Penzance to Newlyn

A circular walk at Mount's Bay from the largest port town in the bay to the harbour of Cornwall's largest fishing fleet.

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The route follows the harbour from Penzance, passing the site of the Celtic chapel and remnants of the early port. The walk continues from the sea pool along the sea front to Newlyn. The return route winds through the subtropical gardens of Penzance that were created as displays of opulence during Victorian times.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.3 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Wharf Road
  • Parking: Harbour Long Stay TR182GA
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers

OS maps for this walk

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)

Highlights

  • Historic port town of Penzance
  • Freshly-landed seafood at Newlyn
  • Colourful gardens in spring and summer

Pubs on or near the route

  • Bath Inn
  • The Admiral Benbow
  • The Dolphin Tavern
  • The Globe
  • The Lugger Inn
  • The Navy Inn
  • The Tolcarne Inn
  • The Tremenheere
  • The Turk's Head
  • The White Lion

Directions

  1. Make your way out of the car park to traffic lights in front of the Wharfside shopping centre. Cross the road here and then turn left adn follow the pavement. Cross over Jennings Street and continue across the bridge and past the dry dock to reach the ticket office with a metal weighbridge in front.

    Penzance began as a fishing village which grew into a market town and port. The harbour expanded greatly in Victorian times when the railway was built.

    Penzance dry dock has been working since 1834, making it one of Europe's oldest dry docks. It was rebuilt in 1882 and the lock gates were replaced in the 20th Century.

  2. Pass in front of the weighbridge office and then bear right to the cobbled passageway to the right of the Dolphin Tavern and follow this to a junction.

    The Dolphin Tavern is one of the oldest inns in Penzance and was frequented by sailors who were recruited to fight the Spanish Armada during Tudor times. It is also said to be the first place on the British mainland where Sir Walter Raleigh smoked tobacco. The tavern is aptly named as before the sea wall was built, the cellars were flooded with seawater during storms.

  3. Cross over Coinagehall Street and then bear left for a couple of paces to the main road and reach an entrance into some gardens. Either walk along the pavement or through the gardens parallel to the road to reach a pedestrian crossing opposite the Bathing Pool sign.

    Penzance is from the Cornish "penn sans" (holy headland) which is thought to have been a reference to the mediaeval chapel of St Anthony. The chapel is thought to have been located somewhere here, possibly on the opposite side of the passageway from the Dolphin Tavern. In the 1800s the remains of the chapel was used to build a cellar and this became a boat store which was in use during the 1980s. The gardens were opened in 1933, named St Anthony Gardens to commemorate the lost chapel and contain an archway said to have been taken from the chapel site.

  4. Cross at the crossing and turn right onto the pavement. Follow this a short distance to where the pavement splits at the sea wall.

    Jubilee Pool was opened in 1935 to celebrate the silver jubilee of King George V. The pool is built on an area of rocks that had been a traditional swimming spot. The shape of the pool is carefully designed to cope with storm waves breaking against the sea walls. The pool was borrowed for use as a gun battery during WW2.

    By 1992, the pool had become dilapidated and its future was in doubt. It was rescued when the Jubilee Pool Association was formed and was restored in 1994 and is Britain’s largest surviving seawater lido. The pool was badly damaged in the 2014 storms but was restored once more and reopened again in 2016. Part of the pool will be heated by geothermal energy - the first in Britain.

  5. Where the pavement splits, bear left onto the reddish paved area along the sea wall. Follow this to the far end where a grey ramp continues ahead along the seafront.

    During storms, the sea front may be closed. This is for protection from more than a bit of spray and seaweed. If the risk of being dragged under the railings by a large wave wasn't enough, the sea picks up rocks from the beach below and hurls these over the sea wall. When the sea is rough, they can be seen scattered across the slabs after high tide and some are impressively hefty.

    Mounts Bay is a partially-enclosed body of water which is prone to a phenomenon known as seiching where the tremors from an earthquake form a standing wave which reflects back and forth between the opposite coasts. The seiche from the Lisbon Earthquake in 1755 caused a sudden 8ft rise in sea level which flooded Penzance.

