Facing shores of Mounts Bay, dominated by the granite heights of St Michael’s Mount, it is known not only for its beautiful Cornish beaches and stunning landscape – ideal for contemplative solo walkings- but also as a great literary destination.
If you are a book lover you can’t miss Penzance, this summer: home to the Penzance Literary Festival, the Hypatia Trust and a range of brilliant bookshops, it continues to attract bibliophiles from Cornwall and beyond. And if you are in the mood for a romantic stroll, Penzance – as Britain’s most Southerly large seaside town, with a unique subtropical climate- has the only Promenade in Cornwall stretching from the Quay to the adjacent fishing port of Newlyn.
You can either stroll along the pebble beach and look out to the fairy tale turrets of St Michael’s Mount lying out in the bay or wander through the vibrant Morrab Gardens, with its colourful array of subtropical plants, or even dive into the crystal waters of the deco Jubilee Pool, an elegant Art Deco lido overlooking the seafront. This little town is also noted for the best open-air amphitheatre in the region, The Minack Theatre, producing high quality plays throughout the day including classics like Shakespeare, workshops for children, and brand new productions.
What Book Lovers Do in Penzance
This lovely town has long been both an inspiration and a haven for writers. The sense that it’s a world apart from the rest of the UK means it continues to attract novelists, poets, artists and book lovers following in the footsteps of their literary heroes (the Brontë sisters, Alfred Tennyson and Dylan Thomas all having firm roots there).
Ready to be wowed? Check out the following top sites in town for an unforgettable literary experience:
It returns to historic Penzance for its 10th year on 3rd – 6th July 2019, celebrating the word in all forms – from spoken to handwritten. The festival embraces local authors, hosting a fabulous array of poetic, theatrical and musical performances as well as writing workshops and literary walks. This year it will host some leading lights of the national literary stage including Man Booker Prize-winner Alan Hollinghurst, acclaimed crime writers John Harvey and Jane Corry and the award-winning poet Kate Clanchy. Starting as merely a craft fair, the festival has transformed into a hub of diverse literary celebration for creative minds. The theme for 2019 is borderlines, highlighting creative pieces that transcend borders.
A charity dedicated to maintaining, protecting and developing the Hypatia Collection, a unique body of books, artefacts and archives (including diaries, letters and scrapbooks) that exhibit the literary, artistic and scientific works of women, so often overlooked and suppressed in written histories. Inspired by Virginia Woolf, in 2012 the Hypatia Trust launched the ‘A room of our own’ Campaign, in order to find a permanent place for the Elizabeth Teffry Collection, with this unique collection of 3000 items (now residing at The Morrab Library) about women and their lives in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Established in 1818, The Morrab is a large independent library located in the heart of the beautiful Morrab Gardens. Home to over 55,000 books including classical literature, historical titles and biographies accumulated since its opening in the 19th Century. The Jenner Room at the library exhibits an extensive Cornish collection, with some of its items dating back to pre-1801. The library also has an array of 18th and 19th Century periodicals including Cornish newspapers, Parliamentary Reports and Historic Manuscript Commission Reports. As well as its fantastic literary offerings, The Morrab also houses a collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, donated by Thomas Dawson in 1868, including coloured and black and white prints, engravings and sketches that encapsulate the French Revolution. The Morrab Library is open on Tuesday through to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
One of the ‘most loved bookshops around the world’, the aptly named Edge of the World Bookshop, run by Racheal and James Howorth, is Penzance’s leading independent book shop, filled with an array of classic, quirky and local Cornish titles in every genre. The Edge of the World Bookshop is open on Monday through to Saturday from 9am to 5:30pm and on Sunday in high season from 10am to 4pm.
Another of Penzance’s loved independent bookshops, boasting a wide collection of art, design, photography and fashion titles as well as illustrated literature, children’s books, lovely journals and notebooks and an ever-growing collection of secondhand books. Barton Books is open on Tuesday through to Friday from 10am – 4pm and on Saturday from 10am – 3pm.
Charming Accommodation in Town
A lovely 6-room Georgian townhouse, just a stone’s throw from Penzance’s historic harbour. Owner Susan Stuart fell in love with the property back in December 2012 before transforming it into the beautiful, light hotel that it is today, blending Georgian style and architecture with contemporary styles and finishes. With its elegant interiors, impressive bedrooms, boasting sink in bathtubs and waterfall showers, and delicious homemade cuisine made by Susan herself, Chapel House is the perfect destination for those wanting to explore this beautiful corner of Cornwall. Room rates at Chapel House are from £150 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes all taxes and fees.
Set in a dashing Georgian pile in the heart of historic Penzance, this posh boutique hotel is a bold and beautiful collection of 23 one-of-a-kind rooms styled by local artists and the expert house team behind the Artist Residences in Brighton, London and Oxford. Situated on Penzance’s historic Chapel Street and a stone’s throw from the sea and views across to St Michael’s Mount, it’s an ideal location for exploring West Cornwall. The adjoining rustic-industrial Cornish Barn restaurant turns seasonal local produce into tasting plates and home-smoked specials, while next door in the lounge a roaring log fire greets guests returning from a bracing coastal walk. Room rates at The Artist Residence are from £250 per night (double bedroom).