Falmouth has long been one of Cornwall's artiest enclaves. In 2005, the town's School of Art – highly regarded in the fields of media, art and design – was reborn as University College Falmouth. The academic upgrade has given the town a contemporary, youthful edge that can be hard to find in Cornwall's more traditional seaside towns. All the more fitting, then, that someone has finally pulled back the seaside chintz and furnished Falmouth with its first boutique hotel – and one with modernist design, retro-chic furniture and a hip bar to boot.

In 2007, husband and wife Paul and Colleen O'Sullivan purchased an impressive, double-fronted Georgian townhouse overlooking the marina. They gutted it; installed a bar in the front two reception rooms; then gradually furnished and honed 10 upstairs bedrooms – all the while quietly garnering a word-of-mouth following.

Prices are kept reasonable by delivering on the things you're likely to care about (fresh décor; outsized bed; plush bathroom) but not on the bits you won't miss (fawning porters, fax machines, shoe-shine service). Breakfast makes a refreshing change from the wilting buffet norm, not least because you can tuck in any time till noon. You're welcome to plump for a locally-sourced full English, but many guests find themselves distracted by more indulgent offerings such as banana pancakes with maple syrup, and smoked haddock with toasted organic focaccia.

The spruced-up garden, set to open imminently, will make a delightful spot for dining. Meanwhile the bar makes some bold statements: the ceiling light installation, espresso martinis and acid-yellow wall-lights create a sense of occasion. But the artfully unpolished wooden floors, pool table and reasonable prices remove any tension of a "hip bar" tag. The drinks merit investigation: little-known beers from small local breweries are served, such as Ales of Scilly (which Paul picks up from the boat at Penzance) and Helston-made Spingo, while the bar shakes out mojitos, martinis and more. A new evening gastropub menu of local fish and meats is set to divert attention from the drinks list.


Falmouth Townhouse, Grove Place, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 4AL (01326 312009), falmouthtownhouse.co.uk). As with the centres of most Cornish towns, parking is awkward; the hotel has six tight spaces secreted around the back. But the hotel's location – at the end of the main street, opposite the water and the excellent National Maritime Museum – is unbeatable. Sandy town beaches and Pendennis Castle are a short walk away.

Time from nearest mainline station: a short walk from Falmouth Town, which is a branch station 21 minutes from the main line at Truro. Cornwall's only airport is at Newquay, 25 miles away.


There are just 10 rooms in total, divided into luxury, superior, standard and petite (luxury rooms have a free-standing bath, seating area, and views over marina from both bedroom and bathroom; petite has a queen-sized bed). We were in Number 9 at the top of the house, a superior double with marina views from the tall sash windows. The pocket-sprung, king-sized mattress was supple and supportive, and the sheets white and bright. The design is a chic jigsaw of contemporary and vintage: our room was the picture of intelligent décor and detail: old-style white radiators; Jacob Jensen phones; a reworked, shocking yellow oversized armchair; bright, graphic cushions; and distinctly non-cliched Cornish art on the wall.

Freebies: Korres minis in the bathroom; coffee and teas in the room.

Keeping in touch: Phone and flat screen TV; free Wi-Fi throughout.


Double rooms start at £85, including breakfast.

I'm not paying that: Tregedna Farm campsite (01326 250529; tregednafarmholidays.co.uk) just outside Falmouth, costs from £7 per adult per night.