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Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town in Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Way, way back in mid-September, Cory and I took a trip just the two of us. While I’d always rather travel as our usual trio, the reason we were taking this “couples vacation” was because Lexie, once again, was off on her own week-long adventure with her class at school. Last year was the first of these trips and I can’t say I was very keen on it. Five days is a long time to be apart from someone you love so much, but a short trip to Bath while she was gone helped distract me from my anxieties.

Since last year’s travel distraction worked so well, when Lexie set off for Wiltshire this year, Cory and I decided to once again take a trip of our own. Not wanting to go too awfully far in case an emergency should come up, we settled on Cornwall, the most southwesterly region of England. It was a place we’d been recommended to countless times, especially once people heard how much we’d enjoyed Ireland. Given how quickly we fell in love with Ireland, I knew if Cornwall was even remotely similar, it’d be one of those trips we’d never forget.

We took the train to Cornwall from London just a few hours after waving goodbye to Lexie. It was a lengthy ride – at least five hours – but with a good book in hand (Life After Life by Kate Atkinson) the time passed quickly and before I knew it, we were pulling into the train station in Penzance, our homebase for the next four days as we explored a good portion of western Cornwall by car and on foot.

The difference in air quality from where we got on the train at Paddington Station to that in Penzance was remarkable. That fresh sea air – there’s nothing like it! We stood outside of the station waiting for someone from Enterprise to pick us up (we rented a car to make it easier to get around) and from where we were standing we could hear the sea, smell it, and even feel it, but we couldn’t see it. It was agonizing! I couldn’t wait to get to the water. Finally, after what seemed like ages, our ride arrived, took us to where we could pick up our car, and we drove ourselves straight to the sea.

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance is located in the center of Mount’s Bay, a body of water on the English Channel named after St Michael’s Mount (you can see it in the background of the photo of me above). It’s a small, quiet sort of town with a beautiful stretch of coast along the promenade, a small fishing harbor, and fantastic views on a clear day of St Michael’s Mount.

Throughout our four days in Cornwall, the skies were mostly overcast, but thankfully we didn’t have to deal with very much rain. My only desire for this trip was to spend as much of it outside as possible, and luckily the weather allowed us to do that. After checking in at our B&B (we splurged and booked a room with a view of the water!), we took a walk to explore as much of Penzance as we could before sunset.

We took a walk along the promenade and then made our way down to the rocky coast where we saw an artist creating over a dozen rock sculptures by the water. We then headed to the harbor where the tide was mostly out allowing me the opportunity to get down where the boats were docked and get some photos. Even as I was taking them, the tide was quickly moving back in and I ended up with very wet shoes before I could make my getaway. (I’ll sacrifice my clothes for a good photo any day!)

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

After the harbor, we headed into the town itself which is really quite charming in an old, slightly shabby sort of way. (Hope that doesn’t turn you off – it really is an attractive town!) The main shopping streets were filled with used book stores and thrift shops which, if I’m being honest, are the only kind of stores I actually enjoy shopping in anyway. Sadly, since the shops closed early every evening, and we never made it back to Penzance from our day’s outings before 6pm, we didn’t get the chance to go inside a single one. I was really wanting to wander inside some of those quirky shops – if the front windows were any indication, I’m positive I could have found some unusual treasures inside.

Penzance offers a surprisingly good selection of restaurants considering its size. We tried a few and were very pleased every time. However, like everything else in town, they close pretty early. Every restaurant we ate at closed by 10pm at the latest, and as far as nightlife is concerned, if you’re looking for more than a couple of pubs, you won’t find it here. Penzance seems to be more of an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ sort of town, which was just fine by us after hiking a minimum of seven miles every day. Every evening, we would return to our B&B after dinner and pop a movie into the TV and just relax for a few hours before bed. (Windows open, of course, so we could still hear the ocean.) Not a bad way to end the day.

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Besides the shops, the town of Penzance also has a church worth checking out, St Mary’s, in the older part of town. We didn’t go inside, but did take some time to wander through the graveyard looking at the ancient headstones. (Surprisingly, it wasn’t as creepy as it sounds.) And finally, with just an hour of daylight left, we headed into Morrab Gardens, a 3-acre public park near the center of town. With the leaves just beginning to change and many flowers still in bloom, I believe we visited at the perfect time of year. We wandered through the walking trails, taking photos and trying to ignore our hungry bellies so we could stay out a little longer. Our first day in Cornwall was our only day to spend any quality time in Penzance even though it’s where we returned to every night, so we had to make the most of the few hours we had!

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

That first night after dinner, before crawling in bed to watch a movie, on our walk back to the B&B we stopped for awhile to take some night shots of the town. The streets were completely deserted of people and only rarely would a car drive by. We felt like the town was ours! I’m sure part of that was due to the nature of the season. September is the very tail end of the summer travel season, but I also think Penzance probably experiences a much lighter amount of tourism in general than some of the larger, more popular towns in western Cornwall, like St Ives. The seemingly modest emphasis on tourism that we found here made Penzance feel more like an actual town than a tourist destination, and for this trip, that was exactly what we were looking for.

