A mini guide to Penzance, Cornwall

Life has been hectic recently, so for my 31st birthday (hooooow?) a break was needed. I spent five days exploring Penzance and the Isles of Scilly and I couldn’t have imagined a better place to unwind. Now I’ve finally washed all the sea salt out of my hair, it’s time to roundup why Penzance is so great!

Penzance harbour, Cornwall, UKThings to do in Penzance, CornwallVisiting Penzance, CornwallHistoric Penzance, CornwallThe Cornish Hen deli in Penzance, CornwallView of St Michael's Mount from Penzance, CornwallMaking a kitty friend in Penzance, Cornwall

A birthday by the sea

Cornwall is a place that exceeds expectations. I first visited in 2010 and was amazed to find that it looks just like you expect it to: all narrow streets, old fishermens’ cottages and natural rugged beauty.

It’s unrealistic to expect a place to be so picturesque and you secretly suspect that most of Cornwall must look like the rest of the UK, with only the pretty bits shared online and in guidebooks—but it really is all so lovely. The Cornish are lucky folk.

Quaint English shops in Marazion, near Penzance, CornwallVintage moto scooterQuirky Bird Café, and other places to eat in Penzance, CornwallTips for a short stay in Penzance, Cornwall

Things to eat & Drink

Besides pirates and Poldark, Cornwall is known for its excellent local produce. The Cornish know how to do food: pasties, cream tea, fudge, Yarg, ice cream, Fairings, seafood, Stargazy pie…not to mention all the ciders and ales. It’s an excellent county to be in when it’s your birthday i.e. treat-yo’-self time ;)

We were invited for dinner at The Cornish Barn, where we opted for the tapas-style tasting plates so we could try as much of the delicious-sounding menu as possible! Every plate was incredible but the gold star goes to dessert–chocolate brownie bites with ice cream. It’s literally the best pudding I’ve ever had (and the cocktails were up there too).

My birthday dinner was at the Shore, Penzance’s number one place to eat. Every plate was a mouth-watering work of art and despite being a more fancy restaurant the service was low-fuss and friendly. The local ingredients are top quality, the flavour combinations surprising and the prices totally reasonable–what more could you want?

Places to eat in Penzance, Cornwall: The Cornish BarnFood recommendations for Penzance, Cornwall: The Cornish Barn, Chapel StreetThe most delicious dessert I've ever eaten, at The Cornish Barn, Penzance, West CornwallDelicious local food at The Cornish Barn, Penzance, CornwallStraight from "Treasure Island", the historic Admiral Benbow Inn in Penzance, Cornwall

Things to see & do

Of course as an area of outstanding natural beauty there are plenty of outdoor activities to help you burn off some calories too. While Penzance isn’t famously a surfing spot (that type of activity is found along Cornwall’s north coast), you can go horse riding, cycling and hiking, or go swimming at Britain’s largest outdoor seawater lido!

  • The 1930s Art Deco Jubilee Pool* (open May-September annually), recently restored following storm damage and a super fun tick off the bucket list!
  • St. Michael’s Mount, a short walk via the causeway at low tide or pay £2 to catch a boat
  • Egyptian House and the home of Maria Branwell (mother of the Brontë sisters), Chapel Street
  • Go shopping on Market Jew Street, Chapel Street or Causewayhead
  • Visit Mousehole, just an hour’s walk down the coast

Art Deco seawater lido the Jubilee pool, Penzance in Cornwall, EnglandPlaces to eat, drink & see in Penzance, CornwallPirates of Penzance, CornwallMaking friends with the locals in Penzance, CornwallVisiting Marazion from Penzance, Cornwall

Where to stay

Further reading

N.B. I was invited to some of the places I visited, in my recommendations below they’re marked with an asterisk/*.

Taking the open top bus to Marazion from Penzance, CornwallTips for visiting Penzance, CornwallThe strange Egyptian House, Chapel Street, Penzance, CornwallRough seas in Penzance, CornwallThe famous Admiral Benbow Inn, Penzance, CornwallPenzance, CornwallGetting the GWR Night Riviera sleeper train from Penzance to London, Cornwall

Walking from Marazion to St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island in Mount’s Bay, Marazion, about an hour’s walk from Penzance (or a 10 minute bus journey–get the open top if you can!). There’s evidence that it only became an island in 1700BC, when the hazel wood that used to exist in the bay flooded.

