Hot Spot: Falmouth, Cornwall

With its famous light, gourmet restaurants and cheap house prices, Falmouth is the catch of the day, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

The quality of Cornwall's light attracted artists of an earlier era, and the quality of its seafood restaurants lure the gourmets of our generation. Jonathan Griffin is currently househunting in Falmouth, but for a considerably more prosaic reason: job relocation. His responsibilities and his employer are anything but mundane, however ­ Griffin is the director of the new National Maritime Museum.

Opened last year in an imposing structure on the harbour, the £28m museum displays 140 small craft from Britain and overseas, artefacts of Cornish maritime heritage and tools that belonged to Cornish sail-makers and boat-builders. It also displays traditional fishing equipment, sailor-made ship models and Falmouth Packet memorabilia.

The museum has been a smash success. As a househunter, Griffin ­ trying to buy one home and sell another during the slow season, despite having already started earning his crust in Falmouth ­ is bailing water. "It is taking time to find an appropriate property here, and it is taking time to sell our home in Twickenham," he says. "I've been staying in the Falmouth area during the week, doing a combination of renting and borrowing. A museum trustee has a holiday home which he has kindly let me use but I have to vacate it when he needs it."

As an Almost Empty-Nester with two grown children and one at university, he requires plenty of sleepover space. "If we wanted a 1970s bungalow we could buy something immediately, but we are looking for an appropriate home here, with three bedrooms or more," he explains. "I see Falmouth's market in three broad categories. At the top are expensive holiday and second homes with silly-money prices for people from Surrey." Lyricist Tim Rice (collaborator of Andrew Lloyd-Webber), guitarist Pete Townshend and Roger Taylor, the drummer for Queen, have holiday homes in the Falmouth area.

"At the bottom, below about £200,000, the market is very busy," Griffin adds. "There are many students here and lots of buy-to-let investors. The middle market has a shortage of suitable and affordable family homes." The new museum director is searching in the latter category.

Jonathan Cunliffe of agent Miller Waterside says that Falmouth was cheap but has now caught up. "Rapid growth has slowed but we don't expect the price of quality properties to drop. The Maritime Museum has smartened up that part of Falmouth, which now has good restaurants and is getting a multiplex cinema."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

There are frequent trains on the branch line from Falmouth to Truro, with stops at Perranwell, Penryn and Penmere. Truro has a service to London Paddington; journey time is about four and a half hours.

Shopping

Falmouth has a small M&S, Tesco and oodles of tourist shops; serious regular shoppers head to Truro.

Sports and leisure

Ships & Castles Leisure Pool at Princess Pavilion has a 70m flume, spa pools and a gym. Around Falmouth are golf courses, riding and watersports facilities.

Entertainment

Falmouth Arts Centre hosts plays performed by local and national companies, and mainstream and art films. Pendennis Castle stages outdoor plays during the summer. Falmouth Art Gallery displays contemporary art, sculpture, photography, textiles and a permanent collection including works by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Sir Alfred Munnings and Dame Laura Knight.

Attractions

Pendennis Castle has a museum showing 450 years of naval history, including a Tudor gun deck, guardroom and secret, underground defences. Falmouth hosts several annual regattas and festivals. Real ale is on tap at the Rail-Ale Trail, a pub crawl via train to 14 pubs on the Truro-Falmouth line. The area's celebrated gardens include Trebah, Fox Rosehill, Queen Mary, Gyllyngdune, Kimberley, Carwinion and Glendurgan.

Prices

A one-bed flat with bay window, rear balcony and communal courtyard is £69,950. A two-bed first-floor conversion with shower room and access to part of the garden is £124,950, at Miller. In Admirals Quay, a two-bed flat with communal gardens and use of a slipway is c.£300,000 at Fulfords.

Small houses

Kimberley's is selling two- and three-bed semis and terraces from £135,000. A three-bed link detached house (the link is a garage between two houses) costs £169,950. A three-bed detached bungalow with garage is £247,500 at Fulfords, and Miller is marketing a three-bed terrace with sunroom and garage in Mylor Bridge for £249,950.

Family homes

A four-bed detached house near Falmouth Golf Club is £213,500, and a three-bed period end-terrace near the town centre is £240,000. A Grade II-listed six-bed two-reception terrace with garage, period features and waterside views, is for sale at £345,000 at Fulfords. A four-bed two-reception terrace over three storeys near the harbour is £425,000, and a large Victorian house with four en-suite bedrooms is £525,000, at Miller.

Nearby

In Truro, a three-storey chapel conversion with large garden and double garage with attached office is for sale at £300,000; Kimberley's.

Tale of two counties

Moved from its original location in Sussex, Kiln Quay in Flushing, four miles from Falmouth, is a Grade II-listed south-facing six-bed country house on the harbour with Aga and swimming pool. Miller Waterside is marketing it at £2m.

Estate agents

Fulfords, 01326 319393; Kimberley's, 01326 311400; Miller, 01326 318181.

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