Falmouth and the Roseland
It’s a surprise to come across a tidal estuary at all, so deep in the heart of rural Cornwall; to be walking through a landscape of fields and country lanes far from the sea, but then to stumble upon a valley brimful of seawater. However, even on its furthest reaches more than sixteen kilometres from the coast, the Fal Estuary remains unmistakably a feature of the sea, governed by its rhythms and personality. When the tide falls on the upper reaches, the tiny size of the freshwater streams that feed the estuary are revealed, so insignificant they’re often lost out of sight between the mud banks. These small streams could never have carved out the deep river valleys we see today. For that we need to look back to more turbulent climatic times. In the last million years alone there have been as many as ten glacial periods – times when Cornwall was locked into brutal cycles of freezing and thawing. In the coldest periods (and the last glacial period only ended about 10,000 years ago), sea level was as much as 100 metres lower than today as huge volumes of water were locked up in ice sheets. It was probably torrents of seasonal meltwater in these glacial periods that did the most to cut the deep valleys of the Fal Estuary. We now live in a much warmer period and sea levels are correspondingly higher. As a result, the sea now flows far inland, submerging the old river valleys and transforming them into sea creeks. When the tide retreats on the upper reaches of the estuary, at least for a few hours, they are reclaimed for the land and take on a pensive mood broken only by the cries of curlew and redshank busily feeding on the mud flats before the tide floods inland once more.
The atmosphere of the estuary and creeks
Roundwood Quay near Trelissick
One of the great pleasures of exploring the Fal Estuary is seeing how land and sea interact in different ways, in different parts of the estuary. On the upper reaches near Tresillian, Truro and Ruan Lanihorne, the daily ebb and flow of the tide animates the landscape and markedly changes the mood and atmosphere. At low water when they dry out, these creeks can feel abandoned and forlorn, and the whole landscape seems to hold its breath, waiting for the tide to return. When it does, it steals in quietly like an interloper to inundate mud banks and salt marsh, flooding the broad valleys to create an improbable inland sea. Ruan Creek is the archetypal example of the estuary on its upper reaches; undisturbed by the outside world, its peaceful mood is favoured by shy river birds that congregate here to feed on the mud banks exposed by the falling tide.
Between Malpas and Turnaware Bar on the middle reaches of the estuary (which remain navigable even at low water), the broad valleys that are such a feature of the upper reaches are replaced by taller, steeper banks cut by the combined force of the Fal, Truro and Tresillian rivers. The high wooded banks tower over the water blocking out everyday noises, but, oddly, despite the many twists and turns in the creeks, sounds on the water can be strangely amplified and carry long distances. Even the sound of a small outboard engine can reverberate far along the water, making it difficult to work out if it’s just round the corner, or in some far away creek. Deprived of the usual cues, your senses are thrown slightly off-balance (like in a snowy landscape) adding to the dreamy mood. The side creeks around Trelissick, Roundwood and Coombe retain something of the atmosphere of the upper reaches, but they never feel so completely abandoned by the falling tide or so engulfed by the melancholy mood found there. Cowlands and Lamouth creeks are some of the most beautiful places in this book.
Below Turnaware Bar the river, released from the constriction of its middle reaches, opens out into Carrick Roads. Two small side creeks join at Mylor and St Just. Their short courses travel little more than a kilometre inland. Restronguet Creek and the Percuil River have longer courses and they illustrate, in miniature, the transitional stages seen on the estuary as a whole: abandoned mudflats on the upper reaches at low water, narrow navigable middle reaches and the broad lower reaches. The Percuil River is particularly beautiful, exhibiting throughout its short course the most harmonious balance between land and sea on the whole estuary.
The estuary as a highway
Oyster boats on Carrick Roads
The many creeks and inlets on the estuary present a considerable obstacle to overland travel, and for most of human history, the estuary itself has been the easiest and most convenient way to get around. The first people to arrive in any numbers along this natural highway were hunters and gatherers moving north from Europe into a thawing landscape at the end of the last glacial period, about 10,000 years ago. Except for the odd flint arrowhead or scrapper that occasionally turns up in a ploughed field, little physical evidence of their lives remain, and many of their coastal camps must now be lost to the sea which, at that time, was rapidly rising as the climate warmed.
