The Fal Estuary is in the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and provides a stunning natural landscape wherever you look along the river. The boat ride I took begins and ends in Truro but there are opportunities to hop on and off the boat at Malpas, Trelissick and St Mawes as it wends its way downstream to Falmouth. All the details, timetable and prices can be found on the Fal River website, plus information on the other ferries they run on the river and opportunities for charters and parties. There is also a great little video which follows the boat down the river.
The tides were not favourable for Truro on the day I chose, so the boat left from Malpas village, a 10 minute bus ride away from the ticket office at Lemon Quay in the centre of Truro. You will need to pay for all day parking which is conveniently situated at Garras Wharf car park and costs approx. £5.
The double decker bus squeezed its way into the narrow lanes of Malpas village (10/10 to the lady driver for her driving skills) and parked just a few yards from the pontoon where you board the boat. There is covered seating downstairs with a tea/coffee making facility and toilets – essential when taking toddlers out for the day! We chose to sit upstairs in the open as it was a glorious day, and perched on top of the lifeboat locker.
We left the pontoon and wove our way through the pretty moored boats down the Truro River to the upper reaches of the River Fal. Most of the land here is owned by Lord Falmouth who lives at Tregothnan House on the port side of the river – all you can see is his boathouse close to the first set of pontoons opposite Maggotty Bank where many leisure boats come and moor up for a peaceful lunch or overnight stop far from the madding crowds. As we headed down to join the River Fal we encountered the Dona Amelia, a luxury yacht built in 1927 and used in the filming of Mamma Mia – most impressive. Often there are large ocean going ships moored here as this is a drowned river valley and very deep. A little further on the blue outline of the King Harry chain ferry was visible carrying cars from Trelissick to the Roseland, saving drivers a 20 mile round trip by road.
Our first port of call was Trelissick, where several passengers alighted for a visit. The river widens out after the next pontoon and Turnaware point comes into view. This was a major encampment for allied forces in World War II and where they launched for the D-Day landings. On the starboard side the majestic Trelissick house comes into view, recently given over to the National Trust by descendants of the Copeland family and housing some beautiful porcelain – wealthy landowners certainly chose the best spots to build their houses. The view from this house is one of my favourites in the whole of Cornwall.
We headed on past Turnaware bank and Pill Creek, passing Mylor Yacht harbour and St Just in Roseland. It was quite a windy day and I caught glimpses of the Falmouth and St Mawes working boats ahead of us, sails fluttering like butterflies as they raced around the marker buoys – obviously a competition day. Their iconic topsails make them instantly recognisable. Fisherman still dredge the harbour for oysters in these boats – a river tradition for hundreds of years.
After the excitement of the racing we headed into St Mawes to drop more people off, passing St Mawes Castle, one of a pair (Pendennis on the Falmouth side) built by Henry VIII for protection against the Spanish Armada. St Mawes is one of those picture postcard places, especially beautiful from the water with its pretty pastel painted cottages and harbour.
A quick turnaround and we were off to the opposite side of the estuary with the cranes of Falmouth harbour clearly visible. Falmouth is the third deepest natural harbour in the world and the town has a long maritime history with a busy shipyard, graceful rows of captains’ houses above the port and tiny little cobbled alleyways called opes linking them to the water.
We motored up through the moorings to the flag-lined Prince of Wales Pier, where we all got off to look around Falmouth town. Sam was enthralled to see local children leaping off the pier into the water below – what fun they were having!
As I had a baby and a toddler, shopping was not an option. We just took advantage of our two hour stop to wander down to Custom House Quay, buying a pasty en route. We sat in the sunshine, watching the boats and chatting to locals. It was soon time to head back to the pier for our 3.30pm sailing. If you had more time in Falmouth you could visit the National Maritime Museum in nearby Events Square – it always has fascinating displays for the children – Vikings at the moment. I had a coffee in the Pier Café on the pier itself which was very nice with outside seating and harbour views.
The wind had got up for our return trip and seated at the top with two little ones and a rucksack was proving a challenge with the rolling of the boat. Luckily my fellow passengers were very kind and helped me look after them and keep them safe! The children were absolutely fascinated and well behaved for the whole trip there and back. I would certainly recommend this for a great day out for everyone.
Have you visited the area around the River Fal by boat? Let us know what you thought of your day out – we’d love to hear your top tips for where to go and what to see. You can leave a message below, post on our Facebook page or tweet @bosinver.