September is a great month to visit Cornwall – the kids are back at school and the holiday-makers have (mostly) gone home. Whatever your interests, Falmouth provides the perfect base for exploring the county’s south coast by boat.
Catching the ferry from Falmouth harbour (the third largest, natural, deep-water harbour in the world) and sailing across the wide waterway of Carrick Roads to the picturesque village of St Mawes is an adventure in itself (falriver.co.uk/smf). After that, it’s only a short stroll from the pretty little harbourside to St. Mawes Castle (english-heritage.org.uk). This clover leaf-shaped, and elaborately decorated, fort was built around 1540 by Henry VIII to protect the area (together with its sister castle, Pendennis, on the opposite side of the estuary) from invasion by foreign navies.
For more history, continue your walk for a couple of miles along the coast to the 13th Century church at StJust-in-Roseland (stjustandstmawes.org.uk). Set among lush, sub-tropical gardens and beside a tranquil tidal creek, it was described by Sir John Betjeman as ‘the most beautiful churchyard on earth’.
The Helford River stretches from its rocky mouth on the southernmost edge of Falmouth Bay upstream to the old port of Gweek. Go on a two-hour cruise (departing from The Prince of Wales Pier in Falmouth harbour) on the MV Princessa (boatcruisesfalmouth.co.uk) to explore this unspoilt estuary at a leisurely pace, including the famous Frenchman’s Creek – the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier’s 1941 romantic novel of the same name.
Cornwall’s waters are among the richest marine habitats in the world and home to some amazing aquatic animals. Book a trip with Orca Sea Safaris (orcaseasafaris.wixsite.com), on board their dedicated wildlife-watching vessel Seaquest, to search for seabirds, seals, dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and even minke whales. As you survey the dramatic coastline, the knowledgeable guides will regale you with quintessentially Cornish tales of smugglers and shipwrecks.
Adults £39.50 / Children £28
Trelissick – a grand country house and gardens perched on its own peninsula along the River Fal – is well worth a visit. You can walk in the acres of quiet woodland (where dogs are also welcome), play hide and seek on the hidden paths or have a late summer picnic on the immaculate lawns. Keen gardeners will appreciate the superb collection of exotic plants, including rare rhododendrons, magnificent magnolias and an ancient Japanese Cedar tree. If the weather’s not kind to you, there’s an art gallery, café and gift shop indoors.
The best way to arrive at Trelissick is by boat (falriver.co.uk/enterprise). Take a classic, wooden ferry from Falmouth, sit on the open top deck and delight in the five-mile journey up the Fal and through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to this stunning National Trust property (nationaltrust.org.uk/trelissick).