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.
If you want to explore the town, you can't do better than to follow the Penzance Town Trail. This takes you on a circular route through the town, tracing its story through buildings and historical remains, rounds and medieval crosses, churches, chapels, farm towns and shops.
There is a guidebook which describes the 16 waymarkers.
The Penzance Town Trail Guidebooks are available from the Tourist Information Centre, Penzance Town Council Offices, Penlee House Museum and Gallery, and various local shops.
Penzance owes its name ('holy headland' from the Cornish pen and sans) to the small rocky headland to the south of the harbour (the Jubilee swimming pool stands there now) and the chapel which once stood just inland (on or close to the site of the present church).
The settlement of Penzance would have been not a great deal more than this for much of its history until the sixteenth century, Mousehole being the principal harbour on Mount's Bay before then. Following its burning by the Spanish in 1565, much of the infant town had to be rebuilt and it was not long before it was incorporated as a borough.
The oldest part of the town centred on the port. Chapel Street, the oldest street in Penzance, leads down to the old harbour, alongside St Mary's Church which has replaced the ancient chapel.
The old harbour, shown in the second photo inside, is largely dry except at high tide. The staircase you can see leads up to Chapel Street, which it meets just alongside the Admiral Benbow (see the Restaurants tip)
There have been a number of jubilees around lately, but the Penzance Jubilee Pool commemorates the Silver Jubilee of King George V. It was built on the sea front on the site of a gun battery than protected the harbour against the French during the Napoleonic wars!
The large pool is tidally filled with fresh seawater and holds nearly 25 thousand gallons of water, which are treated to ensure safe bathing quality. Originally designed by the Borough Engineer who compared its shape to that of a seagull seen alighting on the water, it was completely overhauled in 1992. The pool and paddling pool for small children is a survivor of Art Deco design.
It is intended as a Lido, besides bathing it offers sheltered seating against the south west wind which is usually blowing at Penzance. Suntrap terraces, a good café and marvellous views over the Bay mean that non swimmers find it a very pleasant place to relax.
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!
There are a few internet cafes in Penzance, but there's no need for them, at least not for visitors. The local public library has free internet access on 14 terminals, available for one half hour at a time - just enough time to check email and do your essentials. We never needed to use a cafe, and never had to wait long for one of the computers at the library. Save your money for the fun stuff!
If you're in the mood to stretch your legs you can walk freely around Penzance's harbour and check out the yachts and other vessels docked there, including the Scillonian, which makes regular trips to the isles of Scilly. You'll also find some nice views of the bay and the town itself. Hungry? Let your legs lead you toward the bus stop and stop into the Bus Stop Cafe for some hot chocolate or a cheap fried egg with a rasher of bacon. A pleasant way to spend an hour or two.
This beautiful house was built by the Branwell family in 1865 and purchased by the town of Penzance as a war memorial in 1946. It was completely refurbished in 1997.
It contains the town's museum and art collections, and an extensive collection of Cornish history and memorabilia. There are regular exhibitions of Cornish artists or with Cornish themes.
When the house was built, Morrab Road did not exist, and the very extensive park bordered on what is now Morrab Gardens, then the Morrab House Estate, the home of Charles Campbell Ross MP.
The beautiful park was laid out with many rare and tropical plants. The family were friendly with the Dorien Smiths who still live at Tresco Abbey, on Tresco, Isles of Scilly. Photographs exist in their family albums showing the Branwells in the now famous Tresco Abbey gardens.
The house is open in the summer from 10am to 5pm (last admissions 4.30pm). Admission 3pounds, children free, and admission free for everybody on Saturdays. Check the website for the winter opening hours.
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).
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.
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.
So I will also make a Travelogue to display the other photos.
Located close to the promenade, just behind the library, this pleasantly decorated park is tidy and quiet. It is also chock full of cool sub-tropical flowers and plants. There is a bandstand for summer concerts and lots of places to sit and picnic or play frisbee. Definitely worth visiting if you are in the mood for lazing around under a palm tree reading a good book or eating lunch. Close by is Penlee Park, a larger park with tennis courts, flowers, and fountains.
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).
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.
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! :-)