The first concerted attempt to parcel out and cultivate the landscape began in the late Stone Age (4000–2300BC) and really got into its stride in the Bronze Age (2300–800BC). Again, few physical structures survive from that time as more than two thousand years of ploughing has done much to erase their fields, buildings and monuments, which exist now only as shadows, showing up as crop marks on aerial pictures. Some monuments are remembered in place names so, for instance, the Cornish word element cruc for barrow or burial mound occurs around the estuary in place names like Polcreek and Creek Stephen. We can be fairly confident that, although no obvious structure is visible, this was the site of a prehistoric burial mound. Of the Bronze Age monuments that have survived, the barrow or burial mound at Carne Beacon is perhaps the most prominent along with the standing stones at Mylor and St Clement churches.
By the Iron Age (800BC–AD43) much of the landscape we see today was already in place, with a mosaic of dispersed farmsteads on the best soils, areas of heathland on the higher ground and thick oak woods on the river banks. These farmers gathered at ramparted enclosures like Roundwood Fort, Veryan Castle and Dingerein Castle to meet, trade and celebrate ritual. Most of these sites remained in use well into the Dark Ages (AD410–1066) and they still stand out clearly in the landscape. The origins of the waterside churches on the estuary also go back to the early Dark Ages. Celtic missionaries, travelling between Brittany, Wales and Ireland in the 5th and 6th centuries, set up holy enclosures or lanns (as in Ruan Lan-ihorne and Lan-morran) on the water’s edge where they landed. The churches we see today date from the 13th to 15th centuries, but their sites would have originated in the Dark Ages as simple oval enclosures, perhaps with a stone cross to gather around for prayer. The crosses were sometimes reworked prehistoric stones like the Ignioc Stone at St Clement and a similar giant at Mylor Church. Many missionaries became venerated as saints of the Celtic Church, and their names are found all around the estuary – Mylor, Feock, Kea, Ruan, Fili, Mawes.
In more recent centuries, trade and commerce was carried out on ships, barges and working boats – each part of the river having a design suited to its conditions: flat-bottomed barges to carry cargo to the shallower parts of the estuary, the gaff-rigged oyster boats that still fish Carrick Roads today, or the sleek pilot cutters designed for getting out to home-bound ships as swiftly as possible. Almost every farm, estate and village had its own quay or landing beach to bring in coal and fertiliser and to export crops, stone and mineral ore to market. Most, of course, are little used now, but the quays at Roundwood, Greatwood and Ruan Lanihorne are interesting places to visit. The working boats and pilot cutters are raced in the season, and the Maritime Museum in Falmouth has more on their history.
For many people living around the estuary their work and life was completely focused on the water. The houses at Coombe, for instance, were not even connected to the public road network until the 1920s. The Kea plums that overhang Cowlands Creek used to be harvested directly into boats and taken to the quayside market in Truro, and well into the 20th century, beer was delivered to the Pandora Inn by boat because Passage Hill was too steep for the brewery drays. It was only in the 1950s that this waterborne trade moved to the roads. In recent years some of those lost connections have been reestablished, and you can explore most parts of the estuary by ferry and water taxi.
Admirals and explorers
The people who lived around the Fal Estuary would often spend as much time on the water as on the land, and were as at home on a heaving and pitching deck as on solid ground. The rivers and creeks have nurtured many famous seaman and adventurers, people like Sir John Killigrew (c.1520–1584), an Elizabethan buccaneer, part pirate, part national hero, second governor of Pendennis Castle and who helped to found the town of Falmouth. Many who grew up on the river joined the navy to fight and forge an empire. Admiral ‘Old Dreadnought’ Boscawen (1711–1761) of Tregothnan was rear admiral by the age of 36, and a scourge of the French fleet all his life. Sir Richard Spry (1715–1775) of Place near St Mawes, Commander of His Majesty’s land and sea forces in America, envoy to the Emperor of Morocco and the States of the Barbary Coast, was captured and held to ransom by the Spanish in the West Indies. Admiral Sir Barrington Reynolds (1786–1861) went to sea aged ten, was wrecked, imprisoned, ransomed and released by the French, all by the time he was twelve. There are beautiful monuments to these men in the churches at St Clement, St Michael Penkevil and St Anthony at Place. They are some of the best art in Cornwall.
At the top of Lemon Street in Truro is a monument to the Victorian explorer Richard Lander (1804–1834). He left Cornwall on a merchantman at the age of thirteen, and later became one of the first explorers of the heart of Africa. In 1830 he led an expedition to search for the source of the River Niger, for which he was awarded the first Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society. His exploits and adventures, which included being captured and held ransom by tribesmen, were turned into a popular comic book serial. In 1834 a second expedition was sponsored by British businessmen with the object of opening up new markets in the area, and this time he was accompanied by a barge full of cowrie shells, the local currency of the Niger peoples. However, on this occasion his luck ran out and he was killed and later buried at Fernando Po. Such was the popular acclaim for this Victorian adventurer that a monument was quickly erected at the top of Lemon Street in Truro to commemorate his life.
