Penzance Things to Do

  • The Admiral Benbow
    The Admiral Benbow
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    Inside The Benbow
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Most Recent Things to Do in Penzance

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    Chapel St.

    by EasyMalc Updated Jan 27, 2014

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    Market Jew St is the main street in Penzance but my favourite is Chapel St. If you turn left at the top of Market Jew St it will bring you into Chapel St and you’ll soon see why I like it.
    A few yards down on the right hand side is the unmistakeable Egyptian House. Originally two cottages, they were transformed in the 1830s by a local man, John Lavin, who was a keen mineralologist. This flamboyant building was used to house his collection and today it is owned by the Landmark Trust who rent it out as holiday accommodation.
    As you would expect you won’t find anything else like the Egyptian House down Chapel St but there are many other interesting buildings all the same.
    Like the rest of Penzance, Chapel St was almost razed to the ground in 1595 when a Spanish raiding party set fire to the town in retaliation for the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
    There is one survivor though - The Turks Head. One of the oldest buildings in the town it’s been here since around 1233. A tunnel here supposedly leads down to the harbour, and just like the Admiral Benbow a bit further down the street, which also has a tunnel, they were no doubt used for smuggling purposes. Smuggling was so out of control here that even the mayor, John Tonkin was bound over in 1770 for smuggling. I shall be writing a separate tip on the Admiral Benbow because it’s an absolutely amazing pub full of artefacts from Cornish shipwrecks, but even if you don’t go in make sure you don’t miss the smuggler on the roof with a gun in his hand to ward off any customs official foolish enough to set foot anywhere near the place.
    Most of the buildings we see in the street today though are Georgian, mainly built of granite. As you approach the Victorian St. Mary’s Church you’ll notice that some of the buildings are of brick rather than granite. These brick houses are referred to as the Rotterdam Buildings. They’re not in the Dutch style or anything, it was just that they were built at their expense thanks to a local privateer.
    In one of these houses (No. 25) lived Maria Branwell, the mother of Charlotte, Anne, Emily and Branwell Bronte.
    Chapel St ends up near the docks and the harbour and if you can let your mind be transported back for a moment to the heyday of Cornish mining then you may be able to get an idea of what it was like when around 70-80 mules a day tramped down the street towards the harbour carrying copper ore from St. Just to the waiting ships.
    If you come to Penzance and miss Chapel St you would have missed a treat.

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  • Fancy and adventure? Try Coasteering

    by manbat Updated Jul 25, 2013
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    If you're in west Cornwall, give coasteering a go with Kernow Coasteering, who are based in Penzance. This exhilarating activity will allow you to get up close and personal with the stunning cliffs in the Lands End area. You'll don a wetsuit,helmet and buoyancy aid to help you explore the cliffs by swimming, scrambling and jumping your way along. It's so much fun, and gives you a chance to visit the cliffs that is not possible any other way. You'll get the chance to explore hidden coves, caves and cliff jumps even the locals don't know about!

    Kernow Coasteering are professional, responsible guides, and you feel totally safe with their qualified instructors and high-quality equipment. A must if you are in the area and are looking for a bit of life on the edge!

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    Regency architecture

    by leics Written Jan 8, 2012

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    Regent Square
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    Regent Square was built from local granite in 1839 specifically to house the local 'gentry' (upper-middle-class wealthy residents).

    The square is absolutely lovely, with the buildings beautifully maintained. The house prices reflect its ongoing exclusivity!

    The surrounding streets were also built around the same time, so it really is worth a small exploration of them on your way to or from the prom.

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    St Mary's Church

    by leics Written Jan 8, 2012

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    St Mary the Virgin church
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    St Mary's stands on a hillock near the sea, a prominent landmark for those out on the water.

    There has been a place of worship on the site since at least the 1200s, when a small chapel (from which the street gets its name) stood there. This building was enlarged over the centuries but the church you see now dates only from 1834, when the structure was completely rebuilt.

    The only remains of the earlier building still visible are the holy water stoup at the back of the church and an alms box dating from 1612.

    The churchyard is terraced and a rather lovely spot, with ancient tombs and gravestones, walkways and benches to sit and look out to sea.

