMarine engineering services available in the areaRigging services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesScuba diving cylinder refill capabilitiesBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaBicycle hire available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Marina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: harbour fees may be charged



HM  +44 1326 312285      admin@falmouthport.co.uk     falmouthharbour.co.uk      Ch.12 [Falmouth Haven] 
Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 9.218' N, 005° 3.908' W

This is the southern end of Visitors Yacht Haven connected to North Quay. It is the position of the front orange triangular leading mark that leads through the approach channel that is dredged to 1.4 meters.

What is the initial fix?

The following Falmouth Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
50° 7.967' N, 005° 1.336' W
This is ½ a mile south of the entrance and on the line of bearing 004° T of the eastern extremity of Saint Mawes Castle, situated on Castle Point, that leads in via the river's preferred East Channel.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location

  • The mile-wide entrance is made unmistakable by the lighthouse on St. Anthony Head, at the eastern side of the entrance, and by Pendennis Castle on the western side.

  • Pass Black Rock, a ⅓ of a mile from Pendennis Point and marked by a beacon Fl(2)10s3M, 100 metres off on either side.

  • Follow the channel marks in.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Falmouth for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Saint Mawes - 1.2 miles E
  2. Portscatho - 2.5 miles ENE
  3. Gillan Creek - 2.6 miles SSW
  4. Helford River - 2.6 miles SW
  5. The River Fal - 4.1 miles N
  6. Coverack - 4.9 miles S
  7. Porthleven Harbour - 6.5 miles WSW
  8. Cadgwith - 6.8 miles SSW
  9. Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 7 miles SW
  10. Gorran Haven - 7.4 miles ENE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Saint Mawes - 1.2 miles E
  2. Portscatho - 2.5 miles ENE
  3. Gillan Creek - 2.6 miles SSW
  4. Helford River - 2.6 miles SW
  5. The River Fal - 4.1 miles N
  6. Coverack - 4.9 miles S
  7. Porthleven Harbour - 6.5 miles WSW
  8. Cadgwith - 6.8 miles SSW
  9. Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 7 miles SW
  10. Gorran Haven - 7.4 miles ENE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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What's the story here?
Falmouth Harbour welcomes a wide range of boats
Image: Michael Harpur


Falmouth is a town and commercial port that lies on the western shore within the mouth of the River Fal. The town occupies a peninsular site and faces water on two sides. The old part of the town overlooks the inner harbour and Carrick Roads, whereas the newer residential area with hotels, faces the English Channel. The historic harbour contains extensive facilities for commercial and cruise vessels. This extends to leisure craft with the provision of three marinas as well as moorings and the possibility of anchoring off. The River Fal Click to view haven, that extends northward for about 7 miles, has further berthing, mooring and anchoring possibilities within its numerous coves and inlets.

Yachts moored at Port Pendennis Marina with the harbour behind
Image: Michael Harpur



Falmouth Harbour Commissioners

The port authority for Falmouth, Penryn, St Mawes and St Just, is the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners; further upriver the Port of Truro takes control. The harbour authority accommodates visiting boats on its popular dedicated pontoon, called the Visitors Yacht Haven, as well as on a range of swing moorings. It is also permissible to anchor in a designated area off the town but it does attract harbour dues.

It is advisable to make contact ahead of arrival so that the current berth availability can be assessed and the best arrangements can be made. Falmouth Harbour Commissioners work on VHF Ch. 12 [Falmouth Haven] and are also available on Landline+ 44 1326 310991/310990, E-mailadmin@falmouthport.co.uk, Websitewww.falmouthharbour.co.uk.

Alternatively, on arrival find the harbour launch 'Arwenack', VHF Ch. 12 [Arwenack] and take advice. 'Arwenack' is usually out and around the harbour during the season and the moorings officer will direct you to the prefered berth. If you have not been able to locate anyone from the harbour office, find a space on the Visitors Yacht Haven or pick up any of the green visitors’ buoys. But get in touch with the harbour office straight away.


Visitors Yacht Haven

Visitors Yacht Haven
Image: Michael Harpur


The Falmouth Harbour Commissioners’ Visitors Yacht Haven is a highly popular base from which to explore Falmouth. It is a small marina dedicated to visitors fronting the centre of the town which is a short stroll from all its amenities and the high street. The marina is connected to the North Quay and has the capacity for approximately 100 boats. An approach channel, that is dredged to 1.4 meters and marked by a orange triangular leading mark on 232° T, leads in the final 100 metres at low water.

The Visitors Yacht Haven can accommodate vessels of up to 16 metres length and has 2.5 metres draft on its outer eastern side. Larger vessels may also be accommodated by prior arrangement. The northern inner side has 2 metres and the southern 1.5 LAT. However, the path to the inner areas passes over a patch that has as little as 1.2 metres of water off the end of the northern pontoon so deeper vessels may need some rise for access. Rafting up is customary at busy times and owners of multihulls should note that they can attract a 50% surcharge.


