Gill Oliver returns to the stunning coastline area to take in its jaw-dropping views, fresh seafood and relaxing atmosphere

Strolling along the stretch of white-gold sand known locally as ‘Gylly’ beach, I was trying to remember how long it was since I had been to Cornwall.

Eventually, I realised it must be almost 20 years and gazing out across that gorgeous south Cornish coastline, with the sun beating down, I just couldn’t work out why.

Gyllyngvase is one of the prettiest of the 26 beaches in the Fal River area around Falmouth and this time of year sees what is one of peninsula’s most popular destinations at its best, with lush greenery and masses of wild flowers everywhere.

Most of the inlet around the River Fal is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there are 150 miles of footpaths, which makes it a hit with walkers, as well as families after a traditional bucket-and-space holiday.

Despite its good looks, Falmouth’s a full-on working harbour and port, complete with huge ships being refitted, cranes and fishing rigs.

But that just gives it more character and means there is no shortage of fresh fish and seafood to choose from, since hundreds of tons of the stuff is landed every day.

We spent two nights at St Michaels Hotel and Spa in Falmouth, a hop and skip from Gylly beach and with jaw-dropping views over the bay.

Jauntily done-out in nautical colours, it is relaxed four-star accommodation with an indoor pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, gym and fitness classes free for guests.

But this is no lettuce-leaf-diet style retreat — its Flying Fish restaurant has two AA rosettes, so the food is top notch and there’s plenty of it.

Speaking of which, on our first afternoon, we had the obligatory debate about whether you should smoother a scone with jam or cream first but five minutes in to what was a gargantuan Cornish tea, with a selection of finger sandwiches, home-made pastries and a pot of Earl Gray, neither of us cared.

The next morning, itching to explore, we set off on foot but armed with our Fal Mussel Card.

Despite the name, this has nothing to do with scoffing seafood but is a hop-on, hop-off travel pass which allows you unlimited trips on the ferries, buses and trains in the Fal River area.

Prices start from £19 a day for an adult but the longer you’re there the better value it becomes, as a six-day pass is just £43 and for families, one day free travel is £47 versus £120 for six days.

There’s also a Fal River attraction pass which costs £31 for six days and £72 for families which is particularly good value, as it gives entry to a huge range of places including the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Trelissick and Larmorran Gardens and more castles than you can shake a stick at.

We took the ferry from Falmouth to the fishing village of St Mawes opposite – it’s just a 20-minute trip but that was enough time to enjoy the seaspray and have a good look at the coastline.

Once you get there, the village has plenty of waterfront cafes and bars where you can buy a beer or an icecream, sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Once back in Falmouth, we walked the two or three miles from the hotel up the coastline past Pendennis Castle, around the headland and back again.

Lined with wild flowers and bluebell woods and set against the backdrop of the sea, it made for a heady combination.

That evening, we made time for a couple of mojitos in the hotel bar before having dinner at a window table looking out over the bay.

I started with deliciously fresh scallops and then moved on to the catch of the day, which was plaice — simply presented, drenched in butter and cooked with a light touch.

My other half had smoked mackerel to begin, followed by red Pollock on samphire colcannon, which was particularly excellent.

Oxford Mail:
St Michaels Hotel and Spa in Falmouth

The hotel, run by a husband-and-wife team, sources all fish, meat, vegetables and other foods locally wherever possible and is one of the main sponsors of Falmouth’s annual oyster festival in October — another reason to brave the four-and-a-bit hour car journey down to that part of the world.

The next day, afteranother superb breakfast, we set off for a proper look around the centre of Falmouth.

It has all the usual suspects of chain brands such as Marks & Spencer, for those who enjoy shopping, but a healthy number of independents too and there are plenty of cafes, pubs and restaurants to choose from, including TV chef Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop.

Every year in May, the area is transformed for 10 days when it plays host to the Fal River Festival; a visual and sensory jamboree with an eclectic mix of outdoor theatre, walks, workshops, film screenings, art exhibitions and a food and craft festival.

And that arts-led community means there is plenty going on, including free art galleries to wander around during the rest of the year.

Although we had to head home after two nights, if you are staying for longer, it would be mad not to explore Truro, which is just 11 miles away and also part of the Fal River zone, or St Austell.

No piece about Cornwall is complete without a mention of Poldark and although it is the north rather than southcoast associated with the open-shirted hero, fans of the book and TV series will not be entirely disappointed, as the journey down and back to Fal River takes you past Bodmin Moor, where bits of the series were filmed.

Driving past that beautiful moorland, I couldn’t believe how relaxed and revitalised I felt after such a short time and made a promise it definitely won’t be another 20 years before I go back.


We stayed at St Michaels Hotel and Spa in Falmouth. Prices start from £80 per person per night if booking for four or more nights and packages, such as the two-night bliss break, which includes afternoon tea, dinner on one night and a treatment in the spa, start from £260per person.

For more information, call 01326 312707 or visit

To find out more about the Fal River Festival visit or follow Twitter @FalRiverFest