Discovering historic Penzance

A gentle stroll through a famous Cornish town.

NEAREST LOCATION

Penzance

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

1.75 miles (2.8kms)

ASCENT
115ft (35m)
TIME
1hr
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Easy
STARTING POINT
SW476304

About the walk

There is a Mediterranean ring to the name Penzance that goes well with the town’s sunny south-facing aspect on the shores of Mount’s Bay, one of the largest bays in Britain. This is a town whose mellow climate even encourages the growth of palm trees, and where you really do have a sense of being almost ‘abroad’.

The name Penzance derives in reality from the Cornish terms pens and sans, meaning ‘holy headland’, and relates to an ancient chapel dedicated to St Anthony of Padua, who was a patron saint of fishermen.

Penzance was made a borough as early as 1614, and received an even greater economic boost in the later 17th century when it became a ‘Stannary’ or ‘Coinage’ town, with the right to assay and tax tin and copper from the many mines on the Land’s End Peninsula. The town reached its commercial apogee in the 19th century when many of the fine buildings seen on this walk were built.

Open-air painters

Penzance shares in the artistic heritage of West Cornwall. Nearby Newlyn saw the emergence in the late 19th century  of the Newlyn School of Painting. This was the label given to a particular style, based on the French plein air or ‘open air’ tradition, by which artists painted out of doors in a more dynamic and immediate fashion. British followers of the style settled in Newlyn, where the port’s vernacular buildings and authentic fishing community became their iconic subjects. During the walk you pass the Penlee House Gallery and Museum which has a marvellous collection of Newlyn School paintings.

Regency grandeur

The finest buildings in Penzance date from the Regency period and its immediate aftermath. Regent Square, through which this route passes, is a splendid example. The town also has a legacy of fine open spaces, such as the Morrab Gardens, which evolved during the same period.

There are many more architectural gems. During the first part of the walk you pass the 1930s art deco swimming lido known as the Jubilee Pool, and the nearby Yacht Inn is a classic of 20th-century marine architecture. The walk then leads to Chapel Street, Penzance’s finest thoroughfare, which has an intriguing mix of styles. Here you'll find the home of Maria Branwell, the mother of the famous Brontë sisters. Ultra modern style is represented at The Exchange art gallery, while Market Jew Street brings you back to the everyday life of a busy commercial town.

Walk directions

Go out of the Harbour Car Park onto Wharf Road and cross the pedestrian crossing in front of the Wharfside Shopping Centre. Turn left and pass the old Lifeboat Station, then cross the junction and continue across Ross Bridge. Bear right in front of The Dolphin Tavern and go up the cobbled lane to the right of the pub.

Cross a junction, bearing slightly left to the seafront road, opposite the Jubilee Bathing Pool. In a few paces turn right into the peaceful St Anthony Gardens. Walk through the gardens and exit in the far left-hand corner opposite The Yacht Inn. Cross left to South Place. Turn right and climb steps beneath a granite archway into St Mary’s churchyard. Climb more steps and continue into Chapel Street.

Turn left up Chapel Street and then left again opposite The Admiral Benbow pub and into Voundervour Lane. Keep left at the next junction and go through Regent Square. On leaving the square, cross the road, turn left and, in a few paces, turn right. Go through a gap in railings just beyond a line of lock-up garages. Turn right and enter Morrab Gardens.

Explore the gardens and then leave via the gate in the top right-hand corner. In about 30yds (27m) go left down the narrow Morab Terrace. Keep straight ahead across a junction of lanes and across a pedestrian crossing in Morrab Road. Turn right, and in a few paces go left through the gates of Penlee Park.

Just past the Penlee House Gallery and Museum, take the second turning right along a leafy walkway. Mid-way along visit the Memorial Garden on the right. On the main route keep straight ahead and follow the walkway round to the right. Go through a gateway and keep uphill to reach Morrab Road.

Cross the road (with care) and go along an alleyway between houses. At a junction of lanes keep straight across. At the next junction, by The Globe public house, cross the street, turn right and in a few paces turn left along Prince’s Street, past The Exchange Art Gallery. Turn left at the next junction to reach Market Jew Street.

Cross the street and go up steps behind the statue of Humphry Davy, inventor of the miner’s safety lamp. Turn right down The Terrace, a raised, granite walkway. When opposite the Wharfside Shopping Centre, cross the street, go through the centre and down the escalator to the Harbour Car Park.

Additional information

Surfaced pavements and lanes throughout

Townscape and seafront

Lead required throughout, so not ideal; note that dog fouling regulations are strictly enforced

The Penzance Town Guide, available at the town’s Tourist Information Centre, has a fold out map of the town

Penzance Harbour Car Park

Penzance bus station; entrance to Inner Harbour; diagonally left opposite top of Morrab Road

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About the area

Discover Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Cornwall has just about everything – wild moorland landscapes, glorious river valley scenery, picturesque villages and miles of breathtaking coastline. With more than 80 surfing spots, there are plenty of sporting enthusiasts who also make their way here to enjoy wave-surfing, kite surfing and blokarting.

In recent years, new or restored visitor attractions have attracted even more visitors to the region; the Eden Project is famous for its giant geodesic domes housing exotic plants from different parts of the globe, while nearby the Lost Gardens of Heligan has impressive kitchen gardens and a wildlife hide.