Tourism in Penzance & West Cornwall
Mounts Bay, with Penzance at its centre, has recently been described as one of the 'Most Beautiful Bays in the World'. The great sweep of land surrounding this expanse of the sea - the first safe haven for sailors coming in from the Atlantic Ocean - runs from the Lizard Point to Lands End and includes both the resort town of Penzance and the smaller communities of Marazion, Newlyn and Mousehole with the dramatic sight of St. Michael's Mount dominating the view of the bay from almost any vantage point.
Located just a mile west of Penzance, the fishing port of Newlyn is home to the largest fleet of fishing boats in the South of England and the landing of fish at the market on the quay makes a very significant contribution to the economy of the entire area. The village, which is joined to the western end of Penzance, retains its own separate identity. It is clustered around the harbour, with both its old quay curling around a few small boats on the western side and the much larger quays in the centre and on the eastern side of the harbour, against which are often moored the many trawlers, long-liners and other members of the fishing fleet. The importance of Newlyn as a port and harbour is emphasised by the presence on the South Pier of the Tidal Observatory and the Ordnance Survey datum point which defines the Mean Sea Level to which all UK tidal and land height measurements are referred.
The bustle and activity of the port give the visitor a fascinating glimpse into this dangerous and hard-working industry which has for long been the mainstay of this community. On a road leading back from the harbour will be found the Pilchard Museum which has recently been established to show how this small, yet so vital, fish - once the major product of the local industry - is processed and packed for shipment to an eager public all over the world.
Mousehole,pronounced "Mowzel", is located just three miles westward around Mounts Bay from Penzance and is one of the most beautiful coastal villages in Britain. Happily, it has remained largely unspoiled by the developments of the 20th Century and it continues to present the image of the classic Cornish fishing village of bygone days. The village is centred around a nearly circular harbour protected from the force of the sea coming across Mounts Bay by two sturdy breakwaters.
Today there still remain some fishing boats based in the harbour while these are augmented by pleasure craft to make the vista of the harbour peaceful and idyllic. In Mousehole lived Dolly Pentreath, reputedly the last person who spoke the Cornish language as her natural tongue, and the language died with her some 200 years ago. A memorial to her is to be found in the churchyard of St Pol de Leon at Paul, a small village just above Mousehole.
Just offshore outside the harbour is St Clement's Isle - a small rocky islet where once an ancient hermit was said to live. A few hundred yards along the coast from the village lies a huge cave which - so some people say - gives rise to the name of the village (Mouse Hole!). While unlikely, the origin of the name continues to be a topic of much curiosity. A small and very safe beach is located in a sheltered part of the harbour which is popular with families, particularly those with small children.
Marazion is the oldest chartered town in Cornwall having been granted this status by King Henry III in 1257. The town is named in the Cornish language for its historic Market (now discontinued) - Marghas Byghan, meaning Small Market - which became corrupted in pronunciation into Marazion. Despite similarities in the name, there is no historic connection with Judaism. Today, it is a peaceful small town facing onto one of the most beautiful wide stretches of safe sandy beach in the West Cornwall. There are quaint narrow streets and interesting shops in the town, but glimpses of the sea around every corner remind the visitor of the town's dramatic neighbour - the island of St. Michael's Mount.
For those interested in sailing, there are often major National championship races which bring many hundreds of small craft to the town beach for week-long competitions - frequently of a very high international standard.
Between Penzance and Marazion lies the Marazion Marsh - an area of water and reed-beds - which is a magnet for wild birds, particularly during the Autumn migratory period. It is a very popular location with the many BirdWatchers who visit West Cornwall at these times of the year.