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Guide to Penzance

Updated on January 30, 2017


Penzance (in Cornish Pensans or Penzans) is the last major town and port in south-west Cornwall, England, UK. A population of about 22,00 is situated in the beautiful Mount's Bay which faces south-east onto the English Channel. It is bordered to the north by the parish of Madron, east is the parish of Ludgvan and to the west the fishing port of Newlyn.

Cornwall has a lot of religious history and the name of this town, Penzance, literally translates to 'holy headland' in Cornish. It is in reference to the prior location of St. Anthony's chapel that stood on the headland to the west of Penzance Harbour over a thousand years ago.

Up until recently Penzance was the heart of the mining community. The contributions made by Sir Humphry Davy (born and raised in Penzance) enabled mining to become safer and the mining classes that once took place actually continue in the Camborne School of Mining. However, it's curriculum is now centered around the earth's natural resources.

First Things First

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How to Get There

Penzance is home to a variety of transport links and is often the 'end of the line' for most of them.

  • Train station: this is the end of the line for First Great Western and Cross Country trains. Situated at the end of Market Jew street it offers a stunning view of Marazion and Mount's Bay along the tracks.
  • A30: this is the last major road into and out of Penzance. To go any further (i.e Lands End) you have to take a series of A style rural and back roads. Outbound goes straight to Exeter and takes 2-3 hours depending on traffic (and tractors).
  • Heliport: the helicopter makes frequent trips to the Isles of Scilly and also conducts air tours of the bay.
  • Ferry service: the Scillonian III carries both foot passengers and cargo to the Isles of Scilly.
  • Bus station: situated next to the train station regular services run locally and nationally.


  • Mazy Day (Golowan): a pagan celebration of summer which also includes the Feast Day of Corpus Christi . Golowan is a yearly tradition (since 1991) which consists of many parades, fairs and parties (public and private).
  • Allantide: a Cornish version of Halloween.
  • The Penzance Proms: now in it's 2nd year it is a festival of music and the arts.
  • Montol Festival: a celebration of the winter solstice which represents the dying and rebirth of the sun. Penglaz the 'Obby 'Oss and the Guise dancers parade through the streets with the River of Fire.


  • Home to the Cornish Pirates who are Cornwall's most successful rugby team.
  • Penzance A.F.C: football.
  • The Cricket Club: founded in 1829 it is Cornwall's most successful club as they have been champions 23 times.
  • Mounts Bay Harriers: a triathlon and running club based at Mounts Bay School.
  • Transit 6.50: transatlantic yacht race.

The Arts

  • Known for Guilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. If you haven't watched this then you are missing out. I've put a link to the Modern Major General song that I think you'll all enjoy.
  • Acorn Arts Centre: provides a home to a mixture of theatre, film, dance and cabaret.
  • The Savoy Cinema: an independent cinema located on Causeway Head is the oldest continuously used cinema in Britain. It is also home to the Penwith Film Society.
  • 'The Exchange': this is the new Newlyn Art Gallery establishment.
  • Penlee House: art gallery and museum.
  • Commercial art galleries are also located all around the town.



  • Pasties: I don't need to elaborate, these shops are everywhere. A proper pasty should have a chunky texture and contain beef, swede (turnip to the Cornish), potato, diced onion, salt and pepper - if it's any less then it's not a proper pasty!
  • Meaderies: fancy eating in a Medieval style? There are meaderies dotted around everywhere. These awesome places have wooden plates, candlelight and even the servers are dressed in Medieval style clothing, it's a great experience never to be missed.
  • Fish and Chips: Penzance is noted for it's fish and chips with local fish caught at Newlyn you can't go wrong.
  • There are plenty of restaurants and cafes that cater for pretty much any cuisine you could want.

You'll never be stuck for somewhere to eat in Penzance. Did you know that they have more place to eat per capita than New York? Literally every other shop will offer food of some sort.

Art Work

Cornwall provides an outstanding amount of inspiration for artists and photographers. I have mentioned just above all the art galleries that are available but there are so many independent artists promoting their work you really wont be stuck for selection.

I have created a few pieces of art work based on photos that I have taken during my trips back home to Penzance. If you would like to take a look then please follow the links (unfortunately the pictures do not show up in the HTML so I will provide the separate pictures below).

Folklore and the Supernatural

Penzance and it's surrounding parishes are full of folklore, myths and legends. There is a strong mix of pagan, mythical and Christian beliefs that bind the community with these unique expressions and understandings.

There are often Faery Fayres in St John's Hall to promote local business that work in this unique environment. There are also Supernatural tours to graveyards and other active sites. For example, there is the White Lady who roams Eastern Green and the regular ghost tours in Madron.

Other Activities

  • You can take a day trip to the Isles of Scilly to visit the local area and people along with swimming with the local dolphin school and diving.
  • During the winter you can head across to Newlyn and Mousehole for their Christmas light display.
  • There are tours around the harbor either on foot, boat, or even in a sea kayak.
  • Shopping: Causeway Head, Market Jew Street and Wharfside shopping centre hold plenty of shops ranging from your commercial places like New Look to little local shops like The Healing Star.

Long Rock Beach

This is the nearest beach to Penzance.
This is the nearest beach to Penzance.

Sun, Sea and Surf

If you take a look at the map below you will see that there are no shortages of beaches. There are local organizations that work hard to keep the beaches clean and sewage out of the populated areas. Whether you are looking for a quite little beach, somewhere to explore or somewhere to catch some waves there are plenty of opportunities here.

Some of the best beaches can be found at:

  • Sennen
  • Porthcurno
  • Perranuthoue
  • Pra Sands
  • Marazion
  • Longrock


And Finally ...

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