TAKE a place with a strong connection with the sea, with busy docks, plenty of history, a growing university campus and – after some difficult years – a thriving-again local economy incorporating hundreds of small, independent businesses, supported by a Business Improvement District (BID).

It’s not Newport, it’s Falmouth in Cornwall: perhaps an example Newport can learn from, as the town is once again on the up.

We spent a weekend there ahead of the peak tourist season and set out to see what the place had to offer.

To start with, it’s a beautiful part of the world, and Falmouth is positioned at a peninsula, with a large natural harbour to the north and a couple of beaches to the south. All around is some great walking country and the climate is mild, as indicated by the many less-hardy plants popular in gardens.

The wide harbour as the River Penryn meets the Fal to form an estuary is guarded by a pair of castles built for Henry VIII which have played important roles in conflicts over the centuries – from guarding against the Spanish Armada to spotting and repelling enemy vessels and aeroplanes in both World Wars.

We based ourselves in a small ‘boutique’ bed and breakfast just a few minutes from both the town and the beaches.

The Highcliffe, run by Vanessa and Simon Clark, was a great choice – bright and quirky (both the accommodation and the Clarks!), there were so many delightful touches – including a changed-daily ‘specials’ board at breakfast - we were almost wishing it would rain so we could stay indoors.

The couple – and their young daughter and staff – gave us such a welcome, we felt we were like long-lost relatives at a family reunion.

Many of the other guests were ‘regulars’ returning after previous good experiences there, and I can see us joining them in future.

Dragging ourselves out of the front door on the first evening, we somehow found perhaps the most delightfully unusual bar I have been in.

The Chintz bar is tucked away up some steps, hidden behind a courtyard, and stepping in through what looked like someone’s back door revealed something, well, different, with décor Salvador Dali would have been proud of: it’s as if Alice (of Wonderland fame) took a gap year and went travelling.

Early in the evening, we had time to look at some of our surroundings, but later, despite its location, the place was full – clearly the locals know a good thing when they (eventually) see it.

Outdoors next, and we booked a fishing trip with George at Falmouth Fishing Trips – a couple of hours away from shore in pursuit of fresh food.

Actually we caught nothing, but a learned that the bay, although wide, does actually give protection from the waves, and that the follicly-challenged among us should wear a hat even on cloudy days.

A big attraction which is relatively new to Falmouth is the National Maritime Museum and the few hours spent wandering around there were both interesting and informative. While we were there, a special exhibition – ‘Titanic stories’ – looked at some of the facts and myths about the liner’s sinking in 1912.

The next night out took us to The Hut, one of the many little restaurants tucked away but worth seeking out.

Choppy seas the next day led to the cancellation of our planned ‘sea safari’ trip in search of seals and dolphins, so instead, having earlier walked around the grounds of nearby St Mawes Castle, we spent some time at the closer Pendennis Castle.

We were glad we did, because even with the wedding fair going on there, plus the very pushy salesman from English Heritage at the gate, it was well worth a visit, with an impressive display of artillery from the last 400 years, plus insights into the castle’s role in 20th-century warfare.

A busy weekend of adventure, rather than relaxation, although we could have opted for the latter. I think we’ll return to Falmouth another day.

Contact information:

Highcliffe contemporary bed and breakfast: 22 Melvill Road, Falmouth, TR11 4AR / info@highcliffefalmouth.com / 01326 314466. Rooms (most sleep two) £45-£115, including breakfast.

The Chinz: The Dentist Surgery, Old Brewery Yard, High Street, Falmouth, TR112BY / thechinzbar.com / 01326 617550.

Falmouth Fishing Trips: Custom House Quay, Falmouth, TR11 3JT / falmouthfishingtrips.com / 07968 317206. Two-hour trip: £16 per rod; £10 spectator.

National Maritime Museum: Discovery Quay, Falmouth, TR11 3QY / nmmc.co.uk / Entry (ticket valid 12 months) £13.50, children £6.

Orca Sea Safaris: Discovery Quay, Events Square, Falmouth, TR11 3QY / falriver.co.uk/things-to-do/orca-sea-safaris/t-and-cs

The Hut: 2 Quay Street, Falmouth, TR11 3HH. 01326 318229.

Pendennis Castle: TR11 4NQ / english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/pendennis-castle / 01326 316594. Adults £11.60, concessions £10.50, children £7, English Heritage members free.