  6. Continue ahead up the ramp and follow along the sea wall until you reach the end of the railings where a final flight of steps lead down to the beach.

    At low tide, an area of rock is exposed where tin was discovered. The rocks are 19ft under the sea at high tide, so a stone collar and wooden tower was constructed to keep out the water for as long as possible as the tide rose. Mining began in 1778 but progress was slow as the mine flooded each time the tide came in and needed to be pumped out before each shift. By 1790 the mine was 36 feet deep and it took four men 2 hours to pump of the mine.

    The tin ore was initially brought ashore in flat-bottomed boats known as "wherries" and this is why the area is known as Wherrytown. Later a bridge was built to the shore.

    Mining came to an abrupt end in 1798 when a ship broke free of its moorings in a storm and obliterated the wooden tower. The mine was reopened in 1836 but closed after 4 years.

  7. Descend the steps and head up the beach to join a concrete path. Bear left onto this and follow it to join the tarmac path running immediately behind the beach. Follow the path to reach a statue at the far end.

    Bathing machines were once situated along the beachfront.

    The bathing machine was a device, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, which purported "the most refined female is enabled to enjoy the advantages of the sea with the strictest delicacy". Bathers entered the small room of the machine whilst it was on the beach and once inside changed into their bathing suits. The device was then hauled out into the sea either by horses or strong locals. Once in the water, the occupants disembarked down steps from the sea side. It was considered essential that the machine blocked any view of the bather from the shore. Men and women were usually segregated, so nobody of the opposite sex might catch sight of them in their bathing suits, which (although modest by modern standards) were not considered proper clothing in which to be seen.

  8. At the end of the path, bear left to enter a car park and pass the Tolcarne Inn. Continue to reach a junction beside a small bridge with a Florence Place sign ahead.

    A settlement was recorded in this area in 1316 as Talcarne. The name is from the Cornish word tal which can mean "front" or "end" and carn which means "rock pile" (also used for a tor).

  9. At this point you may want to take an optional diversion to the left to have a quick look at Newlyn harbour and then continue the walk from here. The walk continues ahead past the Florence Place sign to the junction with the main road.

    The first record of the settlement of Newlyn is from 1279 as nulyn. As there are also records of the name as "lulyn", it is thought that the name is based on the Cornish word lyn for "pool" and that the initial part of the name was originally lu which is a Cornish word meaning "army" but here could have been used to mean "fleet".

    Newlyn is still the harbour with Cornwall's largest fishing fleet. The majority of the harbour piers date from Victorian times but the oldest part dates from before 1435.

  10. Carefully cross the road to the small lane opposite. Follow this past the junction to Mount Prospect Terrace and contine uphill to reach a junction with a very narrow lane leading uphill with a 20 mph sign.

    Corn mills were located in this area, fed by a leat that was channelled off the river and run along the side of the valley. These were still working in the 1880s but by 1909 had been demolished and the new (main) road was built.

  11. Bear left uphill past the gate of Lafrouda and follow the lane to a junction.

    Two settlements in Cornwall were both known locally as Newlyn which wasn't too much of a problem when travel involved a horse or a boat. To disambiguate, the one near Newquay became known as (St) Newlyn East whilst the one next to Penzance is sometimes referred to as Newlyn West or Newlyn-by-Penzance but generally still just "Newlyn". Despite this, there was a period where Wetherspoons proudly displayed that their fish was caught locally in the land-locked location of the former.

  12. Continue ahead onto the path marked Creeping Lane. Follow this until it emerges on a residential road.
  13. Continue ahead on the pavement until the road ends in a junction.
  14. Bear right slightly across the road to the path almost opposite, marked Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles. Keep following the path until it ends on a residential road.

    During the spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks.

    The plants get their name due to their triangular flower stems. As the name also suggests, they are members of the onion family and have a small bulb. In fact, in New Zealand they are known as "onion weed".

  15. Cross the road to the path directly opposite and follow this to a junction of paths just after a building.
  16. Turn right at the junction and follow the path until it emerges onto another path at the bottom of the hill.
  17. Turn left and keep following the path until it exits via some metal barriers onto a road.

