The Perfect Place to Watch the Sun and Tide Rise and Fall
A marvellous hotchpotch of old connecting buildings, The Greenbank Hotel occupies an enviable position overlooking Falmouth harbour
Review by Lara Protheroe
Watching Luther gleefully exploring the rock pools of Gyllyngvase beach it was clear that Falmouth may become for him, as it has for me, a place that truly captures the heart. The arty, independent feel to the town gives it real personality; the Cornish light bathes all experiences in a lustrous glow and life shines brightly. If you are seeking a historic coastal hotel that, without being in any way remote, is nevertheless away from hustle, bustle and identikit seafront hostelries, The Greenbank Hotel provides an ideal vantage point from which to observe the rise and fall of both the sun and the tides.
The Greenbank Hotel occupies an enviable position deep into the inlet of Falmouth Harbour, facing the sleepy fishing village of Flushing on the opposite bank, with countless boats anchored at buoys on the inlet between the two. The hotel building dates back to 1640, when it was built as a private residence; later becoming an inn that was used as the drop-off point for the Flushing Ferry. The fact that the ferry was operated by the inn-keeper doubtless leading to good custom for the inn and somewhat irregular ferry times.
To this day, if you are out on the water and want to sail over for a drink the hotel has private pontoons for you to moor your vessel. The Working Boat (as the inn is now known) is a cosy pub built into the lower ground floor of the hotel and overlooking the quay and pontoons.
The hotel itself is a delightful hotchpotch of connected buildings that run parallel to the water’s edge, affording most of the rooms, along with the restaurant and the pub, a magnificent view out over the water and its occupants, be they boats or birds. The hotel hosted author Kenneth Greene in 1907 (the same year that Florence Nightingale also sojourned there), and it was the letters he wrote to his son whilst staying at the hotel that later formed the basis of The Wind in the Willows. Charming nods to this venerable literary history are to be found throughout the hotel in the form of framed ink plates from early editions of the much-loved tale.
We stayed in the aptly-named Lookout Suite. The bedroom comprises a vast and luxurious bed with an enormous picture window at its foot. The adjacent sitting room offers a huge turquoise L-shape sofa for snuggling up on, or chairs raised up on a dais beside the French windows – to offer the prim-est views out across the harbour (easily augmented by a mighty tripod-mounted telescope). The windows open entirely onto a furnished balcony with a glass wind break, from which one can look out west towards Penryn and east across the sweep of the harbour, docks and town.
Tasteful and thoughtful design touches abound throughout the suite, with inky blue pictures of shells, seaweed and crustaceans adorning the walls and tasteful lighting with plenty of lamps and dimmer options; handy for creating just the right atmosphere. I was very taken with the elegant vertical navy blue radiators – with which I would happily have returned home!
The spacious bathroom has a freestanding turquoise claw-foot bath and separate walk-in shower with glossy navy metro tiles; the wooden flooring feels nicely nautical and the room is immaculate in every detail.
The clean, bright Cornish light floods the suite and it is a joy to spend time in there. The picturesque dwellings in Flushing on the opposite shore look full of intrigue. The pink thatched cottage with its private mooring must have many a story to tell. Regal swans float serenely here and there, seagulls hover on the breeze at eye level and the tide laps calmly over the seaweed-smothered shore right below the window.
The award-winning Water’s Edge restaurant – set above the Working Boat – is similarly airy and light and shares that stunning view out over the harbour. The restaurant serves a truly first rate breakfast with sunrise views, and we felt fully set up for a day of exploration.
Exploration complete, it was time for a return to the Water’s Edge and supper. We like to prepare ourselves for an evening meal and had examined the menu in advance to make provisional choices. The wording is perhaps a little fussy, leading to apprehension that the dishes might prove to be overworked (and likely undersized!). I was hoping I wouldn’t come away disappointed or – even worse – still hungry.
The food was exquisite. The beautiful (in both appearance and flavour) roasted vegetable salad I think I could eat every day. An impeccable seafood grill selection that was so light and tasty it could almost have been caught that moment and barbecued on the beach in front of me. There was a charming honesty to the dishes but at the same time a skill that made them so impressive. We took desserts in our suite, along with our fast-fading toddler, meaning that I could eat the best sticky toffee pudding of my life in bed looking out at the sea lulling itself gently into dusk. Heavenly.
There is no doubt that we shall be returning before long once again to enjoy the many charms of Falmouth. And to The Greenbank Hotel? Absolutely. The staff are friendly and attentive and the food excellent. It’s a short hop into town to explore the beautiful Maritime Museum, have a quiet drink and browse at Beerwolf Books, or a wander to Gyllyngvase Beach and those magnetic rock pools.
Enquiries: The Greenbank Hotel, Harbourside, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 2SR/ +44 (0) 1326 312440/ email@example.com/ www.greenbank-hotel.co.uk