Until this year Falmouth was probably the largest UK town I’d failed to visit, somehow managing to bypass it en route to the more exciting Redruth, Blisland and Launceston during a half dozen trips to Cornwall. I knew it’s reputation as a lively student town, home to Rev Barrington’s Seven Stars, but the maritime side never appealed. I’ve had many good reports from my niece since she went to University to study art though.
This year my sister moved down there, and 2 quick visits later I’m declaring Falmouth one of the great UK towns. Not underrated exactly, or undiscovered (my parents stop there on their UK cruises), but unexpectedly a bit like Manchester’s Northern Quarter on sea, with hills. I wouldn’t retire there, miles from true civilisation, but I can see why other folk would if they could afford it.
The walking is great; you could walk up and down the steep alleyways running through the town and shed a few thousand calories, or get lost exploring numerous little coves south of Gilly Beach. Cheapish ferries and trains open up areas north and east of the town. Walking the Cambridgeshire Fens seems even duller compared to this.
With it’s relative affluence and many retirement properties, Falmouth ought to be a bit staid, but instead is a lively town with many independent shops, cafes and particularly pubs. There is quite a bit of modern development near the docks, but it integrates well with the old town (Tesco Express aside). The gardens adjoining the pavilion are quirky and offer some of the best coastal views in the UK.Cheap live music from new artists was a big feature of several pubs we visited, comparing favourably with the cover-version and revival band circuits of many towns.
The big surprise though, is the quality of the pubs. I need to do a fuller review of ‘Front, as welcoming-to-all a pub as I’ve been in, but with Beerwolf Books and the Seven Stars it makes as good an advert for UK pub-going as anywhere. All 3 had high quality real ale (NBSS 3 to 4), sensibly chosen beer ranges including a dark beer festival in ‘Front, and a range of visitors spanning the ages. Each have their quirks, from Beerwolf’s in-pub Bookshop, line dancing in the ‘Front and the pleasing grumpiness of the Seven Stars.
That’s only half the story though. In MONO and HAND, two newish related bars, Falmouth has it’s own answer to Port Street or Pint Shop, with some of the most interesting craft keg beers I’ve seen this side of IndyMan. Prices in both ran from cheap (£3 Bass) to challenging (£7.20 for 8%+ Flying Dog), but service and quality (including food) was exceptional, and I hope there’s enough custom to sustain and expand these ventures.
I’ve been trying to think of a comparable underrated town in terms of attractiveness and emerging pub scene, and came up with Macclesfield, where by coincidence I’ll be heading back tomorrow. Just remember, Mansfield has eight pubs in the Good Beer Guide, Falmouth and Macclesfield four each. My return trip to Mansfield can’t come soon enough.