Visitor Moorings

Visitor Swing Moorings are close to the fairway outside of the local boat
moorings

Image: Michael Harpur


Falmouth Harbour Commissioners provide 22 dedicated visitor moorings. There are eight moorings which will accommodate yachts up to a length of 12.2 metres, seven moorings to accommodate yachts up to 18.2 metres and four moorings to accommodate yachts up to 24.3 metres. The moorings are located to the northwest of the Visitors Yacht Haven or near to the main channel. They are marked with substantial green buoys with green pickups.

The swing moorings are strictly on a 'first come, first served basis' and no prior bookings are taken. A maximum stay of three weeks, from 1st July through until 31st August, apply to the swing moorings. Any vessel going beyond the three week period will be charged double the standard tariff rate. If there is any doubt get in contact with the harbour launch.

Mooring numbers and depths are as follows:

  • • Nine small green moorings numbered S101 - S106, T101 - T103. These accommodate yachts up to 12.2 metres LAO with max depths: R100 (2.3m) – R108 (5m).

  • • Nine moorings green moorings K1 - K9 that accommodates yachts of up to 18.2 metres LOA in depths of K1 (3.3m) to K9 (3.7m).

  • • Four moorings large green buoys, L1 - L4, which will accommodate yachts up to 24.3 metres LOA in depths L1 (4.2m) – L4 (5.9m).

All the moorings require a strop to be passed through the top ring to make fast. Land by tender in a secure, dedicated area on the Visitors Yacht Haven.


Anchoring

Anchoring area east of Visitors Yacht Haven
Image: Michael Harpur


There is a small craft anchorage close east of the Visitors Yacht Haven and off Custom House Quay. Depths vary from 1.5 - 2.5 metres LAT and the holding is generally good in firm mud though there are a few soft patches. Protection is adequate but space is tight as a path has to be kept clear to the docks and for Pendennis Marina. It is advisable to buoy the anchor in this ancient anchoring location.

All anchoring vessels must have a working engine as there may be a requirement to move temporarily, sometimes at short notice, to facilitate commercial shipping movements to and from Falmouth Docks.


Yachts anchored off Custom House Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Those intending on anchoring can contact the harbour patrol craft or the Harbour Office on VHF Ch. 12 or consult the notice board at the top of the Visitors Yacht Haven access bridge for information on shipping movements. It is generally advisable not to leave vessels unattended for prolonged periods in the anchoring area.


Port Pendennis Marina

Port Pendennis Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Located at the southern end of the inner harbour the Marina is easily identified by the tower of the National Maritime Museum that overlooks it. The marina offers a wide range of facilities and a choice between the inner, sill-locked, or outer harbour pontoons. It can accommodate vessels up to 15 metres LOA with drafts up to 4.5 metres and holds 20 visitor berths and access H24/7.


Port Pendennis Marina Plan
Image: Michael Harpur


Being relatively small it is advisable to check availability and make arrangments ahead of any planned visit. Contact the marina on [VHF] Ch. 80 [Port Pendennis], Landline+44 1326 211211, E-mailmarina@portpendennis.com, Websitewww.portpendennis.co.uk.


Port Pendennis Inner Marina and sill
Image: Michael Harpur


Outside berths are accessible at all stages of the tide but may become uncomfortable in strong northerlies. The inner marina has depths of up to 3 metres and is accessed over an automatic dock gate (HW±0300). It is predominantly occupied by private berth holders but space occasionally becomes available for visitors. When it does so it provides a particularly safe location in the event of very bad weather or should the vessel be required to be left unattended for a while.

Daily rate per metre, up to 25 metres LOA £3.50, over 25 metres £5.00 per metre. Short Stay for max 12 metres LOA up to 3 hours, if available, £15.00


Falmouth Marina

Falmouth Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Continuing up through the harbour's buoyed channel for about a mile past Flushing, the river bends to the west to reveal Falmouth Marina. The marina is operated by the Premier group and is the largest facility of the estuary. It has extensive amenities and has as many as 70 berths available for visitors. The marina is divided in two by a sill that is marked at each end by a tide gauge. The sill dries to 1.8 metres above Chart Datum.

Falmouth Marina can accommodate boats up to 18 metres with 2 metres draft outside of its sill. Inside the sill berthing is available for boats up to 15 metres carrying a draft of up to 1.5 metres. There is a drying bank that lies to the north of the Marina so care should be taken whilst entering. Visitors should only enter the inner basin after being given the go-ahead by marina staff.


Falmouth Marina Plan
Image: Michael Harpur


It is advisable to call ahead to arrange a berth VHF Ch. 80/M [Falmouth Marina], Landline+44 1326 316620, E-mailfalmouth@premiermarinas.com, Websitewww.premiermarinas.com. It is particularly advisable for larger boats to make arrangements in advance. Berthing masters are on duty from 0700 - 2300 during the season, and there is also a night watchman providing 24-hour security.

