Muddy Reviews: The Greenbank Hotel, Falmouth
There's nothing like waking up to the sound of the sea and this historic Falmouth hotel offers a stylish, year-round retreat right on the water.
Perched on the historic harbour, with jaw-dropping views across the Fal estuary to Flushing, The Greenbank Hotel and Water’s Edge Restaurant give an authentic flavour of Falmouth practically on the water. In fact, with its own pontoon and moorings, you can even make the journey here by boat.
Maritime heritage meets modern elegance at the 4-star Greenbank Hotel in Falmouth. It’s a perfect place to base yourself to explore the harbour town and local area, with a wide choice of comfortable bedrooms and suites, some of which welcome families and dogs.
Although Falmouth is chock-full of hip bars and eateries, there’s really no need to leave the hotel for food, as there’s a 2 AA Rosette restaurant and pub right here.
One of Falmouth’s oldest buildings, the original private residence which became the Greenbank Hotel dates back to at least 1640. Later an inn, the position on the river across from Flushing meant the inn was once the drop off point for the ferry – good custom for the bar!
Although the ferry has since moved to the pier next door (below), the quay remains and the hotel has moorings for visitors, the only hotel in the south-west where you can tie up at the pontoon and pop in for a drink, or stay the night.
In 1813 the inn was converted into a “gentleman’s residence” to give the Packet ship captains somewhere to sleep (the packet ships were the ones that delivered the mail) and the current hotel retains some of the nautical elements.
Notable guests include Florence Nightingale and Kenneth Grahame, who both stayed in 1907, the latter spending several months in residence where he wrote the letters to his son that later formed The Wind in the Willows.
The current owners have been in situ since 1999 and renovated the hotel into a stylish building with heritage features, in keeping with the location overlooking the busy and beautiful Falmouth harbour. Panoramic water views are visible from almost all rooms including the light filled dining room, and staff have done a great job within the Covid-related restrictions, turning the previous quay carpark into a ‘marquay-on-sea’ to extend the capacity of the downstairs pub.
Time is surely one of our greatest luxuries and it seemed to stand still at The Greenbank when I visited. The view over the water was ever changing, with the tide rising and falling, the boats coming and going, the light changing throughout the day.
I could have sat and watched the water all day had I not been busy getting on with the tough task of trying out the facilities – and I also wish I had realised that the quay at high tide makes a beautiful place for swim: calm, clear and inviting, I could only look on slightly jealously as the occasional swimmer took a dip.
As the summer season gets back under way expect live music and events which draw a mix of the locals plus regular holiday-makers. This part of Falmouth attracts yachties (the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club is next door), local residents in the Georgian terraces which line the roads facing the harbour, and hipsters and art students who make Falmouth their home and enjoy a pint in the bar downstairs. It is also a beautiful wedding venue, with more than one friend enjoying visiting year after year after taking their vows in the harbour-view events space.
The Greenbank Hotel offers waterside views from most of the 61 rooms, which are beautifully finished complete with Cornish toiletries and 24 hour room service.
We stayed in the Lookout Suite, a stunning light-filled room on the second floor with floor to ceiling views out over the water to Flushing. While clearly an influence, the nautical theme is not overdone and the overall effect is really fresh and contemporary.
Not long after we had settled in the room a call came from reception to check that we were happy and had everything we needed, just one example of the standard of service we received throughout.
A large private balcony with views of the harbour and across to Flushing is easily accessible or relax in the comfortable armchairs inside and still enjoy the uninterrupted views. Should something catch your eye you could make use of a handily placed telescope, or budding star-gazers can examine the skies – Cornwall is one of the world’s designated dark sky areas.
Once all the water watching gets too strenuous, head for the roll top bath where Living Sea toiletries are provided. Rinse off in the large walk in shower and then drift off in the super comfy king size bed.
We woke to a glorious sun rise in the morning, and it was a real treat to open the curtains and throw open the doors before retreating back to bed with a cup of (Cornish) tea. Prefer coffee? Each room comes with a Nespresso machine too, and you can order your newspaper and even breakfast tray at reception the evening before.
Checkout is a super easy and totally Covid-proof – your bill is slid under your door to be automatically charged to your booking card, and with a drop-box for your key, there is no need to even step foot into anything resembling admin to bring you back down to earth at the end of your stay.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Residents and non-residents / locals alike can find relaxed fine dining at The Water’s Edge, upstairs, or more informal pub The Working Boat, downstairs, which is where you should head if you’re after a quick bite or more simple but still delicious pub fare.
We headed straight to the pub’s marquay for a pre-dinner drink, cosy inside the tent as the rain teemed down. Bonus, no queuing at the horse box bar outside in the wet, it was all table-service to comply with regulations and super easy to order with the QR codes on the tables. Attentive staff even protected the drinks (and each other) from the rain drops with umbrellas.
It was then back inside the hotel to The Water’s Edge restaurant, where we were booked to try Executive Chef Nick Hodges and head chef Bobby Southworth’s new summer menu. Both chefs are born and bred in Falmouth, and proudly fly the Cornish flag across the menu – where their ethos is to ‘bring local produce to life, with imagination and creativity’.
The menu and restaurant itself both offer relaxed fine dining and the focus of both is the sea, both in the celebration of fresh seafood and the water lapping right outside the restaurant beyond the private pontoon.
The shape of the restaurant gives almost all tables uninterrupted views of the harbour, meaning it is still special even after dark. It may have a 400 year history but the restaurant is modern but cosy and is a relaxing space where you can savour the views and the fabulous food.
We enjoyed mackerel and scallops to start and the local catch for our main course, washed down with a lovely bottle of Chablis, followed by the creme brûlée to finish. After five months closure and a whole host of new regulations, we were delighted to sit down together inside a restaurant and spent so long chatting we were practically the last diners. The service was excellent and the staff attentive but not overbearing – hotel dining rooms can sometimes feel stuffy and formal, but The Water’s Edge struck an excellent balance.
OUT AND ABOUT
The Greenbank overlooks the harbour and is a super easy walk into the buzzing and bustling town. If you’re dead set on visiting Falmouth’s famed sandy beaches (Gylly etc) you’ll need to walk through to the other side of town, so if you’ve small kids you may want to drive. Parking is free at the hotel, although is limited, particularly now the quay has been turned into Covid-proof overspill from the pub.
In Falmouth itself you’ll find a plethora of indie shops, pubs, eateries, bakeries and even hipster-bars (although with the pub and restaurant on site there really is no need to leave). Families will enjoy the National Maritime Museum at the other end of town at Discovery Quay, as well as Pendennis Castle which stands guard over the entrance to Carrick Roads. Take a ferry over to chi-chi St Mawes, or head to the beaches of Maenporth and further down, the river Helford.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: An elegant base from which to explore the bustling seaside town of Falmouth and enjoy a relaxing break by the water. Rooms available to suit families and those with dogs. Looking for somewhere to sail up for a drink? Just the place for you (at high tide).
Not for: Anyone who prefers a rural or countryside location (though being Cornwall you’re not far away) or yearns to have direct access to a sandy beach.
The damage: from £125 per room, per night, depending on season.
The Greenbank Hotel, Harbourside, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 2SR. 01326 312440