Penzance and Newlyn: Different Feel, Same Appeal
PUBLISHED: 19:42 04 October 2007 | UPDATED: 14:53 20 February 2013
Visit Penzance and Newlyn this October or November and you will find that although they have a lot in common, mainly art galleries, theses neighbouring towns have retained their individuality. <br/>Over the past few years Penzance has benefited from m...
Arriving in Penzance, there is a strong chance that your first glimpse of the town will be from the east side, where the railway and bus stations and the large harbour car park are situated. Over the past few years Penzance has benefited from much restoration and renovation. The railway station now leads outside to flowerbeds, seats decorated with seashells and, on the ground, a large map of West Cornwall showing all the major towns and villages from Portreath on the north coast to Mullion on the Lizard. A large stone beside Platform 4 states in English and Cornish 'Penzance Welcomes You' and 'Pensans A'gas Dynergh'. The bus station, with its billowing flags and tent-shaped shelters is reminiscent of a circus, while harbour car park is divided into space for both vehicles and boats, and has fabulous views across the bay to St Michael's Mount.
Over the road, old buildings have been modernised. The building in the centre of the roundabout, known locally as the Station Triangle, is Branwells Mill. This 150-year-old mill now holds shops, cafs and offices, Club 2K nightclub and a family restaurant called The Meadery. Further along the road is The Wharfside shopping centre. Fairly small by national standards, The Wharfside contains both large chains and small local shops. Take the escalator to the first floor, past stalls selling such diverse items as Dutch liquorice and beaded bags, and you are in Market Jew Street.
A controversial scheme last year changed the layout of Market Jew Street, which used to have narrow, busy pavements and constant traffic jams. Now the street has one-way traffic, except for buses, cycles and taxis, and the pavements have been altered with wooden seating and bays where delivery vehicles and buses can pull in. Today you can cross the road without taking your life in your hands. Richard George is resting on one of the wooden seats. "I'm waiting for my wife, Marion," he explains, with a weary smile. "She's trying on dresses somewhere."
Take your time walking up the street. On one side there are tantalising views down to the harbour. On the other, little alleys and arcades lead off a raised pavement called The Terrace. At the top of Market Jew Street is a large domed building, once a market house, now home to Lloyds Bank, in front of which a statue of Humphry Davy, Penzance's most famous son, looks down on the shoppers.
Beyond the market house the road divides. Straight on the road goes out of town, eventually joining the A30 on its way to Land's End. To the right is the pedestrianised Causewayhead. To the left is Chapel Street, possibly the oldest, most picturesque and history-laden street in the town. There are several hotels and restaurants in Chapel Street, including the Union Hotel and the Admiral Benbow, art shops and galleries, antique and book shops, the brightly painted Egyptian House and, at the bottom, St Mary's Church and the Penzance Arts Club.
Chapel Street leads down to the harbour and the start of the promenade. Stop a while and marvel at the beautiful art deco Jubilee Pool. As it is an outdoor lido, it is closed from the end of September to Whitsun, but the attached caf is open until the end of October. Morwenna Luxford-Leach pauses outside the caf entrance. "I worked as a lifeguard at the Jubilee Pool during the summer," says Morwenna. "Sometimes it's windy out on the prom, but inside, the high walls protect you and it can get quite hot on the terraces."
On a nice day there is nothing better than a stroll along the prom - or even a bike ride as a cycle path runs parallel to the promenade.
Morrab Gardens holds an amazing collection of mature plants, a fountain, two ponds and a bandstand. Further up Morrab Road is Penlee Park, which has tennis courts and a playground. Penlee House Gallery and Museum is on the east side of the park and contains work by some of the Newlyn School and Lamorna Group of Artists.
At last the promenade reaches Newlyn. Newlyn Art Gallery or, more correctly, the Passmore Edwards Art Gallery, is at the entrance to the town. It contains work by contemporary local artists and a new wing was built and opened in the summer. David Kemp, who produces magnificent sculptures from junk he collects from the county's beaches, has designed a collection box which sits proudly in the reception. The Exchange, a branch of Newlyn Art Gallery, is back in Penzance, almost opposite the Jubilee Pool. Other galleries in Newlyn include Badcocks on The Strand.
Three piers surround Newlyn's harbour, which is home to its famous fishing fleet, and the fish shops in The Coombe are fascinating to visit if you like freshly caught produce. The Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen sits at the harbour entrance. This is the temporary home to anyone involved in a problem at sea. Fishermen and sailors, whatever their nationality, will be cared for here until they can go home. Newlyn harbour is also the home to the Penlee Lifeboat, the Ivan Ellen.
Inland from the harbour, the town climbs steeply up the side of a hill. Take a walk round and explore; it is easier to walk than drive as even the main roads through the town need passing places. From inside a car you will miss the tiny fishermen's cottages or the terraced three-storey houses on the top of the hill, which have fabulous views over Mount's Bay. There's a small car park next to the Duke Street Gallery, which is also next door to the two small inns, The Dolphin and The Swordfish. Just over the road is a small bridge over the river; tiny one-room shops cuddle up together on the bridge. Marjorie Jones and her little dog Ben are just returning home with pasties for lunch. "I'm staying at my daughter's today," says Marjorie, pointing at a house way up on top of the hill. "We'll eat our pasties by the window. I could look out at the boats coming and going in the harbour all day!"
Penzance and Newlyn, two towns side by side, so close they could almost be one, but they have both managed to retain their own identity well. Twins maybe, but never identical!
Penzance and Newlyn highlights
Shopping: The Wharfside and Market Jew Street in Penzance.
Food: Many restaurants serve local produce, especially fish, or buy your own fish from Newlyn Coombe to cook at home.
Art: Newlyn Art Gallery, The Exchange and other little galleries, and Penlee House Gallery in Penlee Park.
Walking: Along the promenade or through the many parks.
History: The tiny Newlyn streets and cottages, and everything in Chapel Street, Penzance.
Messing about in boats: See both large and small boats in the harbours, and fishing boats at Newlyn, or take a ferry to the Isles of Scilly.
For further information contact Penzance Tourist Information Centre (01736 362207.