The mount is now accessible via a causeway from Marazion at low tide, or by boat for £2 (each way). Opening is seasonal so check before you travel! We walked over and it only takes a few minutes, even with plenty of photo pitstops.

How to visit St Michael's Mount, CornwallMarazion, CornwallThe island shop on St Michael's Mount, MarazionNational Trust property: St Michael's Mount, Cornwall

St Michael’s Mount is jointly managed by the National Trust and the St Aubyn family (who’ve owned the castle since the 1650s!). A small community also live on the island (imagine) and some of the buildings date from the 12th century. The nosy northerner in me tried to find properties for sale/sold on the mount, just out of interest, but I literally couldn’t find a single one! Presumably if you own property this good you keep it in the family forever.

According to Cornish legend, the mount was historically also home to a giant, Cormoran, but he went around eating people’s livestock so a local lad, Jack, made it his business to get rid of him :)

Houses on St Michael's Mount, CornwallOld fishermens' cottages on St Michael's Mount in CornwallLobster cages by the harbour at St Michael's Mount, CornwallHow to visit St Michael's Mount, CornwallThe garden at St Michael's Mount, CornwallGarden shop at St Michael's Mount, CornwallVisiting the garden at St Michael's Mount, CornwallThe Island Café on St Michael's Mount, Cornwall

We had limited time on the mount, having visited Mousehole earlier in the day and with the tide due to come up over the causeway before 5pm, but with our hour on the mount we managed to squeeze in a walk around the open sections and grab a local cider at the Island Café. The ice cream was popular but we didn’t manage to grab a scoop before closing time!

As you can tell from these photos it was overcast (boo) when we visited–but still beautiful. And now I have an excuse for a return trip on a more photogenic day.

Further reading:

Walking from Marazion to St Michael's Mount, CornwallCornwall travel tipsFrom Marazion to St Michael's Mount, CornwallHow to get to St Michael's Mount, CornwallTips for visiting St Michael's Mount, CornwallMarazion, Cornwall

Visiting Mousehole, Cornwall

Mousehole, pronounced “mowzul”, is a fishing hamlet on the coast of West Cornwall. Dylan Thomas described it as “the loveliest village in England” and he probably wasn’t wrong–even if it was overcast on the morning we visited.

Mousehole is around 5km from Penzance, an easy walk along the South West Coast Path, so we squeezed in a visit while we were in the area. Alternatively you can take the bus for a few pounds but we wanted to also have a little peek at the fishing village of Newlyn en route.

South West Coast Path walk from Penzance to Mousehole, via NewlynMy tips for walking down the South West Coast Path from Penzance to Mousehole, CornwallNewlyn Harbour, CornwallNewlyn Harbour, CornwallNewlyn, CornwallWalking from Penzance to Mousehole, CornwallRock Pool Café, Mousehole, CornwallRock Pool Café, Mousehole, CornwallTraditional cream tea at the Rock Pool Café, Mousehole, CornwallMousehole, Cornwall tips

There are records of a port in Mousehole as far back as 1266 (South Quay is possibly the oldest pier in Cornwall) and while these days the majority of the vessels in the harbour are kept for fun, a few working boats do remain, fishing mostly for pilchards.

Have you ever heard of the fabulously-named Stargazy Pie? It’s a Mousehole classic, apparently invented here when local fisherman Tom Bawcock saved the village from starvation after catching a heroic haul during a violent storm.

Tips for visiting Mousehole, CornwallTips for exploring Mousehole, CornwallLittle crab in a rock pool in CornwallShip Inn, Mousehole, CornwallMousehole, West CornwallCottage in Mousehole, West CornwallFishing village of Mousehole, West CornwallGinger cat napping in Mousehole, West CornwallFisherman's cottage in Mousehole, West Cornwall

Besides inventing world-famous fish pies, Mousehole has plenty of other interesting historical tales.