    The Lariggan River rises on the Penwith Moors near Lanyon Quoit and also collects water from Trengwainton. A corn mill and fulling mill were located near the mouth of the river. The corn mill was converted into a serpentine works in Victorian times which eventually became steam-powered.

  18. Cross the road at the crossing and turn left. Follow the pavement and cross over the junction into the Rosevale Estate. Continue to follow the pavement to the next junction with Trewithen Road.
  19. Bear right at the junction onto Trewithen Road to keep following the pavement to reach the gates into Penlee Park on the right.
  20. Go through the gate into the park and follow the main path ahead through the park and past the tennis courts to reach a green, metal signpost at a junction of paths.
  21. Continue ahead to pass the gallery and museum and exit the park onto a road.

    Penlee House was originally built in 1865 by the wealthy Branwell family. The house and gardens were described as ″delightful″ and a ″perfect picture″ in the Cornishman Newspaper which the Branwell family also happened to own. The estate was sold to the council in 1946 so the gardens could be used as a WW2 memorial and the house was used for a museum. The cross outside the museum dates from the 11th Century and was originally located in the Green Market.

  22. Turn right onto the road to reach a pelican crossing. Cross here and follow the alleyway directly ahead between the houses to reach a lamp post in the centre.
  23. At the lamp post, turn right and follow the narrow lane until it ends in a junction.
  24. Turn left and immediately left again into Morrab Gardens. Follow the path to a fork.

    The gardens were originally part of Morrab House which was built in 1841 as the residence of a wealthy brewer. In 1889 the gardens were bought by the Penzance Corporation to provide a public park for tourists. A competition with a prize of 20 guineas was held for garden designs and the layout today is based on the winning entry by a landscape designer from London. Morrab House became an independent subscription library and the original plans for the gardens are on display in the library. The mild climate has allowed a range of subtropical plants to grow to maturity which have been sourced from across the world including the Americas, Africa and Australia. In the 1800s, exotic plants were very difficult to come by and were donated by wealthy estates who had brought back specimens from plant collecting expenditions abroad. Gardeners' Chronicle captured the excitement in 1889: "One of its features is a Palm-grove, where tourists may fancy themselves in the tropics or on Mediterranean shores."

  25. Take the left-hand path at the fork to pass to the left of the bandstand and reach a path leading uphill.

    As well as forgetting where they buried some, squirrels may also lose a quarter of their buried food to birds, other rodents and fellow squirrels. Squirrels therefore use dummy tactics to confuse thieves by sometimes just pretending to bury a nut.

  26. Bear left onto the path leading uphill then keep right at the fork to follow the major path towards the war memorial. Keep right beside the pond on the right to pass a junction leading uphill and reach a T-junction of paths immediately after. Turn left at the T-junction and follow the path uphill to reach a car park.

    Morrab Library was established in 1818, and moved here into Morrab House in 1889. It is an independent subscription library, available to members for a modest annual fee, as well as day visitors. The library has some beautiful spaces to read and research and also organises regular talks or workshops. There is an extensive collection Cornish literature, archives and local newspapers dating back to 1811 and also a significant historic photographic collection of over 15,000 prints and negatives.

    Opening times are Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am to 4.00pm. It's free to go in to have a look around and there are also free tours every Friday afternoon at 2.00pm. To use the facilities (books, study space etc.), there is a small charge for the day.

    More information about the library.

  27. Just before the car park, bear right and right again towards the fountain and pass between the fountain and cannon. Then bear right onto the path leading downhill. Where paths lead off from this to the left towards a bench, take one of these and follow the path downhill along the wall and emerge though a gate onto a lane.
  28. Continue ahead along the railing to reach a gap at the end of the railing. Go through this and pass the garages to reach a junction.

    Humpry Davy was born in Penzance in 1778 and worked in a dispensary in the town. He is commemorated by a statue next to the market hall.

    After experimenting with nitrous oxide, Davy coined the term "laughing gas" and identified its potential as an anaesthetic as well as a hangover cure!