Charges [2019] per metre per day 8m - 12.5m £3.10 | 12.6m - 16.0m £3.30 | 16.1m - 20.0m £3.80
Short Stay Berth (up to 4 hours) £1.60 per metre.


How to get in?
The lighthouse on St. Anthony Head renders the entrance unmistakable
Image: Robert Pittman via CC BY-SA 2.0


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location for seaward approaches. The entrance to Falmouth is passable under all reasonable conditions. It can be a bit rough when a southerly gale collides with an ebb tide but even in this most vulnerable condition, it is still manageable for most vessels.

Keep clear of commercial vessels or attendant tugs wherever possible
Image: Tim Green


The entrance is made unmistakable by the lighthouse on St. Anthony Head at the eastern side of the entrance, and by Pendennis Castle with its prominent 69 metres high round turret on the western side. It is a mile wide and is divided into two channels by Black Rock, which lies a ⅓ of a mile from Pendennis Point. Black Rock uncovers at half tide and is marked by a distinctive black conical stone pedestal with an isolated danger mark, a pole with two spheres on top. The beacon has been unlit in the past but in recent years it has a light, Fl(2)10s3M, which greatly facilitates a night entry.


The East Channel between Black Rock and Saint Anthony Head
Image: Michael Harpur


The principal entrance channel is the East Channel that lies between Black Rock and Saint Anthony Head. The initial fix sets up an approach via the main channel which is the preferred approach. However, leisure craft can safely pass either side of Black Rock by standing 100 metres off the danger, day or night now that it has been lit. The west channel, between Black Rock and Pendennis Point, is more than ¼ of a mile wide and has a least depth of 5.6 metres.


Yacht passing out via the west channel between Black Rock and Pendennis Point
Image: Michael Harpur



Initial fix location This is ½ mile south of the entrance and on the line of bearing 004° T of the eastern extremity of Saint Mawes Castle, situated on Castle Point, that leads in via the East Channel.

The distinctive round walls of St Mawes Castle
Image: Tim Green


After passing abeam of Black Rock the fairway channel is indicated by lateral buoys and cardinals. The fairway has a least depth of 5.4 metres and there is ample water outside of the marks. The Percuil River branches to the east less than a ½ mile northward with Saint Mawes Harbour Click to view haven close within the entrance. Entered between Carricknath Point and Castle Point it offers a well-protected anchorage unless the wind is westerly, which is the prevailing wind. Saint Mawes could offer an alternative to Falmouth just a mile to the east, in the blissful peace of the pretty Roseland backwater as opposed to the bustling town.

Saint Mawes Harbour on the Percuil River entered between Carricknath and Castle
Image: Michael Harpur



Likewise, continuing northwards through Carrick Roads offers seven miles of berthing opportunities in the River Fal Click to view haven.


'The Governor' with Saint Mawes Castle on Castle Point opposite
Image: Tim Green



The vast majority of leisure vessels entering the inner harbour of Falmouth can steer to pass 'The Governor', VQ(3)5s, east cardinal marker to port with ample water. From there it is simply a matter of rounding the Eastern Breakwater and Northern Arm of the Western Breakwater for the inner harbour to open.


Falmouth as seen from the Roseland Peninsula opposite
Image: Michael Harpur


An inner harbour speed limit of 8 knots then applies from inside a line between the eastern end of the Northern Arm of the Western Docks and Trefusis Point. The line is marked by a speed limit sign on the Northern Arm and by yellow speed limit marker buoys. Skippers should keep clear of large vessels which may be manoeuvering in the docks and avoid creating any excessive wash when encountering small boats and/or passing moored vessels.


Trefusis Point and the Queen’s Jetty and Northern Arm
Image: Michael Harpur


Proceed westerly to the inner harbour which then opens up around the west end of the Queen’s Jetty. Port Pendennis is tucked into the corner between the docks and the town a ¼ of a mile to the south. The Visitors Yacht Haven will be seen off the town to the southwest, and is approached at low water through a dredged channel marked by orange triangular leading marks. The green buoys of the visitor moorings will be found to the northwest of the Visitors Yacht Haven and near to the main channels.


The run up to Falmouth Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Falmouth Marina is situated a little over a mile further up on the south side of the Penryn River. The Penryn River carries 3 metres as far as the commercial jetty of Boyers Cellars which is located about a 100 metres seaward of marina's first pontoons. But after the wharf, it quickly shallows to around 1 metre LAT in the final approaches to the marina. Therefore deeper draft vessels should avoid making the final approach during low water springs. A general rule of thumb is that a vessel drawing more than 1.7 metres should not approach 1½ hours of low water springs.


East cardinal beacon and adjacent Penryn Channel
Image: Michael Harpur


The channel up the Penryn River is buoyed and the marina will appear behind the deep-water commercial jetty of Boyers Cellars. Pass the commercial wharf close to port and steer to also pass the marina’s outer pontoons close to port.

