With its far-reaching views and rich history, this part of the Cornish coast has something for everyone. Words Lesley Gillilan.
At the southwest tip of England – as far as you can go – this is an area that isn’t really on the way to anywhere. After Penzance, there’s nothing but Lands’ End and the wild Atlantic coasts of the Penwith peninsula. And for many of the people who fall instantly in love with this far-flung place, that’s part of the attraction. But though it’s out of the way, it’s not off the radar.
St Michael’s Mount, Newlyn fishing harbour and the open-air Minack Theatre are some of Cornwall’s most iconic landmarks, yet here they all are, sharing the same sea air, within spitting distance of Penzance. To the mix, add pirates, smugglers, rocky little coves, sandy beaches, World Heritage mining sites and an artists’ community that rivals St Ives’. Next door, cosy little Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) – a village once described by Dylan Thomas as the prettiest in England – will attract huge crowds this month when its 13th-century fishing harbour puts on the annual Christmas lights display.
Mousehole is more photogenic, but Penzance is the region’s heart. A medieval port, it’s part market town, part holiday resort. Walk down Chapel Street and admire the elegant Georgian houses and quirky antique shops. Then travel west along the mile-long promenade which curves around Mount’s Bay, to Newlyn – one of the UK’s busiest fishing ports.
Further on, Mousehole’s fishing cottages and old pilchard sheds crowd around its harbour walls. Property in Mousehole and its seafaring neighbours is cheaper han in St Ives. The same landscapes and historic settings, but better sunsets at half the price.
WHERE TO BUY
The best areas of Penzance are to the southwest of the town centre. In prime streets (South Parade, St Mary’s Place, Regent Square), you will pay around £800,000 for a detached house with sea views – similar properties in St Ives go for around £1.5 million.
A five-bedroom Georgian townhouse on Chapel Street is on the market at £550,000, or on Clarence Street , a four-bedroom house is on offer at £250,000. In Newlyn, Victorian houses with sea views sell for around £300,000. In Mousehole, a two-bedroom fishing cottage is on the market for about £200,000.
The area offers public gardens (including the National Trust’s Trengwainton outside Penzance), arts venues and galleries (the Exchange in Penzance and the Newlyn Gallery ) and some of the best restaurants in Cornwall. Mousehole’s top fish restaurant has to be 2, Fore Street.
Although connections are good – both the A30 and the mainline Paddington-to-Penzance railway line end here – London’s a six-hour drive, or five hours by train. On a busy day it can take over two hours to get out of Cornwall. The nearest city is Plymouth in Devon. You could also commute to Falmouth or Truro (26 miles away). There are good state secondary schools – Mount’s Bay and Humphrey Davy – and excellent primary schools. This is a great place to bring up children.
PAY A VISIT
The Old Coastguard, Mousehole
This once old-fashioned seaside hotel was taken over in 2011 by the same team that runs the popular Gurnard’s Head near St Ives. They’ve turned it into a gastro-bar and improved the rooms. It’s right on the sea, with views of St Michael’s Mount and the harbour. Enjoy it from the terrace or the sun room. The centre of the village is five minutes’ walk along the coast path. B&B for two from around £110 per night.
CAN YOU AFFORD IT?
Average house price source: Rightmove [August 2022]