Places to visit Near Falmouth UK
The sea has always provided food, livelihoods and an essential trade link to the outside world for the people of Cornwall. Not surprisingly, boats and seafaring form a huge part of its cultural heritage. Together with Carrick Roads, its main port of Falmouth is the third deepest natural harbour in the world, the town’s fortunes owing much to its maritime past, present and future. The starting point for numerous expeditions, naval conquests and yacht races for hundreds of years, Falmouth is also home to the multi-award winning National Maritime Museum Cornwall.
Situated on Discovery Quay, the museum holds the National Small Boat Collection as well as its own collection of Cornish and other small boats. Its mission is to promote an understanding of boats and their place in people’s lives, and of the maritime heritage of Cornwall. Exploring Cornwall’s fishing, trading, boatbuilding, wrecks and emigration history, you’ll be amazed at how innovative and courageous Cornish seafarers were, the Falmouth Packet story, those plucky mail ships servicing the Empire, warranting a mini exhibition of its own.
But you don’t have to be a sailor to appreciate the wealth of ‘boaty’ artefacts and information on display. Equally fascinating for landlubbers of all ages, it’s the stories of the people who sailed and adventured in these boats that make this museum really come alive, and those of intrepid seafarers today – still battling the elements, beating the odds, respecting the mighty ocean, and sailing on the high seas.
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With fifteen galleries over five floors, housing a varied mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions, and lots of hands-on activities, there’s plenty to see and do. The hard part is deciding where to begin. We headed to the top, right to the top of the 100ft Look-out Tower, where we caught the tail-end of a talk given by one of the friendly volunteers. The views over Falmouth harbour are stunning, and help put where you are into context. From vast cruise ships, to gunmetal grey naval vessels, to pleasure boats of all shapes and sizes, moored up as far as the eye can see, it’s worth the stair climb for this panorama alone.
From here we went down, right down to the Tidal Zones, where enormous 22ft windows give you a glimpse into the harbour’s natural underwater environment. It’s like looking at a giant aquarium full of shrimp, barnacles, fish (seals if you’re lucky) or going scuba diving without the hassle of tanks and all the kit. Cormorants occasionally do dive-bys as well. No mermaids when we were there though.
The main attraction on the ground floor, Viking Voyagers, invites you on an epic journey to discover the truth behind the popular myth of these bloodthirsty raiders. On until January 2nd 2017, this world-class exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see antiquities on loan from the British Museum, National Museum of Ireland, National Museum of Denmark and Manx National Heritage.
Expert seamen and navigators, their name for the sea was ‘whale road’, and for 300 years (700 –1050) Vikings looted, traded and settled on four continents as far as Canada and Iraq. They also made landfall in Cornwall, with Viking coins and pins having been found in Hayle and Phillack, and a bronze stirrup in Sennen.