Exploring the estuary
A surprising amount of the western side of Carrick Roads (as far as Restronguet Passage) is accessible on foot just by taking the ferry from Falmouth to Flushing. Similarly, the 45 minute ferry trip to Trelissick from Falmouth or St Mawes will place you right in the heart of the middle reaches of the estuary. At Trelissick you might easily spend a day looking around the gallery, gardens and woods. Alternatively, you can take the option to walk to some of the more out-of-the-way places like Roundwood Quay, Old Kea and Coombe. Taking the ferry to St Mawes similarly opens up many possibilities for walks on the eastern side of the Carrick Roads. Following the water’s edge will get you up to St Just, Messack Point and Turnaware Bar. A small seasonal ferry runs from St Mawes to Place opening up walks on the Percuil River and on the coast to St Anthony Head and Portscatho.
The more remote corners of the estuary – places like Ruan Creek – will have to be explored by car. These atmospheric corners are probably the least visited but are some of the loveliest places on the whole estuary. Simply deciding to visit the waterside churches and old ferry landing places like Halwyn, Tolverne, Kea Woods, Restronguet Passage, Malpas Point and Percuil will take you to some of the most hidden away places. But perhaps the best way to get a flavour of the estuary is to hire a kayak or motor boat from Falmouth, Mylor Harbour or Loe Beach. Once on the water you will feel the excitement and thrill of being part of the life of the river. Admiral ‘Old Dreadnought’ Boscawen would certainly have approved.
Falmouth and Carrick Roads - open sea and blustery skies
We start on the coast just north of the Helford Estuary at Rosemullion Head from where there are fine views over Falmouth Bay to Pendennis Castle and the Roseland. In fact, the walks around Mawnan and Rosemullion Head have many similarities to those around St Anthony Head on the Roseland – an attractive and rapidly changing mix of woodland, cliff and beach all condensed into a small area. The wide and sandy beach at Maenporth is the most popular family beach in the whole Falmouth area. In scale and setting, it is rather the exception to the normal pattern on this coast, which is usually for tiny, quartz-pebbled coves that attract families looking for a more out-of-the-way place to spend a sunny day. Of the smaller coves, the best are Porth Sawsen, Porthallack, Nansidwell and Bream Cove.
As the coast path heads north from Maenporth towards The Stack (Pennance Point), two small pebbly coves, Newporth Beach and Sunny Cove, can be found tucked under the cliffs. Both were favourite locations for the Impressionist painter Henry Scott Tuke (1858–1929). He’s well known for his paintings of male nudes, often posed bathing or on a beach, including a portrait of TE Lawrence on Newporth Beach painted in 1921. Tuke lived and worked in a small cottage on the Swanpool side of The Stack, and his work is often on display at Falmouth Art Gallery.
The beaches at Gyllyngvase and Swanpool, and the attraction of the National Maritime Museum and Pendennis Castle make Falmouth the major focus for visitors on the estuary. It is also the hub of the ferry network, and most places are accessible from either Prince of Wales Pier or Custom House Quay. Regular year-round ferries run to St Mawes and Flushing. They are supplemented in the season by services to Trelissick Garden, Malpas, Truro and the Helford. The Maritime Museum has displays of small craft from all over the world, including Inuit kayaks and old steam boats, as well as interactive displays, a lookout tower and galleries that document Cornwall’s connection to the sea. Pendennis Castle has seen more than 400 years of active service. There are displays around the site and in the main keep. Many emplacements have been refitted with guns, and there are popular battle reenactments and medieval tournaments in the summer. Don’t miss the tunnel that takes you under the walls to the Half Moon Battery.
We then leave Falmouth and follow the western side of Carrick Roads, the great natural harbour that makes up the lower part of the Fal Estuary. In the summer it teems with dinghies, yachts and classic working boats. Amidst all this activity, ocean-going ships come and go to Falmouth Docks or are towed up to King Harry Reach near Trelissick for long-term storage. It’s just a short ferry ride across the Penryn River from Falmouth to Flushing and the popular walks to Mylor Harbour. This is a base for the oyster boats that are such a handsome sight in the winter as they trawl back and forth in Carrick Roads. The short valley that runs up from Mylor Creek ends at Enys House, famous for its bluebell meadows in the spring. The house, despite its lack of interior decoration and furniture, is the most beautiful on the estuary. From Mylor Bridge the old main road heads straight to the old ferry crossing at Restronguet Passage, the setting for the Pandora Inn. No trip to the Fal Estuary would be complete without an afternoon or evening spent sitting outside on the pontoon and enjoying a pint and a crab sandwich.
