Tucked in the rugged far west of Cornwall, the vibrant market town of Penzance has it all. Coastal views, beautiful architecture, a thriving art scene and fantastic food to boot. This historic port offers eccentric charm in bucketloads, and whilst it may be the very last stop on the old Great Western train line, it’s definitely worth the journey.
A dip in the Art Deco spectacle that is Jubilee Pool is a must; this iconic spot is the UK’s largest seawater lido, and it hangs over the sea. Enjoy the views from one of its terraces or do some laps in the main pool before enjoying a soak in the toasty, geothermally heated section. New electric bike rental company E Bike Cornwall offers a fun and easy way to explore the area; either head off on your own with one of the ingenious sat navs (pre-loaded with several routes) or zip along the Promenade and coastal path on a guided tour, learning about local history along the way.
Enticed by the coastal landscapes and famous light, artists have flocked to West Cornwall since the early 1880s. The Newlyn Art Gallery was established to display works from the famous Newlyn School, but today the focus is on world-class contemporary art. In the heart of Penzance, The Exchange is the gallery’s second modern art venue, and the nearby Penlee House Gallery & Museum, with its sub-tropical gardens, is another scenic spot to discover local art and the town’s fascinating history.
Just outside the main town, art and nature combine in glorious harmony at Tremenheere Sculpture Garden; this beautiful valley, complete with woods, stream and incredible views, is a picture-perfect setting for exotic plants interwoven with contemporary art installations (and a great café too). Finally, if you feel like letting your own creative juices flow, head to Newlyn School of Art where you can enrol on a painting course taught by some of the most well-known artists working in Cornwall today.
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD
The hottest table in town is at The Shore; an intimate little restaurant with a supper club vibe run by accomplished chef Bruce Rennie who creates all the dishes himself, from the incredible bread and butter through to delicate dishes using local fish, meat and vegetables from nearby growers.
Just a short amble along the seafront is historic maritime pub The Tolcarne Inn, where chef Ben Tunnicliffe’s chalkboard menu offers fresh seafood (pictured top left) from nearby Newlyn Harbour expertly combined with locally sourced ingredients. Seafood lovers should also visit the newly opened Argoe; a trendy spot with minimalist interiors, natural wines and a gorgeous harbour side terrace. Set up by Penzance local Rich Adams, the menu here prioritises freshness over familiarity, featuring under-appreciated species like megrim sole and horse mackerel.
Excellent coffee can be found at Lovetts, which also serves a mean Sunday brunch (think Bloody Marys and kimchi cheese toasties) and operates as a welcoming wine bar by night, serving natural and low-intervention bottles with tasty small plates. 45 Queen Street is another cool café, bar and event space housed in an old warehouse, recently opened by organic Cornish gin Tinkture’s founder, Hannah Lamiroy. Pop in for coffee, fabulous cakes, seasonal food and delicious cocktails.
The best pasties in town can be found at The Cornish Hen; a dreamy deli filled with all manner of artisanal treats. For award-winning fish and chips head to Fraser’s, widely considered some of the best in Cornwall, let alone Penzance. And if you’ve still got room, don’t miss the ice cream at Jelberts, one of the oldest ice cream makers in the county. There’s only one flavour – traditional vanilla – made to a top-secret recipe…
It’s impossible to leave Penzance empty handed. Chapel Street is lined with arty independent shops and hidden amongst the town’s cobbled alleyways you’ll find an array of antiques, collectables, curios and more. We love the cool, coastal tones of No.56, a beautifully designed spot filled with natural products for the modern home. Circa 21 is a treasure trove of ethical, locally made homeware and gifts, and for unique furniture finds head to Daisy Laing; this art gallery and home emporium is brimming with treasures, including an ever-changing collection of vintage and mid-century modern furniture.
With its beautiful mix of Georgian style, modern architecture and contemporary comfort, Chapel House is one of our favourite places to stay. It has six spacious double rooms and two splendid suites, all bathed in natural light and offering sea views, bespoke oak beds and wow factor bathrooms. Downstairs, there’s an elegant drawing room adorned with Cornish art, a pretty garden and relaxed dining room, where owner Susan whips up all manner of feasts, from breakfast and brunches through to informal weekend suppers using the best local produce.
Finally, no trip to Penzance would be complete without a visit to St Michael’s Mount. This fairy-tale tiny island is crowned by a medieval church and castle, with the oldest buildings dating from the 12th century. Take a short boat ride to the island or, at low tide, walk across the rocky causeway and enjoy the breath-taking views of Mount’s Bay.