It is essential to keep the east cardinal beacon, VQ(3)5s, that marks the end of a drying bank, to starboard. Don't be confused by the port and starboard channel markers close north of the cardinal beacon as these lead past the marina and up the Penryn River.


Falmouth Marina with Penryn in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


The channel to the Penryn quays, located close north, dries north of the head of the westernmost pontoon at LAT. At Penryn, Town Quay has 4.3 to 3.0 m at HW and it is administered by the Port of Truro.

Haven location Berth as prearranged in whichever location is prefered.


Why visit here?
First recorded as Falemutha in 1235, Falmouth takes its name from the River Fal conjoined with the old English mútha, meaning mouth, so it means ‘mouth of the river Fal’. But it was not always called Falmouth and the original settlement was called Smithwick until the 17th-century.

Since prehistoric times the Fal estuary and its network of rivers have provided mankind with a means of communication, trade, and a place of shelter from adverse winds, along with food and other resources. The estuary and its surrounding lands have been exploited since at least the Mesolithic period, c. 9000-4000 BC. The placename of Pendennis, derived from the Cornish dinas meaning fort, suggests it was likely that the headland had an Iron Age 'cliff castle'. Large hoards of Roman coins found at Pennance Point also suggest it saw activity during the Roman period.


Arwenack Manor today
Image: Tim Green


Despite its great and evident natural resources, Falmouth as we know it today only started to develop as a port during the 17th-century. The settlements of the Fal until that date were focused on a small number of centres around its tributaries and various tidal waterways, bridging points and upper limits such as Truro, Penryn, Tregony, and Grampound. The only coastal development was St Mawes and that was very limited being described, as late as the mid-16th-century, as a 'poor fisher village'. This was partly due to the estuaries’ exposed position to foreign raids, but more importantly the inner settlement’s close proximity to inland markets and major routes. Hence there was no mention of Falmouth in Doomsday and the earliest depiction of the area shows only one primary building, its medieval manor house of Arwenack.


The keep of Pendennis Castle
Image: Nilfanion via CC ASA 4.0


Arwenack was acquired by the Killigrew family, probably by marriage, in the late 14th-century, and in time they would become Falmouth's foremost family. Around the time of their arrival, the first settlement of the town called Smythwyck was first recorded in 1370. This settlement, which became the nucleus of the town of Falmouth, was located close to the present Market Strand. The name is said to be English, rather than Cornish, and to mean 'Smith’s village'. Smythwyck later became known as Penny-come-quick, from Peny-cwm-cuic meaning 'the head of the narrow vale' and the area continued to be known by both these names until the early years of the 17th-century. References to the name 'Falmouth' at this time indicate the estuary as a shelter it offered for shipping.


St Mawes Castle
Image: Michael Harpur


This was considerable and well recognised. John Leland noted in about 1540 that 'Falemuth is a haven very notable and famous and in a manner the most principal of all Britain. For the channel of the entry hath by space of 2 miles into the land, 14 fathom of deeps, which commonly is called Carrick Road because it is a sure harbour for the greatest ships that travel by ocean’. Not only was it a useful haven for commercial shipping, but Henry VIII’s Channel fleet frequently used it to lie up. For these were dangerous times and the increasing political tensions in Europe sparked a realisation of the strategic value of the Fal estuary, not just as a base for his fleet, but as a potential invasion beachhead for his enemies. To counter this, substantial artillery forts were built on Pendennis headland and at St Mawes to control access to Carrick Roads.



Custom House Quay and North Quay date back to 1670
Image: Michael Harpur


Pendennis Castle was situated on land within the Arwenack estate and John Killigrew was the first hereditary captain of the castle which meant he controlled all of the shipping in the Falmouth area. Sir John used his privileged position to prey on the cargoes of the ships that came within his reach. He already harboured visions of establishing a town and invited Sir Walter Raleigh to his home in order to prepare a report on the area's suitability. From 1613 onwards John Killigrew began to build houses near the foreshore, which was opposed by the more ancient towns of Helston, Penryn and Truro as their monopoly on the local trade was greatly affected. King James judged in favour of Killigrew's enterprise and he was allowed to continue. It was his descendant, Sir Peter Killigrew, 2nd Baronet, c. 1634 – 1704, who would promote this scattered development and have it recognised as a proper town.


The old Town Quay inside Customs House and North Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Sitting in the House of Commons as an MP in 1660 he petitioned for a charter for the new market town at Smythwyck. Once again the corporations of Penryn, Truro and Helston opposed it but the lords in council decided in Killigrew's favour. In 1661 he was granted a Royal Charter for the 'village' of Smythwyck and its associated port to become the 'town of Falmouth', with its own mayor and corporation. Along with the grant came a licence to transfer the customs house from Penryn to Falmouth, a ferry service between Smythwyck and Flushing, and established a new parish that would be served by a new church dedicated to 'King Charles the Martyr'. It was by the charter of incorporation, granted in the following year, that the town’s name was finally changed to Falmouth. Peter Killigrew was also persuaded by King Charles II to make the town the Royal Mail Packet Station.