Truro, Trelissick and the Upper Reaches - creeks abandoned by the falling tide
St Clement near Truro
Beyond Turnaware Bar the wide views and open skies so characteristic of Carrick Roads are left behind and, for the first time, we encounter the thickly wooded creeks of the middle and upper reaches of the estuary – principally the Fal, Truro and Tresillian rivers. The transition is surprisingly abrupt as the estuary, still two kilometres wide near Restronguet Point, is suddenly compressed between tall banks little more than 200 metres apart. In these middle reaches between Trelissick and Malpas, the currents constrained between the banks scour the main channel so that at King Harry Reach ocean-going ships are able to moor two abreast just a stone’s throw from the bank. Their huge rudders and propellers loom over passing ferries lending a surreal note to this part of the estuary.
The National Trust house and garden at Trelissick with its popular woodland walks are the major attraction in this area. It’s also a good starting point for longer walks to Roundwood Quay and the hamlets at Cowlands and Coombe. These are heavenly places with plum and apple orchards draped over the water’s edge. When the early morning mist hangs over the river their dreamy atmosphere is heightened by the muffled sounds that drift in from the busy main channel, particularly the clank, clank, clank of the King Harry Ferry as it draws itself along on the great iron chains fixed between the river banks.
King Harry Ferry
Just opposite Tolverne Passage the main channel splits; the River Fal bears east along Ruan Creek to Ruan Lanihorne and the Truro River heads north past Old Kea to Malpas. The Truro River is busy with passing ferries and yachts in the summer but its banks remain largely private and inaccessible. The only exceptions are the old ferry landing beaches at Halwyn and Kea Wood, which are both served by footpaths. The eastern bank is dominated by the Tregothnan Estate, an area broadly defined by the courses of the Fal, Truro and Tresillian rivers. This secluded area has few paths and little access to the waterside, but for the dedicated explorer of the estuary there are some really characterful hidden corners to visit: the ruined church of St Coan at Merther, the old ferry landing at Malpas Point (or the quays at Ruan Lanihorne. In the autumn, the woods around Lamorran are one of the great sights of the river as the oak leaves turn beautiful hues of yellow and orange. The easily navigable middle reaches of the estuary end at Malpas where the estuary splits again. The Truro River turns west towards Calenick and Sunny Corner; the Tresillian River heads east past the hamlet at St Clement and on to the tidal limit at Tresillian.
The final area covered in this chapter takes us back to Tolverne Passage to follow the River Fal as it heads east along Ruan Creek to Sett Bridge and Ruan Lanihorne. Almost as soon as it splits from the Truro River it starts to lose depth and, despite its width, the creek rapidly fills with mud and sand banks. It was not always like this and the tide once reached much further inland than today’s tidal limit at Ruan Lanihorne. In the Iron Age (800BC–AD43) and Roman period, flat-bottomed Roman and Phoenician trading ships could make it past Tregony to the Iron Age fort at Golden near Trewithen to trade fine tableware for ingots of tin smelted from the local river gravels. A thousand years of digging over the river bed for stream tin filled the creek with silt so that by 1300, the tidal limit had migrated downstream to Tregony. More recently, waste from the great china clay pits of St Stephen and St Dennis has added more material and the tide now only reaches as far as Sett Bridge. Ruan Creek is the quietest part of the whole estuary and access is limited to areas around Ruan Lanihorne and to a single path from Philleigh. On these upper reaches (and beyond Malpas on the Truro and Tresillian rivers), you really do start to feel a long way from the sea. When the tide is out these broad creeks take on a melancholy air as the falling tide reveals great expanses of mud and the skeletal ribs of long abandoned boats.
St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula - a famously beautiful balance between the land and the sea
Summers Beach in St Mawes
Glance at any map and you will immediately see how close the Roseland is to being an island, only joined to the rest of Cornwall by a narrow waist between Ruan Lanihorne and Gerrans Bay. And just like many islands, the Roseland has that special trait of being able to change its character in the blink of an eye. One moment you can be walking over rolling fields, the next you suddenly emerge beside a wooded creek or tumble onto a grassy cliff. It’s this variety of landscape – its open aspect, its famously beautiful balance between fields, creeks and sea – which makes the Roseland such a popular place to visit.