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Penzance: A Quiet Coastal Town In Western Cornwall

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  • rorybore
    November 29, 2014 at 4:13 AM

    my kind of slow and easy town! Love the shot of the tower of rocks and the one of the boat on the water. One day I will wind down a day of sight seeing at an actual English pub!

  • Lizzy
    November 28, 2014 at 5:40 AM

    We used to visit Cornwall annually when I was a child and I really loved it!

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    November 26, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    I was a little disappointed with Penzance! I think we must have missed out on quite a bit because we didn’t realise there was a whole other part and not just the bits along the seaside.

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 1, 2014 at 4:43 PM

      Well, I wouldn’t say it’s the most exciting town in Cornwall, but it was what we were looking for for this trip – quiet, peaceful, and scenic. If you are looking for something with a bit more energy and things to do, St. Ives is probably more your speed!

    • Jim Thompson
      November 26, 2017 at 12:07 AM

      Penzance is a real town, not a tourist town like some of the other towns. It is larger than St. Ives and has a nightlife despite what was written here. Of course it isn’t London nightlife, but The Farmers Arms has music most nights from live bands, The Crown has an open mic night on Monday, The Star on Friday etc. Then there is the quirky Studio Bar on Bread Street. Possibly more pubs per capita than anywhere in the UK.

      Penzance is fast becoming a foodie destination too, with fresh seafood and local produce skillfully prepared.

      Yes, you did miss out by staying by the sea, but that is pleasant enough IMHO.

  • Erika
    November 25, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    Your pictures are gorgeous and Penzance looks really charming! It sounds like it was a really relaxing, fresh trip for you guys! :)

  • topchelseagirl
    November 25, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Haven’t been down there for several years. St Ives is lovely! x

  • Miwa
    November 25, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    What a beautiful place! I really love the way you take pictures, Sarah. So inspiring! And such a great mixture of landscape and details. Can’t wait to read more about Cornwall :)

  • Katrin
    November 25, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    A globe bar! I am in love! Sounds like a very relaxing place and I think I would like it there a lot. Cannot wait to read more. Your pictures are fantastic as usual!

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 1, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      I didn’t even realize what I’d photographed until I read your comment! I only glanced at it and thought it was a globe that opened for storage or something!

      • Katrin
        December 1, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        I guess you can store whatever you want in it. :) I always wanted to have one. In my library in front of my fireplace. :) I usually do not drink so it would use it for something else. :)

  • Rachel G
    November 24, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    A good book definitely makes a long travel time go by much faster! That sounds like a wonderful place to wander–the coastline looks gorgeous!

  • Veronica
    November 24, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    So this is the place that inspired the Pirates of Penzance! Lol, looks like Robert and I were on the same wavelength!

  • mummydaddyme
    November 24, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    Cornwall is one of my favourite places in the whole world, I have such fond memories of childhood holidays down there. I am new to your blog, loving reading it so far! :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 1, 2014 at 4:38 PM

      Hi there! Thanks for leaving me a comment and letting me know you’ve been reading! I can imagine Cornwall was the perfect place for childhood summer holidays! I find myself drawn back to places we vacationed when I was a kid, too, although most of them aren’t nearly as lovely as Cornwall!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    November 24, 2014 at 9:11 PM

    I’ve been wanting to go to Cornwall too! I was really trying to make it work this past summer, but the prices were just jacked up way too much!! It looks just gorgeous!!

  • laurenonlocation
    November 24, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    You’re pictures are so hauntingly beautiful! Looks like an awesome trip! I love visiting cities in the fall. The leaves changing, the crisp clear air and not too cold!

  • Robert
    November 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    As soon as I saw the title I could think of nothing other than the Pirates of Penzance! :) x

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 1, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      Ha! Yep – this is the home of the pirates! :)

  • Camila @ AdventitiousViolet
    November 24, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Aw I really want to go to Cornwall one day! Scotland seems at the other end of the world right now though haha I had ever only heard of Penzance with the train lines, but it looks so quaint! And gorgeous photos by the way!

  • Jess {JessOnThames}
    November 24, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Isn’t Cornwall WONDERFUL? I’ve only been to St Ives and we zipped through way too quickly but it was one of my favorite discoveries in the UK. Looking forward to reading more! xx

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 1, 2014 at 4:19 PM

      While I still liked Ireland better, Cornwall evoked some of those same feelings in me that Doolin did. I love spending an entire vacation outside in the fresh air – it’s so rejuvenating. I hope to go back again sometime before we move!

  • Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    November 24, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    I have been wanting to make it down to Cornwall forever! It’s so nice that you guys took a trip out of the city…seems very relaxing!! I’m reading life after life right now and really love it but it’s taking me forever to read for some reason! Maybe an upcoming train ride will get me through it!

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 1, 2014 at 4:18 PM

      It took me a longer time than usual, too – it is a pretty big book! Because it’s not always linear, I think that makes it a little harder to read, too, but it’s so worth it!