Visitors Yacht Haven attached to North Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


The new town and port prospered rapidly and the Killigrews built the Custom House and North Quays about 1670. Being located well to the south of the existing town, towards Arwenack, they were located in a position where the family could keep a sharp eye on commercial operations. In 1673 Falmouth market was described as ‘very considerable for corn and provisions’ and it drew in supplies from a wide area of west Cornwall. The port took an increasing share of trade entering the Fal estuary in the second half of the 17th-century. The Killigrew family's dominance ended in the early part of the eighteenth century when Peter Killigrew's son was killed in a duel. His son-in-law Martin took the Killigrew name, but he produced no heirs bringing to an end one of the most powerful dynasties in Cornwall.


Packet Ship anchored in Falmouth Harbour
Image: Public Domain


By which time the town was well established. Being the nearest to the entrance of the English Channel, two Royal Navy squadrons were permanently stationed here during the 18th-century. At the time of the French Revolutionary Wars, battleships and small vessels were continually arriving with war prizes taken from the French ships, and prisoners of war that were held at two large camps near Penryn. By then, there were thirty to forty, small, full-rigged, three-masted ships operating this service from the harbour. As the Empire grew so did the importance of this critical service.


'Hardiesse' Falmouth's Sail Training Ship in the harbour today
Image: Robert Pittman via CC BY-SA 2.0


The Packet Ships were sleek, fast brigantines crewed by no more than 30 men. They were lightly-armed and designed to flee relying on speed for their security, with their precious cargos, rather than fight and risk capture. These Packet Ships sailed from Falmouth with mail, passengers, and supplies and payments for troops fighting abroad. During wartime, they even provided passenger services when no other vessel could put to sea. The famous poet Lord Byron sailed out from Falmouth in 1809 bound for Portugal. The experience he found to be so unpleasant that he wrote a comedy poem about the noise, heat and seasickness he experienced during the passage. All of this activity led to a number of 'great houses' being built in the core of the town, providing both residential and business premises for wealthy merchants. Likewise, behind the main streets, the town was beginning to spread up the slopes of its valley and large elegant houses started to rise along the waterfront particularly along Greenbank and opposite, in the small village of Flushing. All graphic evidence of the town's new-found wealth.

Falmouth post-1863
Image: Public Domain
The ending of the packet trade in the early part of the 19th-century was a blow to the town but it soon recovered. To a great extent, it was replaced by the development of Falmouth docks and its associated industries which made the town an important centre for shipbuilding, repair and maintenance. It also benefited from the vitality of maritime trade, including vessels calling ‘for orders’, which were directions for their final port of call via the new electric telegraph. Both of these were aided by the completion of the railway link with Truro and the Great Western system in 1863. This brought new prosperity to Falmouth by proving the swift transportation of the goods recently disembarked from the ships in the port.

The railway also made it easy for tourists to reach the town commencing the early stages in Falmouth’s development as a resort. The potential of its mild climate, the close proximity to its beaches and the pretty estuary were easy to see and the town responded quickly to the opportunity. It built its first purpose-built tourist hotel in 1865 and provided family bathing facilities at Swanpool, Gyllyngvase and Maenporth. To bolster its potential Falmouth refreshed and added new institutional buildings and public facilities during the 1860-70s. The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club was formed in 1874 and soon Falmouth was a thriving seaside resort as well as being a busy port.


The obsolete Campletown HMS rammed into the Normandie dock gates
Image: Kramer via CC-BY-SA 3.0
The docks were very busy supporting both World Wars when the Admiralty took control of operations. During WWI it provided a base for a minesweeper fleet and Q-ships, and was a marshalling point for troop vessels and convoys and a reception port for casualties returning from France and elsewhere. The Docks provided servicing facilities for naval and merchant shipping. It was also an important port in the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII when it rarely had less than 100 ships anchored in Falmouth Bay and Carrick Roads. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemy U-boats supprising the vessels. It was the launching point for the noted commando raid on Saint-Nazaire in 1942 when a British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire rendered it unusable for the remainder of the war and up to five years afterwards. Between 1943 and 1944, Falmouth was a base for American troops preparing for the D-Day invasions. As such the town was a target for the Luftwaffe and it was bombed 12 times with the loss of life of 31 people.


The National Maritime Museum overlooking Port Pendennis Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Falmouth maintains its maritime connection, with its ship repair yards and docks still a major contributor to the town's economy. It remains the largest port in Cornwall. But Tourism, both from land and sea, is the principal source of income for Falmouth today. So it is fitting that one of its principal attractions is The National Maritime Museum on Discovery Quay. A must for sailors, it tells the story of Falmouth as well as England’s epic maritime history whilst displaying a collection of more than 120 small boats in the process. Least we forget its pivotal position for sailing, it is also famous for being the start or finish point of various round the world record-breaking voyages, such as those of Sir William Robert Pat 'Robin' Knox-Johnston and Dame Ellen Patricia MacArthur.