In 1595, the Spanish attacked and burned down entire village except for one surviving building, previously the Keigwin Arms, now a house–which still stands today. Mousehole native Dorothy Pentreath, who died in 1777 at the age of 102, was the last recorded speaker of the Cornish language (prior to its revival). In 1981, the crew of the Solomon Browne lifeboat lost their lives trying to save those onboard the Union Star (who also perished); if you walk the South West Coast Path you’ll pass a monument to them by the lifeboat station at Penlee Point, just outside Mousehole.

Of course, there are plenty of pirate and smuggler stories too.

Mini guide to Mousehole, CornwallMousehole harbour, CornwallShell hunting in CornwallWeatherbeaten old café sign in Mousehole, West CornwallKayaks in CornwallCottage goals in Mousehole, Cornwall
Old street sign in Mousehole, West CornwallClassic English red phone box and post box in Mousehole, Cornwall

Want to stay in the village? The Ship Inn is highly-rated and well-located (literally right on the harbour). We were staying at Chapel House back in Penzance, and with a 6.30pm dinner reservation didn’t have time to sample any Stargazy Pie before rushing off to St Michael’s Mount–but we did manage a cream tea at the Rock Pool Café and grabbed a Cornish pasty from Jessie’s Dairy to eat on the bus!

We loved Mousehole and ideally would’ve had more than a morning to take it in, but if you enjoyed this mini guide catch up on my other Cornwall posts, with more to come from Penzance and the Isles of Scilly (once I’ve got through 800+ photos!) :)

Further reading:

Cute English fishing village Mousehole, CornwallCornish flag flying over Mousehole, CornwallMousehole, West CornwallWalking from Penzance to Mousehole, Cornwall

Hotel review: Chapel House, Penzance

Have you ever arrived at a hotel and immediately felt sad that you’ll have to leave? It doesn’t happen to me as often as it should (some photos are so misleading, are they not?) but my recent stay at boutique hotel Chapel House exceeded all of my already-high expectations. This town house offers beautiful décor, views right across Mount’s Bay, and the most delicious breakfasts you could hope for.

Chapel House boutique hotel, PenzanceChapel House town house hotel, PenzanceInside renovated Georgian hotel Chapel House, Penzance, CornwallSideboard details, Chapel House, PenzanceGeorgian staircase in renovated hotel Chapel House, Penzance

Chapel House, built in 1790, has been carefully renovated over the past two years by new owner Susan. The restoration is respectful of this Grade II listed Georgian building’s age while being contemporary and clean. It’s like walking into the pages of a smart interior design magazine, but you still feel perfectly able to make yourself at home.

Bedroom two at Chapel House hotel, PenzanceMidcentury furniture inside Chapel House town house hotel, PenzanceHotel review: refreshment facilities at Chapel House, Penzance, CornwallIn-room bathtub! Inside renovated Georgian town house, Chapel House hotel, PenzanceRetro hotel room details, Chapel House, Penzance

We stayed in the utterly glorious room two, which had everything you might wish for–including an in-room bathtub! There is (of course) free WiFi throughout the house and each room has a mini iPad loaded with tips and guides for the local area. Should the weather catch you out, you can also borrow a wax jacket and some winter-y accessories from the boot room. Every detail has been considered.

I’d highly recommend booking a stay at Chapel House if you’re planning a trip to West Cornwall–and even if you’re not, this hotel is reason enough to visit. Back soon with my tips for Penzance and the local area.

Chapel House, Chapel Street, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4AQ | 07810 020617 or 01736 362024 | hello@chapelhousepz.co.uk

We received 2 nights complimentary bed and breakfast in exchange for this review, but I would honestly have stayed at Chapel House forever if I’d been allowed to.

Hotel tour and review: Chapel House, PenzanceBathrobe and slippers, Chapel House hotel, PenzanceThe dining room at Georgian hotel Chapel House, Penzance, West CornwallGorgeous midcentury décor at renovated town house hotel Chapel House, PenzanceBreakfast at Chapel House hotel, Penzance