What to do in West Cornwall: From Penzance to St Ives, Sennen Cove, St Michael’s Mount, and beyond

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Arriving at the coastal town of Penzance, Cornwall, can feel like arriving at the end of the line. Actually, it is the end of the First Great Western train line, where trains run all the way from London Paddington. It certainly is a fair old way, albeit a beautiful journey, however you travel there.

Penzance train station

So, it’s perhaps not surprising that people often greet talk of trips to the very west of our country with, ‘Cornwall? Lovely! Such a long way to travel though…’ However, it took us just five-and-a-half hours, door-to-door and by car, from southeast London to our hotel in Penzance. The A30, completed as recently as 2007, means that Cornwall is more accessible than ever. It’s pretty much one road in and out. Or, you can always catch that train, which takes a beautifully scenic route through countryside and sea views. You can even fly on down to Newquay.

Penzance promenade

Sunset on Penzance promenade

 Let’s shake this idea that Cornwall, and it’s westerly town of Penzance, is ‘oh so far way’. When the weather isn’t great, it is wide open to the powerful elements, dramatic in shades of grey and at the same time, ethereal. When the sun shines, it is akin to any rugged, golden coast of Australia, with beaches stretching for miles and sea the colour of sparkling turquoise gemstones.

I like to think of Penzance as like a gateway to west Cornwall. The chocolate-box harbour village of St Ives, the striking silhouette of St Michael’s Mount, the surfing bays of Sennen Cove and the wonderous Minack Theatre are all within sight or around a 15-minute drive.

Penzance hotel reviews:

Artist Residence Cornwall, Penzance

Chapel House Penzance

 

Penzance houses 2

What to see in Penzance:

The town, houses and public gardens

Penzance houses

It’s not a huge place, but it is pretty hilly. I’d say, ditch the map and take a wander. We came across lots of fun houses, with palm trees planted all over, and pretty public parks and sub-tropical gardens, like the Morrab Gardens or Penlee Park, this way. The main shopping street is a little bit tired and, dare I say, dingy, but is pretty typical of British seaside towns. There are some gems, like the old Savoy movie theatre. Just don’t get taken in by the chain pasty shops – head to the Cornish Hen delicatessen, for fresh locally produced fodder, (chorizo scotch eggs!), instead!

Penzance Gardens

Parks in Penzance are plentiful!

The promenade and Jubilee Pool

Jubile pool sunset

Stroll down the promenade in Penzance, from the harbour, past the art deco Jubilee lido and you can walk all the way to the village of newly (where I hear the best ice cream shop is!). The promenade is the longest in Cornwall, finished in 1893. There are a few good play parks and some ‘restaurants’ along the way. I would recommend getting fish and chips from new chippy, Fraser’s. Surely you wouldn’t consider eating anything else when strolling along the prom?

Frasers fish and chips

Fraser’s fish and chips – try the hake and pea fritters!

Penzance bowling alley

Don’t be shy of the promenade arcade. There is a bowling alley in there!

Penzance promenade

What to see near Penzance:

St Michael’s Mount

St Michaels mount 1

St Michaels Mount Penzance

This long stretch of beach, part of the South West Coast path, which the railway runs alongside, separates St Michael’s Mount from Penzance, meaning it is within walking distance. You’ll have earned that cream tea when you get there! Or, it’s around a five minute drive. The Mount is a National Trust island, which you can walk over to in low tide, or catch a boat to at high tide. There’s a medieval castle, and sub-tropical gardens to explore.

Places within a 15 minute drive…

Sennen beach

Sennen beach 2

Sennen beach bodyboarding

Sennen beach

Sennen

Land’s End

Lands End sign

Photo taken on my 33rd birthday! You can have your photo taken with the sign, and the message can be personalised, but it will cost you £10…

Lands End

Minack Theatre

Minack theatre 1

Minack theatre 2

St Ives

Beach end

St Ives doorways

St Ives from Porthminster

St Ives harbour

St Ives street

Train to St Ives

Barbara Hepworth studio and gardens, Tate St Ives

Barbara Hepworth museum

Barbara Hepworth sculpture

Barbara Hepworth studio

Food, glorious food! 

Cornish cream tea

Cornish clotted cream teas, pasties, fish and chips, local veg, meat and fish, ice cream… the list goes on!

Dinner at Chapel House Penzance

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