The National Maritime Museum's pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur


Falmouth as well as Truro, which is the Fal’s head of navigation, are two of the biggest and most interesting towns in Cornwall. There is plenty of interest here for everyone, right back to its foundation stone of Arwenack manor that can be visited today. As the Killigrews were prominent Royalists, Arwenack manor was destroyed by Parliamentarians during the Civil War. It was rebuilt in 1567-71 on a smaller scale and has seen some more modern reconstruction in the late 18th century. Pendennis Castle is close by and just as important for the development of the town with its defensive castles. St Mawes Castle on the Roseland Penninsula is today among the best-preserved of Henry VIII's coastal artillery fortresses, and the most elaborately decorated of them all. Both are managed by English Heritage and can be visited today. These are only the start of a town that is steeped in history and interest.


Yachts berthed at Port Pendennis Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, Falmouth sits on one of the finest natural harbours in the country. It is the most westerly of the large English Channel ports and it can be run to for safety in almost any conditions. Its extensive resources can cater to any need a vessel may require for coastal cruising or a transatlantic voyage. With a long history of maritime importance, the town is steeped in history and interest. As a boating destination, it is hard to beat from any perspective.


What facilities are available?
The Visitor Yacht Haven has Wi-Fi, shower, washrooms and laundry, as well as water and electricity. A connected fuel barge dispenses both petrol and diesel during daylight hours from Easter until September. If fuel is required at other times arrangements can be made by telephone in advance. Fuel is available at the other marinas also.

The Visitor Yacht Haven and Port Pendennis Marina are located close to the town’s winding main street, with its host of shops, pubs and restaurants. They are also a short walk from a handy supermarket, a choice of local chandleries and utility stores. There is also a supermarket close by Falmouth Marina. The welcoming Yacht Haven or the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, has a dinghy landing, showers, a bar and restaurant.


Grove Place Slip
Image: Michael Harpur


Falmouth Harbour Commissioners operate a Boat Park and Slipway complex at Grove Place. The slipway is available to the public for launch and recovery of trailed boats and a fee is payable at the time of launching. A 40 tonnes travel hoist and hard standing are available at Falmouth Marina and Port Pendennis. Falmouth has excellent and extensive facilities for yachts and is well used to looking after any need a vessel may require for coastal cruising or a transatlantic voyage. Anything can be taken care of here.

A branch line from Truro (Mon-Sat every 30 min, Sun 11 daily; 25min) runs to Falmouth, stopping at both Falmouth Town and Falmouth Docks. Both stations are around a 10-minute walk from the town centre.

Buses #UI from Truro, #2 from Helston and Penzance, #35 and #35A from Helston, and National Express coaches stop on the Moor. Destinations Helston (Mon-Sat 12 daily, Sun 2 daily; 40min—1hr 20min); Penzance (Mon-Sat 6 daily, Sun 1 daily; 1hr 45min); Plymouth (2 daily; 2hr 35min); St Austell (2 daily; 1hr 5min); Truro (Mon-Sat every 30min, Sun hourly; 55min). Truro has onward for nationwide connections. Newquay airport is about 48km (30 miles) away.


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Falmouth Overview


About Falmouth

First recorded as Falemutha in 1235, Falmouth takes its name from the River Fal conjoined with the old English mútha, meaning mouth, so it means ‘mouth of the river Fal’. But it was not always called Falmouth and the original settlement was called Smithwick until the 17th-century.

Since prehistoric times the Fal estuary and its network of rivers have provided mankind with a means of communication, trade, and a place of shelter from adverse winds, along with food and other resources. The estuary and its surrounding lands have been exploited since at least the Mesolithic period, c. 9000-4000 BC. The placename of Pendennis, derived from the Cornish dinas meaning fort, suggests it was likely that the headland had an Iron Age 'cliff castle'. Large hoards of Roman coins found at Pennance Point also suggest it saw activity during the Roman period.


Arwenack Manor today
Image: Tim Green


Despite its great and evident natural resources, Falmouth as we know it today only started to develop as a port during the 17th-century. The settlements of the Fal until that date were focused on a small number of centres around its tributaries and various tidal waterways, bridging points and upper limits such as Truro, Penryn, Tregony, and Grampound. The only coastal development was St Mawes and that was very limited being described, as late as the mid-16th-century, as a 'poor fisher village'. This was partly due to the estuaries’ exposed position to foreign raids, but more importantly the inner settlement’s close proximity to inland markets and major routes. Hence there was no mention of Falmouth in Doomsday and the earliest depiction of the area shows only one primary building, its medieval manor house of Arwenack.


