Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Travelling to Falmouth

Updated 22nd April 2019

Falmouth is around 360 km from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, in one of the most remote areas of England, but don't be put off by this, as the journey can be a very rewarding experience, and takes you into one of the most beautiful areas of the world.

Because of its location in the far south-west of the UK, Cornwall is the only area of England to have retained its Celtic roots, having survived successive invasions by the Romans, Vikings, Saxons and Normans. Not only is Cornwall remote, but to access it, two very inhospitable moors have to be crossed. First of all, Dartmoor in Devon, the setting for Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and home to the famous prison, then the bleak Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, passing the Jamaica Inn, immortalised in Daphne du Maurier's famous novel.

Passing over these moors by modern transport, it is easy to underestimate how formidable the journey to and from London must have been little over 150 years ago, when travellers would often make their wills before departing, so dangerous was the journey with the ever-present fear of highway robbers, as well as the elements.

In the mid 19th century, the heyday of Cornish tin and copper mining, the most prestigious service was the London to Falmouth Royal Mail Coach which left Falmouth at 1.45am and after travelling through Cornwall via Truro, St Austell, and Liskeard, crossed the river Tamar and headed for an overnight stop at Devonport. Departing the following morning at 9.30am it then passed through Plymouth, Ashburton, Exeter, Honiton, Ilminster and Amesbury that day, departing from Andover at 12.19am the following morning and after another overnight stop, arriving in London at 7.05am, a total journey time of nearly 3 days!!

Today the journey time is just under 5 hours by car or train and it is easy to overlook how formidable the moors must have been in the past.

3 options for travel

There are three options for travelling from the major London airports, Heathrow and Gatwick.

If you are travelling from London Heathrow, you can travel to Cornwall by air, road or train. The airline Flybe has regular flights from Heathrow to Newquay, in north Cornwall, of just over 1 hour duration.  However, Newquay is 50 km from Falmouth, and taxis are expensive, so you might prefer to hire a car on arrival.

You can rent a car at Heathrow or Gatwick and drive the 360 km to Falmouth, but be aware that the roads into Cornwall are very busy during the summer months, and long delays can be expected.

I travel to and from Heathrow many times each year and always do so on the Great Western railway route via London's Paddington station. This is one of the UK's great rail journeys (see also the posting of 29th January 2015), passing through some of England's most beautiful countryside, including the famous stretch of coast line at Dawlish in Devon, and skirting the great national parks of Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.

Book your ticket in advance from the airport station to Falmouth Docks, where you will be met by someone from MEI who will take you to your hotel. From Heathrow the journey will be in 3 stages- Heathrow to London Paddington; Paddington to Truro and Truro to Falmouth Docks. Make sure that the Paddington departure is at least 2 hours after your flight arrival, to give you plenty of time to pass though immigation, baggage retrieval and customs.

After clearing immigration, follow the Trains signs, and hop on the Heathrow Express. This leaves every 15 minutes, and the journey time to Paddington is also 15 minutes. If you have time available get a first flavour of Cornwall by enjoying a pasty at the West Cornwall Pasty company situated on the concourse.

The journey from Paddington to Truro is about 4 hours. On arrival at Truro, transfer to the Falmouth train on the adjoining platform, and take the short journey to Falmouth Docks.

If your arrival airport is Gatwick, then also book your ticket from the airport to Falmouth Docks. Gatwick station is in the South Terminal, and you take the train to Reading where you then transfer to the train from Paddington to Truro and then on to Falmouth.


  1. There's a good YouTube clip from the BBC series 'Coast' which features the train track at Dawlish. It's well worth a watch if you're going to get the train down to Cornwall.

  2. It's pretty obvious from the posting that my preferred option is the train. Although a long journey it is relaxing and the scenery in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall is beautiful. And an added bonus that you will be met in Falmouth


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