Most people travelling from Falmouth and Truro arrive on the Roseland by crossing the River Fal on the car ferry at King Harry Passage. Crossing here saves a great deal of time compared to the alternative inland route, which refuses to get its feet wet and instead circumvents the whole tidal estuary by arching north of Truro to Tregony, St Just and eventually St Mawes. The boundary of the Roseland is set here by the middle reaches of the River Fal as it passes King Harry Passage and then by Ruan Creek as it turns east and continues to the tide’s limit at Ruan Lanihorne and Sett Bridge. Access to the waterside on Ruan Creek is limited to a single path below Philleigh and around Sett Bridge and Ruan Lanihorne.
On these shallow upper reaches of the estuary a dense stillness and silence suffuses places like Sett Bridge, and the open sea feels a long way away. That atmosphere soon starts to dissolve as you travel south across the Roseland and instead the scent of the ocean is carried inland on the breeze so that you often smell the sea long before you see it. Such is the influence of the sea that, around St Mawes, it’s often quicker to jump on a boat than to get around by car. A year-round pedestrian ferry runs between Falmouth and St Mawes. A popular path runs alongside Carrick Roads from St Mawes to St Just-in-Roseland, Messack and the D-Day embarkation beach at Turnaware Bar.
In the season a little foot ferry operates between St Mawes and Place. It crosses only a few hundred metres of the Percuil River but saves a round trip of thirteen kilometres by road. Once at Place Quay you have a choice of walks, any of which would probably feature in a list of the best in Cornwall. Turn right past St Anthony Church and you are on the way to St Anthony Head and Zone Point with their magnificent views over Falmouth Bay. This high up you get a grandstand view of the bay busy with small tankers from Falmouth Docks heading out to refuel ships anchored in the bay and the sight of billowing spinnakers as yachts head for the open sea. If you turn left from Place Quay, the path follows the Percuil River to Porth Farm and the family beach at Towan. A little further upriver and the flawless creekside walk around Percuil and Polingey Creek takes you to one of the most beautiful parts of the whole estuary.
On this long, narrow peninsula, the footpaths knit together two different landscapes: that of creek and field in the Percuil River with that of cliff and beach facing onto the open sea at Gerrans Bay. Gerrans is just a few hundred metres from the Percuil River at this point, and the focus turns to the coast as the full sweep of Gerrans Bay is revealed at Portscatho. This is the land of King Geraint, an 7th century Celtic king and one of the last rulers of Dumnonia, the southwestern kingdom of the Celts. His name is remembered in many place names on the Roseland, which was his home. He is said to be buried in Carne Beacon near Veryan. There’s a string of beaches in Gerrans Bay, first at Porthcurnick, then the little coves at Parbean, Creek Stephen and Curgurell and finally the huge beaches at Pendower and Carne. Nare Head is the highest point and has views over Falmouth Bay to the Lizard and up the coast to the prominent headland of the Dodman.
For up-to-date information on where to go and what to do go to the Visit Cornwall website. It has a good ‘What’s On’ section for local events and festivals. The Fal River website is particularly good for ferry, train and bus times (including daily service updates). They print a free Fal River Area Guide full of helpful info, timetables and other listings.
Visit Truro Tourist Information Centre, Boscawen Street, Truro. T: 01872 274555
Fal River Visitor Information Centre, Prince of Wales Pier, Falmouth. T: 01326 741194
Roseland Visitor Centre, Main car park in St Mawes. T: 01326 270440
There is usually a minimum fee, but a water taxi is often good value for groups of 5 or more and means you can get to some of the more remote places on the estuary and coast. For instance, going to Turnaware Bar and then walking back to St Mawes or to Restronguet Point and walking through Feock to Trelissick. Pick up a regular ferry to return. Some possible landing places are marked on the maps like this. You will need to book in advance.
You can get to many parts in this book by ferry in the summer. Buy a Fal Mussel Card to get discounts on ferry, train and bus fares.
Car parks can fill up quickly in the summer, especially the beaches on sunny days or the attractions on overcast days. At those times, as a general rule, it’s best to arrive either early morning or late afternoon if you would like to avoid the crowds. Places like Pendennis Castle and Trelissick are big enough to comfortably absorb larger numbers of cars and visitors. There are lots of smaller lay-bys and pull-ins if you know where to look; they usually have space for just a small number of cars. It’s quite possible for all of these to be taken in the busy summer months, so be prepared to hunt around for alternatives. Don’t be tempted to park in front of farm gates even if they look like they haven’t been used for a while. Falmouth has a Park & Ride/Float service to Customs House Quay (CHQ) in the summer. The Maritime Museum is within walking distance of Customs House Quay (CHQ).
