Find and book the perfect b&b or holiday cottage by the sea in Penzance
Visit Penzance: the town where old meets new!
From the magnificent Mount's Bay, to the old harbour with its salty, sea-blown, pirate charm, Penzance on the whole has a wonderfully authentic feel to it. The “alternative” destination in more ways than one, it's easy to get lost in the history that abounds within the winding streets, or battle the bracing sea winds for a stroll down the Victorian promenade.
How to Get to Penzance
Nestled away on the most south-western tip of the UK, you could be forgiven for thinking Penzance is hard to get to – but that couldn't be further from the truth. Whether you're flying in from a different country, driving down from the north, or hopping on a train, there's an easy way for you to reach this seaside resort.
Penzance is pretty much right at the end the A30, which runs from London to Land's End – and you can follow any of the major roads to get to London in the first place. Technically, the UK motorway network ends at Exeter, on the M5, but from here it's a straight route down the fast dual carriageways.
If you don't drive or simply prefer sitting back and enjoying the scenery, Penzance is also easily accessible by rail. The town's station is serviced by fast trains from London, the Midlands, and even Scotland, but expect that to take a few hours. Alternatively, Newquay Airport is just a 45-minute drive from the town of Penzance, and during the high season (June – September) flights arrive from Belfast, Birmingham, Dusseldorf, London Stansted, Newcastle, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Dublin.
Where to Stay in Penzance
Chapel Street is the oldest street in Penzance – and it's the best. Right in the heart of the city, it's rich in history and contains a diverse mix of boutiques, historical buildings, businesses, hotels, and more. The original church that lent its name to the street – the Chapel of St. Anthony – has long since disappeared, but there is still the 19th century St. Mary's which can be seen from almost any window on the street.
Why not stay on one of the coolest streets in Penzance – Chapel Street? With its collection of historically beautiful buildings, you know you'll get a luxury hotel experience at Chapel House Penzance, and a great view of the outside. This B&B in Penzance is designed to provide an “open-house: experience where you get all the quality of a luxury holiday rental combines with the comfort of your own home – all found within an aesthetic brick-and-granite Georgian townhouse”.
This fantastic sweeping bay stretches all the way from Lizard Point to Gwennap Head, with St. Michael's Mount to the north, which is a small tidal island linked to the mainland by a man-made granite pathway. The bay is well known for the number of ship wrecks that have washed up on shore, thanks to the dangerous nature of the beach during winter gales – in fact, there are over 150 wrecks just from the 19th century, and more are being discovered every day. Part of the south coast was declared a Marine Conservation Zone in 2016, stretching across 12km2 and protecting various habitats along the coastline from the damaging energy of the sea.
There are a number of quaint B&Bs along the edge of Mount's Bay, such as Gulval Cottages; once a forge, the cottages have been owned by the same family for over 100 years, and it used to double as a dairy business. For fantastic panoramic views over the vast Mount's Bay and the English Channel, try Seabreeze Holiday Cottage, a more luxury, high-end holiday home that still retains its original art-deco features and character.
This mostly touristy area just happens to be one of the prettiest beaches in Cornwall, and the most controversy surrounding the area has been simply about how to pronounce the name. The mile-long white sand beach is almost blinding in the sun, with sand dunes dotting the banks and waves lively enough to try surfing in some areas. There's a car park pretty much onsite for those that have driven down, and for most of the year dogs are welcome – which is great news for animal lovers.
One of the best self-catering rentals near Praa Sands is by far Beach Stays, so named thanks to its proximity to the beach. A great property for those with children, as it's not a fuss to get onto the beach, the cottage also welcomes dogs, and there are plenty of nearby secret smugglers coves to go exploring.
What to do in Penzance
Visit Chapel Street
Otherwise known as the most historic street in Penzance, Chapel Street showcases the best of the best of the town's heritage architecture, with an abundance of Georgian buildings lining the road, all beautifully preserved. The eclectic mix of shops, houses and cafes are all intriguingly wonderful, dating back to the 18th century, but the very best of them all has to be the bizarre Egyptian House from the late 19th century – complete with sphynx decorations.
The Exchange Gallery
Penzance's resident modern art gallery, the Exchange Gallery is just around the corner from Chapel Street, marvellously blending the modern with the historical. Hosting regular exhibitions of contemporary art from local and international artists, arguably the most impressive art installation here is the building itself. A former telecom building, it was adapted to include a glass wall, lit up by hundreds of LED lights every night.
Set over three and half acres are the Morrab Gardens, which stretch from the centre of town all the way down to the seafront itself. It's home to a number of exotic plants that can't be found anywhere else in the UK, such as banana plants and the Japanese Bitter Orange tree.
Madron Holy Well
An incredible historic site in Penzance, the Madron Holy Well may just be at the bottom of a muddy track lined with thorny hedges, but it's much more than that. The well has stood since ancient times, and it's believed that the water found here has magical ad healing properties. According to the legend, people would wash in the waters and then leave behind a piece of clothing – as the fabric began to fade away, so too would their suffering, whatever that may be.
If you take a look around, you'll also spot the remains of a 12th century chapel nearby, built on an ancient site of worship.
Tremenheere Sculpture Garden
A unique garden offering various artworks and installations from revered artists, the Tremenheere Sculpture Garden was landscaped and created in 2012. It's known for the incredible “sky-view” chamber by James Turrel, and the “Black Mound” tree stumps pile created by David Nash. During the holidays, the garden runs art workshops and activities such as den-building for children to enjoy.
Explore the Ancient Stones
The entire area of Cornwall is one of the best in the UK for spotting ancient sites and artefacts, some dating back as far as the Stone and Bronze Ages. Luckily for you, the town of Penzance is right in the centre of so many: the Lanyon Quoit, the holed stone of Men-an-Tol, and even the Merry Maidens stone circle. One of the best days you could have is wandering round the countryside waiting for something incredible to catch your eye.
Every year, at the time of the midsummer solstice, Penzance is humming with festivities. Golowan means the Feast of St. John, and it's a festival that involves a torch-lit procession following a figure with a horse's skull all the way down to the quayside. The town centre is abuzz with colourful procession, street performers, traders and more, and for at least a week after the solstice there are events taking place all over town.
Penlee House Gallery & Museum
Once a Victorian manor house, this beautiful building is now home to the Penlee House Gallery & Museum – as well as a quaint little café. Inside, visitors will find a collection of paintinsg and artwork from the Newlyn School artists – such as Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes, Walter Langley, and Lamorna Birch.
Cornwall has over 300 beaches on its shores – and plenty of them are right next to the cosy town of Penzance. Try Prussia Cove for that romantic atmosphere: a secluded beach once used by smugglers, or the Long Rock Beach for that family friendly feel, with sand and pebbles enough to build the biggest sandcastles you could dream of.
Best Time to Visit Penzance
Like everywhere in the UK, visitors to Penzance should expect the weather to be fickle, to say the least. If you only get one day of rain on your trip, then it's been a success. Having said that, the best time to visit would be early autumn (September – early October); with mild temperatures, cheaper holiday homes, and fewer tourists, it's a win-win situation.