The keep of Pendennis Castle
Image: Nilfanion via CC ASA 4.0


Arwenack was acquired by the Killigrew family, probably by marriage, in the late 14th-century, and in time they would become Falmouth's foremost family. Around the time of their arrival, the first settlement of the town called Smythwyck was first recorded in 1370. This settlement, which became the nucleus of the town of Falmouth, was located close to the present Market Strand. The name is said to be English, rather than Cornish, and to mean 'Smith’s village'. Smythwyck later became known as Penny-come-quick, from Peny-cwm-cuic meaning 'the head of the narrow vale' and the area continued to be known by both these names until the early years of the 17th-century. References to the name 'Falmouth' at this time indicate the estuary as a shelter it offered for shipping.


St Mawes Castle
Image: Michael Harpur


This was considerable and well recognised. John Leland noted in about 1540 that 'Falemuth is a haven very notable and famous and in a manner the most principal of all Britain. For the channel of the entry hath by space of 2 miles into the land, 14 fathom of deeps, which commonly is called Carrick Road because it is a sure harbour for the greatest ships that travel by ocean’. Not only was it a useful haven for commercial shipping, but Henry VIII’s Channel fleet frequently used it to lie up. For these were dangerous times and the increasing political tensions in Europe sparked a realisation of the strategic value of the Fal estuary, not just as a base for his fleet, but as a potential invasion beachhead for his enemies. To counter this, substantial artillery forts were built on Pendennis headland and at St Mawes to control access to Carrick Roads.



Custom House Quay and North Quay date back to 1670
Image: Michael Harpur


Pendennis Castle was situated on land within the Arwenack estate and John Killigrew was the first hereditary captain of the castle which meant he controlled all of the shipping in the Falmouth area. Sir John used his privileged position to prey on the cargoes of the ships that came within his reach. He already harboured visions of establishing a town and invited Sir Walter Raleigh to his home in order to prepare a report on the area's suitability. From 1613 onwards John Killigrew began to build houses near the foreshore, which was opposed by the more ancient towns of Helston, Penryn and Truro as their monopoly on the local trade was greatly affected. King James judged in favour of Killigrew's enterprise and he was allowed to continue. It was his descendant, Sir Peter Killigrew, 2nd Baronet, c. 1634 – 1704, who would promote this scattered development and have it recognised as a proper town.


The old Town Quay inside Customs House and North Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Sitting in the House of Commons as an MP in 1660 he petitioned for a charter for the new market town at Smythwyck. Once again the corporations of Penryn, Truro and Helston opposed it but the lords in council decided in Killigrew's favour. In 1661 he was granted a Royal Charter for the 'village' of Smythwyck and its associated port to become the 'town of Falmouth', with its own mayor and corporation. Along with the grant came a licence to transfer the customs house from Penryn to Falmouth, a ferry service between Smythwyck and Flushing, and established a new parish that would be served by a new church dedicated to 'King Charles the Martyr'. It was by the charter of incorporation, granted in the following year, that the town’s name was finally changed to Falmouth. Peter Killigrew was also persuaded by King Charles II to make the town the Royal Mail Packet Station.


Visitors Yacht Haven attached to North Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


The new town and port prospered rapidly and the Killigrews built the Custom House and North Quays about 1670. Being located well to the south of the existing town, towards Arwenack, they were located in a position where the family could keep a sharp eye on commercial operations. In 1673 Falmouth market was described as ‘very considerable for corn and provisions’ and it drew in supplies from a wide area of west Cornwall. The port took an increasing share of trade entering the Fal estuary in the second half of the 17th-century. The Killigrew family's dominance ended in the early part of the eighteenth century when Peter Killigrew's son was killed in a duel. His son-in-law Martin took the Killigrew name, but he produced no heirs bringing to an end one of the most powerful dynasties in Cornwall.


Packet Ship anchored in Falmouth Harbour
Image: Public Domain


By which time the town was well established. Being the nearest to the entrance of the English Channel, two Royal Navy squadrons were permanently stationed here during the 18th-century. At the time of the French Revolutionary Wars, battleships and small vessels were continually arriving with war prizes taken from the French ships, and prisoners of war that were held at two large camps near Penryn. By then, there were thirty to forty, small, full-rigged, three-masted ships operating this service from the harbour. As the Empire grew so did the importance of this critical service.


'Hardiesse' Falmouth's Sail Training Ship in the harbour today
Image: Robert Pittman via CC BY-SA 2.0


The Packet Ships were sleek, fast brigantines crewed by no more than 30 men. They were lightly-armed and designed to flee relying on speed for their security, with their precious cargos, rather than fight and risk capture. These Packet Ships sailed from Falmouth with mail, passengers, and supplies and payments for troops fighting abroad. During wartime, they even provided passenger services when no other vessel could put to sea. The famous poet Lord Byron sailed out from Falmouth in 1809 bound for Portugal. The experience he found to be so unpleasant that he wrote a comedy poem about the noise, heat and seasickness he experienced during the passage. All of this activity led to a number of 'great houses' being built in the core of the town, providing both residential and business premises for wealthy merchants. Likewise, behind the main streets, the town was beginning to spread up the slopes of its valley and large elegant houses started to rise along the waterfront particularly along Greenbank and opposite, in the small village of Flushing. All graphic evidence of the town's new-found wealth.

