I’ve never been quite able to understand why Falmouth hasn’t become one of Britain’s great maritime ports; it’s harbour sits alongside 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.
This large expanse of water had to be protected from potential invaders as far back as Tudor times, and Henry VIII built a castle on either side of the harbour entrance at Pendennis Point and St. Mawes.
Prior to this protection, nearby Penryn was more important than Falmouth, but a local man by the name of Sir John Killigrew, saw the potential of building a deep-water harbour behind the protection of the two castles.
By 1689 Falmouth was starting to become an important communications hub when the famous Falmouth Packets (lightly armed sailing ships) started delivering mail to all corners of the developing British Empire. It wasn’t until new ways of communicating were developed that the ships became unnecessary, and for 150 years Falmouth was a communications hub second only to London.
The middle of the 19th century saw work start on the development of Falmouth Docks and by 1863 the railway arrived. Blessed with some lovely beaches, the trains brought plenty of holidaymakers to the town and its character gradually changed.
Today, Falmouth is one of the largest towns in Cornwall (some statistics show it to be the largest, but that depends how you crunch the figures). These figures have recently been boosted by a healthy student population (by that I mean the population is healthy, not necessarily the students).
With a host of attractions within the town and not far away, 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 of Falmouth Harbour is the biggest attraction of all.