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    The Bronte link

    by leics Updated Jan 8, 2012

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    Branwell house
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    I had never associated Penzance with the Brontes at all. Charlotte ('Jane Eyre'), Emily ('Wuthering Heights', Anne ('The Tenant of Wildfell Hall') and their rather sad drug-addict brother Branwell (there were two other siblings) are so strongly tied to Yorkshire , and to Haworth in particular, that I doubt many people realise there are links elsewhere.

    But their mother, Maria Branwell, came from Penzance. Her father owned a tea and grocery shop and the family was prominent in the town: you can still find Branwell Lane.

    Maris left Penzance when she married in 1812, and moved with her family to Haworth in 1820. She dies the following year, probably from stomach cancer, and her sister Eliabeth then moved from Penzance to look after the Bronte children.

    Maria Branwell''s Penzance home is on Chapel Street, a fairly small red-brick building in private ownership.

    The Branwell family are buried in the graveyard of St Mary's church, just down the road.

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    The Egyptian House

    by leics Written Jan 8, 2012

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    I've looked at a lot of buildings in a lot of English cities, towns and villages over the years and have never seen anything like this oddity.

    All things Egyptian were hugely in fashion at the start of the 1800s. The Egyptian House was built around 1835 and its whole frontage is decorated with everything and anything Egyptian.

    It is not certain who the architect was, although there are apparently similarities with an 'Egyptian Hall' in Piccadilly, London, designed by one P. Robinson. It is thought that John Folton (or Foulton) or Plymouth may have copied much of this design for the Penzance version.

    The house was built for John Lanvin, as a museum and 'geological depository (a vast range of rock types can be found on Penzance beaches).

    The house was in disrepair when it was purchased by the Landmark Trust in the1970s, but they have restored it and painted the exterior facade in the appropriate (rather garish) colours. The Landmark Trust let out their unusual properties as holiday accommodation so you could, if you wanted, actually stay in one of the three apartments now inside the building (see website).

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    Look at the architecture 3: Chapel Street

    by leics Written Jan 8, 2012

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    Looking down Chapel Street to St Mary's church
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    Chapel Street leads off Market Square and has some of the oldest buildings in Penzance.

    It also has the rather magnificent Egyptian House (see separate tip).

    You'll find more Georgian four-square buildings, 'The Turk's Head' pub (supposedly dating from the 1200s, though the existing building dates from at least the 1600s), tiny stone fisherman's cottages, the solid Union Hotel (dating from the 1600s, originally the manor house of Penzance and the place where the death of Nelson was first announced in 1805) and the house which links Penzance with the Brontes (see separate tip).

    So you really shouldn't mis a walk down Chapel Street...and I'd recommend having a Doom beer in either the Turk's Head or the Admiral Benbow (or both) whilst you are doing so! :-)

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    Look at the architecture 2: around Market Square

    by leics Written Jan 8, 2012

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    Old stone cottage
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    Look up and you will see a wide variety of architectural styles in Market Square, Market Jew Street and Causeway. There are lots of little independent shops too, especially in Causeway, which makes a wander even more worthwhile.

    Erratic rooflines give away the differences in buidlings' ages. But also look for four-square Georgian buildings, with their rectangular sash windows: red-brick Victorian buildings; twiddly, embellished Victorian pomp on civic buildings; old cottages built of local stone (often painted white, sometimes rendered).

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    Look at the architecture 1: Market House

    by leics Written Jan 8, 2012

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    Market House

    Penzance, like many English towns, shows a mixture of architectural styles from over the centuries.

    In the Market Place, where you really can't miss the rather magnificent Market House (now Lloyds bank). Built in 1837, it was the civic centre of the town until St John's Hall was built and has also served as the town market. It is a typical Regency civic building, with a white dome, octagonal lantern and Ionic columns.

    In front of Market House you'll see a stature of Sir Humphrey Davy, Penzance-born and the inventor of the 'Davy lamp' (and he also gave chlorine its name) Carried by miners, its enclosed flame showed the presence of inflammable methane gas. Its invention saved many thousands of miners' lives.

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    Walk the prom

    by leics Written Jan 8, 2012

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    St Michael's Mount from Battery Rocks
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    Penzance has excellent views across Mounts Bay: to one side, St Michael's Mount and Marazion, to the other Newlyn.

