I’ve never been quite able to understand why Falmouth hasn’t become one of Britain’s great maritime ports; it’s harbour is reputedly one of the largest natural deep-water harbours in the world, and located, as it is, in the south-western approaches, it would seem an obvious choice for a major naval base, let alone anything else. It does have some docks, but they are aren’t used for commercial shipping much these days, and consequently the natural environment has been left pretty well unscathed.
This large expanse of water had to be protected from potential invaders as far back as Tudor times, and Henry VIII built a castle at Pendennis Head and another one on the opposite side of the estuary at St. Mawes. This protection enabled the town to grow, and it became an important part of Britain’s communications network when the Falmouth Packets took and brought back mail from the expanding British Empire.
To bring goods in and out of the port, a railway line was opened from Truro on 24th August 1863; but it also had the benefit of bringing in tourists who came to visit the beaches. The Maritime Line still brings tourists in, and has stations at Falmouth Town and Penmere as well as Falmouth Docks.
The town began to change character with the arrival of holidaymakers, and is now one of the largest towns in Cornwall. These figures have recently been boosted by a healthy student population (by that I mean the population is healthy, not necessarily the students), and with a host of attractions to keep both young and old happy, it’s not difficult to see why Falmouth is a popular place to visit, but it has to be said that the great expanse of water at Falmouth Harbour still has to be the biggest attraction of all.