Glorious thing

by
14 November 2014

By David Godfrey

Where
Penzance, at the westernmost end of the Great Western network, nine miles short of Land's End.

Why
Splendid views, coastal walks, local seafood, and bracing air.

What to see
Penzance was hit hard by the recent recession, and, although it is beginning to make a recovery, anyone looking for a high-end shopping experience will be disappointed. It makes a perfect base for exploring the coast and countryside, however. The best thing to do is to hire a car, but there are bus services that, although a little pricey, will get you from A to B.

Trengwainton Garden, managed by the National Trust, is only a few miles from the railway station, and there are delightful harbour villages dotted along the peninsula. Boat trips, for fishing or pleasure, may be taken in some of them.

The Cornish coastline, like that of Pembrokeshire, is cared for by the National Trust as well. It is speckled with the haunting ruins of the old tin-mining industry, whose fragmented towers and chimneys make an evocative foreground to the sweeping sea views with their crashing waves, spectacular rock formations, and sandy beaches.

The remains of the mines are a World Heritage Site. At the Levant Mine, you can see and smell, thanks to a team of volunteers, the only beam engine in the world still in use in its original location.

Long paths along the coast are maintained by rangers, who write blogs to keep the public up to date with what is going on on the clifftops.

The jewel in the crown of this part of the Cornish coast is St Michael's Mount. Just a few miles east of Penzance, and clearly visible from the town, it is half-fortress, half-church, and has been the home of the Lords St Leven and their forebears since the 17th century. Now also in the hands of the National Trust, it provides a regular programme of special events.

Its solid bulk reminds the county that it has a powerful intercessor in St Michael, who is invoked in the diocese of Truro under his title "Protector of Cornwall", and honoured as such on 8 May.

What to eat
If you rent a cottage that has self-catering facilities, then support the fishing industry by buying local seafood from an independent fishmonger; or find some locally reared organic meat, for which Cornwall is becoming increasingly well known.

Should you be looking for somewhere to eat out in Penzance itself, then eschew the mass-produced Cornish pasties on Market Jew Street - tasty as they may be - and head to the Mackerel Sky Café Bar on New Street. The monkfish in batter, with chips and mushy peas, is to die for.

If you choose to eat further afield, there are plenty of options. The area is dotted with hostelries from beach cafés to cosy pubs, and the local ale is well worth tasting: why not treat yourself to a pint of Penwith Prickler?

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