    The Mounts Bay side of the seafront is largely taken up with harbour, dry dock and a huge (and much needed) car park but the Newlyn side has a rather good 'prom' (promenade), with excellent views across the sea. Apparently, this is the only promenade in Cornwall.

    The prom makes a very pleasant walk early in the morning, watching the seabirds and the waves and the odd jogger and swimmer (even in January). In rough weather, the prom is wide enough to enjoy the sight of huge waves crashing against the seawall without putting oneself in danger or getting wet.

    The Art Deco 'Jubilee Pool' (a seawater pool), built in 1935, lies at one end of the prom near Battery Rocks. A path leads round Battery Rocks, and from there you can get magnificent views across to St Michael's Mount and, if you are early enough, can watch the sun rise over the sea.

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    Penzance Ghost Walk

    by psychocy Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Ghost Walks Flyer
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    Admit it - you love to be creeped out. This ghost tour of Penzance by Ian Addicoat, a renowned author and ghost hunter, whose accolades include an appearance on the Most Haunted television series, ought to do the trick. The tour departs from the tourist information center and takes you around the ancient town in the eerie dark of evening, telling tales of ghosts, spirits, murders, demon dogs, and more. You even stroll through an unlit haunted graveyard. This isn't about cheap thrills or hoax scares - it's affordable, creepy, intelligent, and full of history and atmosphere. We savored every moment of it, and you will too!

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    ST GERMOE's CHAIR

    by ViajesdelMundo Written Jun 9, 2010

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    This ancient, charming little church is just a couple minutes drive from where I was staying; I took many photos as it just begged for it!

    The church stands in the centre of the village. The current church site was recorded as early as the 12th century. There are some Norman remains with the church mostly dating from the 15th century.

    In the church yard is St Germoe's Chair, which plays an important part in the Palm Sunday procession with the lesson being read and a hymn sung at the chair. There is some suggestion that St Germoe himself is buried here.

    The Holy Well of Saint Germoe stands a short distance south west of the church and was restored for the Silver Jubilee of H.M. The Queen in 1977.

    The Feast of St Germoe takes place annually during the first weekend in May, so I missed it by being just a month early

    From one of the many websites I found:

    1100-The 12th century was remarkable for the building of stone churches and an examination of the stonework of Germoe church reveals indications of a Norman cruciform church building of about this year. Erected probably by William Fitz Robert , Earl of Cornwall. It is possible that this building superseded a small stone church which had been build several hundred years earlier. The south wall between the tower and the porch differs in construction from the remainder of the walls, and appears to be of an earlier date.
    ENDQUOTE

    So I will also make a Travelogue to display the other photos.

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    Jubilee Pool

    by aukahkay Written Jul 13, 2009

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    Jubilee Pool

    Jubilee Pool was opened in 1935 in the year of King George V's Silver Jubilee and was one of the best designed lidos of that era. The pool was built upon a traditional bathing spot at the Battery Rocks near the Penzance harbour.

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    Saint Michael's Mount

    by aukahkay Written Jul 13, 2009

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    St Michael's Mount

    Saint Michael's Mount rises 230 feet from sea level to the top of the castle. Situated 500 yards offshore and reacheable by small boats from Marazion harbour. The grandeur of Saint Michael's Mount with its fairy-tale castle makes it the main attraction in Cornwall. An island at high tide, Saint Michael's Mount is a treasure of the National Trust.

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  • a marine safari

    by hankat Updated Feb 13, 2007

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    I totally recommend going on this boat ride to watch marine wildlife with this company Marine Discovery Penzance. The boat is a rigid inflatable which seats about 10 passengers plus the skipper, and it's pretty fast and exciting. Children are welcome, and on our trip as well as kids there was a lady in her eighties, so it's for all ages. The crew are really welcoming and friendly and keep everyone really entertained with information about the area and the wildlife you see. They're really knowledgeable! On our trip we saw grey seals in the water and on the rocks, porpoises (a type of small dolphin), loads of different seabirds and a basking shark! This was last September, and I'm told that dolphins are fairly frequently seen too. Here are some photos my dad took of the boat leaving. Though this trip isn't cheap, it was totally worth it, as you get so much for your money. Definitely do this if you're in the area!

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