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Thanks to Gilbert and Sullivan, pirates are the first thing most people associate with the Cornwall community of Penzance. However, by the time the duo had penned their famous opera in 1879, Penzance had already made its own claim to fame as a peaceful seaside resort. No major Cornwall town lies farther west than Penzance, 275 miles southwest of London and situated far enough south for palm trees to grow around its tranquil church. As many of the town's bus lines close down after the summer tourism season, private vehicles are the easiest way to explore Penzance and its surrounding seaside communities.
Who to Book With
Two Europcar branches stand next to each other in Penzance town centre, while an Enterprise franchise is located on the town's outskirts. Penzance also contains a few independent dealerships, such as Tucker Car Hire. Many of these companies accept online bookings, which are the cheapest option, especially when made in advance. Some visitors also choose to obtain vehicles at Newquay Airport, the nearest to Penzance, then drive the 41 miles into town.
Best Time to go
As Great Britain's southwesternmost region, Cornwall enjoys one of the country's mildest and sunniest climates. However, summer remains the busiest tourism season in Penzance and the rest of Cornwall, even though temperatures aren't always as warm as in the rest of southern England. Although public transport may not be as widely available in Penzance after the summer ends, spring and autumn visitors will enjoy good bargains on hotel rooms and private vehicle rentals. Snow and frost are rarely seen in winter.
Need to Know Essentials
Presentation of the following documents is mandatory for claiming private rental vehicles:
- An International Driving Permit or valid driving license for the United Kingdom
- A secondary form of photo identification, such as a passport
- The same credit card the vehicle was reserved with
- Confirmation of the initial reservation
A new duel carriageway near Newquay should reduce the five to six hours it currently takes to drive the 275 miles between London to Penzance along the M5, M4 and the A30. Summer traffic jams are the biggest obstacle motorists will encounter while driving around this picturesque part of Cornwall. The nearest large city, Plymouth, lies 75 miles east of Penzance.
Although much of Penzance is walkable, buses and cars offer the best ways to access the entire town and surrounding region, unless you have a car. None of the United Kingdom's mainland rail station lies farther south than Penzance's, while the closest airport is 41 miles away near Newquay. Ferry journeys from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly take about two hours and 40 minutes. Local bus services are reduced on Sundays and after the summer tourism season.
Penzance's rail station, the southernmost in mainland Britain, stands near the harbour on Market Jew Street. The Cornish Rail Line's western terminus is found here, and First Great Western is the region's main rail provider. Arriving to Penzance by train takes roughly two hours from Plymouth, four hours from Bristol and less than five and a half hours from London.
One of the town's leading taxi providers, Penzance Taxi Company, not only offers reasonable fares for journeys around the town, but also gives two-hour guided tours of the surrounding West Penwith area. Daytime journeys between Penzance and Newquay Airport cost around £89.50.
Many of the routes on Penzance's First Bus Cornwall service are not available after summer or on Sundays. FirstDay passes allowing passengers unlimited travel across the region for a day cost around £3.55 each, while FirstWeek passes cost about £13. Megabus and National Express tickets for the eight to nine-hour bus journey to London Victoria can be had for as little as £1 during special promotions. CrossCountry buses are also available for journeys across Great Britain.
Penzance is just one of several scenic Cornwall communities worth exploring, and many of the region's other worthwhile attractions are just short drives away. The neighbouring Mount's Bay villages of Mousehole and Newlyn are no more than four miles outside of Penzance. Although Sennen Beach, nine miles away, can be crowded in summer, it is still a recommended daytrip getaway.
Penzance - This may be Great Britain's southernmost major town, but the smaller town of Newlyn lies even further south, four miles from Penzance. Newlyn may be most famous for its tidal observatory, its late 19th century artists’ colony and the stream of intimate inns along its fishing harbour.
Mousehole - None other than Dylan Thomas once referred to Mousehole, 2.5 miles south of Penzance, as England's loveliest village. As part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Mousehole enjoys the same status as a national park. Yellow lichen grows on the many historic houses, while the sheltered Mount's Bay beach is a safe family swimming spot. Due to Mousehole's extremely narrow roads, motorists should park their vehicles before walking into the village.
Sennen Beach - Located 9 miles from Penzance, is often known as Whitesands Bay. This mile-long beach boasts a shallow valley and a stream at its centre, while sheltered sand dunes provide a peaceful sunbathing atmosphere. Land's End, mainland Great Britain's westernmost point, lies just around the corner from this beloved beach.