    It is thought that consideration of why the iron floodgates at Hayle were so rapidly corroding may have been the start of Davy's scientific journey which led him to invent electrochemistry.

    Davy used electrochemistry to discover many chemical elements including potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium and he worked out that chlorine was an element and named it. He also pioneered the use of sacrificial metals to stop ships corroding. He created the first incandescent lamp, the first arc light and a safety lamp for coal miners.

    His laboratory assistant Micheal Faraday built on his work and became one of the most influential scientists in history.

  29. At the junction, cross the road to the pavement opposite and turn left. Walk uphill to a junction where there is a Regent Square sign. Turn right to follow the lane beneath the sign through the square and then a few paces further to reach a path on the right just before Regent Joinery Works.
  30. Turn right down the path and follow this to a gateway into the churchyard. Go through this and continue ahead on the gravel path to reach the church. When you reach the church, turn left onto the cobbled path to emerge through a gate onto a road.

    St Mary's Chapel is recorded in the 14th Century. This was burnt in a Spanish raid in 1595 but the chapel was not completely destroyed and a pew survived dating from 1574. The chapel was eventually repaired some time after 1664 and was enlarged in the 17th and 18th Centuries. It was demolished and replaced with the present church in 1834.

    In 1985 the suffered an arson attack which destroyed the interior including the organ, elaborate altar and work by Newlyn School artists. The organ now in the church was from St Mary's Church in Oxford.

  31. Turn left onto the road and follow it to the Egyptian House on the left, just before a junction to the right.

    The Turks Head is reputed to date from the crusades when the Turks invaded Penzance in 1233. It was the first Inn in England to be named "The Turk's Head".

    Alterations were made during the 16th Century when part of the building was burnt down during the Spanish Invasion. A smugglers tunnel lead directly to the harbour and still exists to the right of the building (which was originally larger). There was also a cell at the rear where drunks could be locked-up for the night.

  32. Cross to the pavement opposite the Egyptian House and pass the junction. Continue following the pavement on the right side of the road to reach a junction with a pedestrian crossing opposite the old Market House (now Lloyd's Bank).

    Chapel Street is thought to be the oldest in Penzance, dating from mediaeval times. It linked the market to the port, hence the inns.

    The Egyptian House dates from about 1835 and the style became popular after Napoleon's campaign in Egypt in 1798. It is a very Victorian English interpretation of Egypt which includes the Royal Coat of Arms and an eagle. It was originally a museum and geological shop and was described in an 1845 guide to Penzance as "the astonishing gaudy and eccentric Egyptian House recently built by John Lavin, mineralogist and Egyptologist". By the 1960s it had become neglected and painted over but was then painstakingly restored and repainted in something as close as possible to the original scheme. The building is now owned by the Landmark Trust and the upper floors are let as a holiday cottage.

    More about the Egyptian House

  33. Cross at the crossing and bear left to pass the bank then immediately right to join the cobbled street behind it. Keep left to follow the pedestrian terrace along the length of the main street until you reach another ramp leading down to a crossing to the Wharfside shopping centre.

    The market house (now Lloyds Bank) was built in 1837 and the basement included prison cells. The building replaced both the previous market house built in 1614 and the 17th Century coinage hall that stood alongside it.

    The street name - Market Jew - is a corruption of the Cornish Marghas Yow which refers to the name of small village near Marazion to which the street leads. It means "Thursday market".

  34. Cross the road into the shopping centre and walk through this to reach the escallators on the left. Descend to reach the crossing to the car park and complete the circular route.

    The "coinage" in the names of buildings and streets comes from an early method of measuring the purity of metal ore (assaying). Before ingots of tin were sold, a corner of the ingot (known as a "coign") was broken off. The coign was weighed and then reduced with carbon (e.g. anthracite powder) in a furnace and the amount of metal produced was also weighed. The building where the measurement was carried out became known as a Coinage Hall. A tax on refined tin was introduced in mediaeval times that was known as Coinage Tax as it was charged based on the purity of the coign.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

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