Falmouth post-1863
Image: Public Domain
The ending of the packet trade in the early part of the 19th-century was a blow to the town but it soon recovered. To a great extent, it was replaced by the development of Falmouth docks and its associated industries which made the town an important centre for shipbuilding, repair and maintenance. It also benefited from the vitality of maritime trade, including vessels calling ‘for orders’, which were directions for their final port of call via the new electric telegraph. Both of these were aided by the completion of the railway link with Truro and the Great Western system in 1863. This brought new prosperity to Falmouth by proving the swift transportation of the goods recently disembarked from the ships in the port.

The railway also made it easy for tourists to reach the town commencing the early stages in Falmouth’s development as a resort. The potential of its mild climate, the close proximity to its beaches and the pretty estuary were easy to see and the town responded quickly to the opportunity. It built its first purpose-built tourist hotel in 1865 and provided family bathing facilities at Swanpool, Gyllyngvase and Maenporth. To bolster its potential Falmouth refreshed and added new institutional buildings and public facilities during the 1860-70s. The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club was formed in 1874 and soon Falmouth was a thriving seaside resort as well as being a busy port.


The obsolete Campletown HMS rammed into the Normandie dock gates
Image: Kramer via CC-BY-SA 3.0
The docks were very busy supporting both World Wars when the Admiralty took control of operations. During WWI it provided a base for a minesweeper fleet and Q-ships, and was a marshalling point for troop vessels and convoys and a reception port for casualties returning from France and elsewhere. The Docks provided servicing facilities for naval and merchant shipping. It was also an important port in the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII when it rarely had less than 100 ships anchored in Falmouth Bay and Carrick Roads. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemy U-boats supprising the vessels. It was the launching point for the noted commando raid on Saint-Nazaire in 1942 when a British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire rendered it unusable for the remainder of the war and up to five years afterwards. Between 1943 and 1944, Falmouth was a base for American troops preparing for the D-Day invasions. As such the town was a target for the Luftwaffe and it was bombed 12 times with the loss of life of 31 people.


The National Maritime Museum overlooking Port Pendennis Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Falmouth maintains its maritime connection, with its ship repair yards and docks still a major contributor to the town's economy. It remains the largest port in Cornwall. But Tourism, both from land and sea, is the principal source of income for Falmouth today. So it is fitting that one of its principal attractions is The National Maritime Museum on Discovery Quay. A must for sailors, it tells the story of Falmouth as well as England’s epic maritime history whilst displaying a collection of more than 120 small boats in the process. Least we forget its pivotal position for sailing, it is also famous for being the start or finish point of various round the world record-breaking voyages, such as those of Sir William Robert Pat 'Robin' Knox-Johnston and Dame Ellen Patricia MacArthur.


The National Maritime Museum's pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur


Falmouth as well as Truro, which is the Fal’s head of navigation, are two of the biggest and most interesting towns in Cornwall. There is plenty of interest here for everyone, right back to its foundation stone of Arwenack manor that can be visited today. As the Killigrews were prominent Royalists, Arwenack manor was destroyed by Parliamentarians during the Civil War. It was rebuilt in 1567-71 on a smaller scale and has seen some more modern reconstruction in the late 18th century. Pendennis Castle is close by and just as important for the development of the town with its defensive castles. St Mawes Castle on the Roseland Penninsula is today among the best-preserved of Henry VIII's coastal artillery fortresses, and the most elaborately decorated of them all. Both are managed by English Heritage and can be visited today. These are only the start of a town that is steeped in history and interest.


Yachts berthed at Port Pendennis Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, Falmouth sits on one of the finest natural harbours in the country. It is the most westerly of the large English Channel ports and it can be run to for safety in almost any conditions. Its extensive resources can cater to any need a vessel may require for coastal cruising or a transatlantic voyage. With a long history of maritime importance, the town is steeped in history and interest. As a boating destination, it is hard to beat from any perspective.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Helford River - 2.6 miles SW
Gillan Creek - 2.6 miles SSW
Coverack - 4.9 miles S
Cadgwith - 6.8 miles SSW
Kynance Cove - 7.8 miles SSW
Coastal anti-clockwise:
The River Fal - 4.1 miles N
Saint Mawes - 1.2 miles E
Portscatho - 2.5 miles ENE
Gorran Haven - 7.4 miles ENE
Portmellon - 7.9 miles ENE

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Falmouth.
















































































Falmouth Overview



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Add your review or comment:


Ron Lub wrote this review on May 16th 2019:

Good spot close to the town, but not much space. at day lot of shipmovements, and generator nois from the shipyard across the town at night.
Good holding 1,50 p/mtr night (pound) a bit expencive (moorings 2,50 mtr)
But you can use all the facillity's! washing machine 4 pounds.

Average Rating: ****

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