Planning a much-needed break? Falmouth in Cornwall makes for a great escape from London, as Robin Brown rounds up the best activities in Falmouth
A seal pup pops its glistening head out of the water and looks straight at us, to the delight of everyone on the boat.
Just a minute ago, a few seals plinked into the water as our boat approached the secluded cove where a herd was enjoying the warmth of sunshine. Captain Keith had switched off its engine and we gently bobbed about 200 yards away, but the slushing noise made by the waves dashing against boat was enough to stir some of them to life and cautiously head for the water. Seals have an excellent sense of hearing and a well-developed sense of smell too. They are curious and playful, as evident by that fact that they swam closer to check out six adults and two children on board the Free Spirit, who all beamed happily at them.
Captain Keith has a great wealth of knowledge about marine wildlife around Falmouth and the southern coast of Cornwall. He runs AK Wildlife Cruises (tel: 01326 753 389; www.akwildlifecruises.co.uk) and takes people out in search of basking sharks, harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, minke whales and even humpback whales. His wildlife sighting rate is well above 90%. The marine wildlife is out there, “You just need to find them,” as he likes to say. Be prepared for a jubilant shout whenever he sees a fin – and hold tight as he increases the thrust and the boat powers through the water. The sea breeze through your hair and occasional salty spray is very exhilarating.
The lovely town of St Mawes basked in morning sunshine. Under the pale blue morning sky, the sea was as calm as a mill pond. I couldn’t have asked for a better day to go mackerel fishing. After a short hop across the bay from Falmouth to St Mawes, I met up with skipper James Brown from Fish & Trips St Mawes. On our way out to the fishing ground, he ran me through how to operate the boat – basic safety information. After reaching one of his favourite spots in open water, James and I dropped the lines into the water. He provided a little tuition on how to best use the rod and line, strung with several feather-covered barbs.
Although just a mile or two from shore, I was in a world of my own, with the boat rocking gently, inducing a sense of bliss and tranquillity which I hardly get to experience in my usual life. A pod of shy porpoises swim by, periodically breaching the surface – can this get any better?
Fishing is therapeutic, and James – despite having just met him – is like an old mate. A commercial fisherman turned fishing guide, James knows the area like the back of his hand. We chatted nonchalantly, as we gently raised and lowered the line hoping to attract the mackerel’s attention. After a short time, he felt a jolt on the line. Success, he reeled his line in and sure enough, a couple mackerel flapped on the line. Shortly after landing his catch, I was busy too as I felt a jolt and carefully reeled in another pair.
When you’re in Falmouth, remember to go fishing with James (tel: 07891 300 078; http://www.fishandtripstmawes.co.uk)
South West Coast Path
The National Trails site proudly declares that the 630-mile South West Coast Path is one of the best walks in the world – and on this occasion they’re right. The 13.6-mile walk from Falmouth to Portloe is simply sensational.
Take a pair of binoculars with you to spot the abundant birdlife along the coast. Soaring kittiwakes, gannets, fulmars and shags are a common sight. You may also see grey seals from Zone Point and Killigerran.
Where to stay in Falmouth
Cutty Sark (4 Grove Place; cuttysarkfalmouth.co.uk) is an elegant Georgian townhouse with gorgeous views of the estuary. This inviting B&B is comfortable, welcoming, with great food and a good selection of beers.
Where to eat in Falmouth
The winner of the UK’s best independent fish and chip shop, Harbour Lights (Arwenack Street; harbourlights.co.uk) serves up lightly-battered fish which is so fresh that you can definitely taste a subtle sweetness in the crumbling textured cod. The staff are expertly knowledgeable in the fish they have on offer.
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Make time for Falmouth