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Penzance

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Penzance is a delightful market town which stands on the south coast on the shores of Mount's Bay - it grew from a small fishing village to outrival its neighbours. It has enormous appeal with its charming shopping streets, sub-tropical gardens, superb esplanade and busy working harbour. With St Michael's Mount standing just across the bay it is an ideal centre from which to explore West Cornwall. You are never more than ten miles from the other popular holiday towns, the top beaches, and the "hidden" corners of the peninsula. The wonderful vista of Mount's Bay from the long Promenade is a classic attraction for the holidaymaker, with a view past Marazion to the Goonhilly Aerial Dishes, and to the Lizard.

Everywhere in this town are picturesque features. The winding Chapel Street from town centre to harbour front is crowded with history. For years it carried the trade of the area to the shipping. St Mary's Parish Church, built on the site of the ancient Chapel of Ease, was severely damaged by fire in 1985 and restored and reconsecrated in 1987.

A plaque at No 25 marks the home of Maria Branwell, the mother of the most famous sisters in English Literature, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte. The remarkable Egyptian House, built around 1836, has been beautifully renewed with gleaming colours and Coat of Arms.

Echoes of maritime adventure and the celebrated Pirates of Penzance, fill Chapel Street, particularly with the Turk's Head, the oldest inn in town, the Admiral Benbow, with its memories of tussles between smugglers and revenue men, and the Maritime Museum, a tribute to the diving successes of Roland Morris.

Penlee House, set in a lovely park, has the town's Museum and exhibition of paintings inside .... and the ancient market cross outside. Across the road at Morrab Gardens is the prized Morrab Library, established over a century ago and containing a national treasure trove of literature. Outside the nearby public library is a cannon from the Spanish Armada fleet.

Penzance's neighbour in the western corner of Mount's Bay is Newlyn, the premiere fishing port in the country. Here a remarkable combination of busy port and Cornish tradition create a fascinating world.

Even more imposing on the skyline is the 1838 Market House, now Lloyds Bank, set in the town centre with pillars, clock and dome. The white statue of the town's greatest son, Sir Humphry Davy, inventor of the coal miner's safety lamp, looks down Market Jew Street .The granite Terrace is a charming shopping feature with its steps and rails. It retains old world style with its many small locally owned shops, arcades and tucked-away attractions.

Along Wharf Road is the busy harbour with the ferry Scillonian, the Penzance Dry Dock for ship repairs and the Trinity House National Museum. There is always so much going on in this sheltered and friendly town, terminus of the rail line with London and centre of the sea and air links with the Isles of Scilly.

The excellent beach, so very long and wide at low tide, offers some of the finest and cleanest bathing waters in Western Europe and is matched by equally superb sailing waters. World, National and Regional Championships for both sailing and windsurfing are held here, since the bay is also a prime windsurfing venue. Tuition is available.

There are many small harbours and coves to admire, but Newlyn is the most successful fishing port in England. Although the 40 acre harbour may seem peaceful and serene for most of the day, the busiest time is early morning when the fish market and sales get under way.The quays are crowded with the trawlers, netters and crabbers. Fishermen are busy working on their boats, preparing to return to sea. You can enjoy their catches in many local hotels, restaurants and pubs ... fish, lobsters and crabs. Newlyn has a Fish Festival each summer. As well as its strong seafaring background, Newlyn has also earned great fame from the artists who came from the 1880's onwards to paint in the open air. The largest collection of 'Newlyn School' paintings is housed in the Penlee House Art Gallery and Museum.

Today the artistic tradition continues. The recently refurbished Newlyn Art Gallery on the edge of Newlyn Green houses contemporary local works and mounts regular exhibitions. It has recently celebrated its centenary.

Just around the corner from Newlyn is the picturesque old fishing harbour of Mousehole. Pronounced 'Mowzel' it takes its name from the cave just beyond the village before which it was known as Porth Ennis 'Port of the Island'. Everything is centred around the tiny harbour, like an open-air theatre. The narrow alleyways between small houses, arranged higgledy-piggledy fashion, tempt the inquisitive to explore. Small galleries and craft shops offer a delightful diversion. Both Mousehole and Newlyn stage spectacular Christmas illuminations around the harbours and thousands come to see the magical displays.
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