Places to visit
National Maritime Museum, Falmouth
Displays of historic craft from all over the world, including Inuit kayaks, old steam boats and modern survival rafts. Other galleries document Cornwall’s connection to the sea. Lots of interactive displays for children. There’s a choice of restaurants outside the main entrance in Discovery Square.
Pendennis Castle and Half Moon Battery, Falmouth
Fine Tudor and Elizabethan castle refitted with guns from Henry VIII to World War Two. In the summer there are reenactments of Civil War and other battles. Parking on the headland. Includes access to the Half Moon Battery.
Ships and Castles Swimming Pool, Falmouth
On Pendennis Headland next to the castle with wave machine, river run and water slide. Likely to be very busy on overcast days in summer.
Follow the old tramways that served the mines of Chacewater and Gwennap including coast to coast off-road trails. You can get all the way to Portreath on the north coast. Bike hire at Bissoe.
Kennall Vale, Ponsanooth
Ruined 19th century gunpowder mills and flooded quarry, now a Cornwall Wildlife Trust nature reserve. Set in a deep valley above Ponsanooth. Children love the streams, leats and paths.
Woodland walks, garden, shop, cafe and gallery. Walk around Trelissick Woods past the ships anchored in King Harry Reach. For longer walks picnic at Roundwood Quay within the ramparts of the Iron Age fort or walk on to Cowlands. You can arrive by ferry.
Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro
Objects from Cornwall’s past from prehistoric to contemporary. Children love the Egyptian mummified cat.
An oasis of calm amid the busy shopping streets of Truro. Cafe and gift shop.
House and gardens
St Mawes Castle
Small but perfectly formed castle built at the same time as Pendennis Castle. Open year round.
St Anthony Battery
Twin to Half Moon Battery in Falmouth. Fine views across the entrance to Carrick Roads.
Melinsey Mill, Veryan
An old water mill converted to cafe, craft shop and gallery.
Water sports/boat hire
Hire motor and sail boats from Falmouth, Mylor Harbour and Loe Beach and St Mawes.
Gardens to visit
The subtropical gardens of the Helford Estuary are at their best in spring and early summer. The famous gardens at Trebah and Glendurgan are particularly fun for families with adventure activities, cafes and gift shops. They are open nearly every day of the year. The Potager Garden near Constantine was once a market garden and has been renovated with a cafe and lawns where you can play boules and other games. Penjerrick near Maenporth is a wild garden with forests of bamboo and tree ferns. Enys north of Penryn is famed for its bluebell meadows (page 31) and the beauty of its Georgian house. The house and garden at Trewithen on the A390 between Truro and St Austell is open March to September. The gardens at Tregothnan are open for charity for a few selected days in the spring and for larger parties by arrangement during other times of the year. Lamorran Garden near St Mawes Castle is an informal, terraced garden with views over St Mawes Harbour. The smaller gardens are open on selected days in the season, so check before you travel.
Swanpool Beach in Falmouth
Gyllyngvase and Swanpool are the main beaches in the town. Shell (Tunnel) Beach and Castle Beach are smaller, pebbly alternatives. Maenporth is a beautifully set beach with loos, cafes and parking (but get here early on a sunny summer day). Water sports like kayaking are available on the bigger beaches, which usually have sand at high water. Of the more remote beaches Bream Cove and Nansidwell (Woodlands) Beach are particularly loved by families. There is roadside parking by Chenhalls and it’s then a 15 minute walk down Nansidwell Valley to the coast. Both these beaches are greatly reduced at high water.
Towan Beach near Porth Farm
Small children love Summers and Tavern beaches in St Mawes and Tatams at Portscatho. Of the larger family beaches that have parking, loos and cafes, you have a choice of Towan Beach (park at Porth Farm), Porthcurnick just north of Portscatho or Pendower and Carne beaches near Veryan. Cliff falls in recent years have closed the main cliff top access to the once popular beach at Porthbeor, although people do arrive by boat. There’s a string of small coves north of Towan plus Porthbean and Creek Stephen north of Portscatho. Check tide times as most Roseland beaches are much reduced at high water.
These extracts are from the Falmouth and Roseland Guidebook