Since Tudor times, the Fal Estuary has played a key role in the defence of the nation. Henry VIII's twin castles of Pendennis and St. Mawes, both of which can be visited all year, guard the entrance to one of the finest natural harbours in the world.
In 1660, during the reign of Charles II, a royal proclamation declared the town should be known as Falmouth. Falmouth then flourished for 200 years as the second busiest port of the British Empire.
Pendennis Castle offers a journey through 450 years of history from a Tudor garrison to a Second World War base. What's more it is superbly sited on Pendennis Headland, offering outstanding panoramic views. Pendennis Castle, 'Cornwall's Greatest Fortress', was built by King Henry VIII and has defended the entrance to the River Fal since its construction between 1540 and 1545. Sitting high on Pendennis Point opposite its sister castle, St Mawes, Pendennis was part of Henry's coastal defences against the threat of an attack from the French and Spanish, following his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Henry's daughter, Elizabeth I, later added an extra defensive wall around the original fortress.
The foundation of Falmouth Docks in 1860 produced a focus for maritime related industries. The railway finally reaching Falmouth by 1863 helped to promote the growing tourist trade, resulting in the first purpose built tourist hotel on the sea front in 1865 and the development of the family bathing beaches of Swanpool, Gyllyngvase and Maenporth.
n 1688 the post office packet service to foreign ports and colonies was established and initially carried mail to Spain and the Mediterranean. By 1705 small twin-masted boats were delivering mail to the West Indies and eventually they were visiting the North American Colonies and South America. The fleet reached a total of forty ships by 1817, carrying passengers as well as mail, supplies and payment for British Troops fighting overseas. The Packet Ship service declined yet Falmouth continued to flourish with the introduction of the electric telegraph, making the port one of the few places that ships could call in to get their orders for the delivery of their cargoes.
Falmouth Tourist Information Office has more details of historic buildings and places of interest in Falmouth.