Mousehole to Penzance
Cornwall Coast Path

Cornwall Information & Accommodation Guide

Mousehole to Penzance 3.6 miles (5.8 km)

This section of the coast path takes you from one of the most picturesque fishing villages in Cornwall, past a tidal swimming pool, to the Penlee Lifeboat Station, through a Site of Special Scientific Interest, passing rocky beaches and the home of a large fishing fleet to a historic port with an Art Deco swimming pool.

1. Start the walk on the road overlooking the harbour and pier.

Mousehole, (pronounced 'mowzel') is famous for its narrow streets, tiny harbour and its annual Christmas lights. Its name comes from a cave in the cliffs nearby. Until the 16th century it was one of the main ports on Mount's Bay, the other being Marazion. Mousehole is believed to have been the landing place of the Knights of St John when they returned from the Holy Land. The poet, Dylan Thomas called it the prettiest village in England. It is possible that Mousehole was the inspiration for his village of Llaregub, in 'Under Milk Wood'. Dylan Thomas was so fond of Mousehole that he and Caitlin Macnamara spent their honeymoon here in The Lobster Pot, a guest house, after marrying at the Penzance Registration Office.

2. Looking offshore you will notice a small island, St Clement's Isle.

St Clement's Isle lies 380 yd (350 metres) offshore and is believed to have once been the home of a hermit. The stone structure on the isle, known as the Pepperpot, was erected in 1830 and is inscribed '1830 J A Halse Lord of This Manor'. Between the island and the harbour mouth there are a number of rocks just below the surface of the water and the more obvious Shag Rock.

3. Follow the road above the harbour towards the car park. Veer left to leave the harbour and enter the car park. The official coast path passes a row of cottages before entering an alleyway on the left and then climbs with a sharp turn left and up to Parade Hill. Turn right when you reach the main road.

However, you may prefer to take an alternative route to stay closer to the coast for the first part of this walk. Walk to the end of the car park where you will find a small footpath beside a stony beach. Continue along the path passing a building on your left and after a short distance you will notice a huge tidal rock pool (swimming pool) on your right.

A short distance further, looking seawards, the rocky point with numerous rock pools is Tavis Vor.

4. Continue on this path until it forks. Take the path uphill to the left. To continue on the lower path takes you to a dead end.

5. After ascending the path, turn right and walk along the pavement beside The Parade.

6. The Parade gives way to Cliff Road. Continue along the pavement.

The coast here is popular with anglers with several good shore marks.

You soon reach the promontory of Penlee Point. It is from the Cornish words 'penn' meaning 'headland' and 'legh' meaning 'stone-slab. In 1990 Penlee Point was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geological interest.

Just after Penlee Point is the former Penlee Lifeboat Station. This station was opened in 1913. On 19 December 1981, the coaster, the Union Star got into difficulties as it made its way between Holland and Ireland, on its maiden voyage. In terrible conditions, with the wind gusting up to 100 mph and waves up to 60 feet (18 m), the RNAS Culdrose Sea King helicopter, sent to aid the Union Star, was unable to winch any of the crew to safety, and despite the appalling conditions the Penlee Lifeboat, the Solomon Browne, was launched. In line with the custom that in difficult operations only one crew member per family was selected for a rescue, Coxswain Trevelyan Richards selected seven men to accompany him. All eight of the lifeboat crew aboard were lost in the rescue attempt, as were the eight people on the Union Star. In 1983 the lifeboat was moved to Newlyn Harbour, still keeping the name of Penlee Lifeboat Station. Today, the disused station stands as a memorial to the brave crew of the Solomon Browne who gave their lives in the service of others. A stone plaque names the eight men who were lost. Annually, on the 19th December, Mousehole switches off its Christmas lights for one hour in remembrance of the disaster. This lifeboat station holds occasional open days.

On the Mousehole side of the disused Penlee Lifeboat Station, adjacent to the slipway, is a popular shore mark. This is approached by a small footpath on the south side of the railings which leads to the sea wall and Bell Rock. Species found here include plaice, dab, whiting, coalfish, codling, pouting, dogfish, mackerel, conger, pollack, gurnard and red mullet.

7. The coast path continues along Cliff Road. Just beyond the Penlee Lifeboat Station the rocky area below you is known as Roskilly.

8. A little further on you will see a row of flat roofed houses on your left.

For many years, these houses were occupied by quarrymen and their families. They were formerly known as the 'Welsh houses', referring to the men from South Wales who came to work here. In the area behind these houses are the flooded remains of the Penlee Quarry. Originally known as Gwavas Quarry it was opened in 1882 by James Runnalls of Penzance. Its stone was used in many places including the building of the new road between Tolcarne and Penzance. In its heyday Penlee Quarry was a major enterprise. Twice per day at 12 noon and 4.30pm the‘quarry guns’ would sound warning that blasting was due to begin.

9. Continue past these houses.

If you would like a small detour to Skilly Beach look for a small path off to the right which leads down onto the sea wall.

10. Take the path down towards the sea and then turn right. As you walk carefully along the wide sea wall, you soon reach Skilly Beach.

When Penlee Quarry was open anyone in the vicinity of Skilly beach was required to shelter when the siren sounded and often they would witness stones raining into the sea.

Seals are frequently seen bottling here. They appear to be curious about people and dogs. The beach consists of pebbles and there are good rock pools. Snorkelling is popular here.

11. Retrace your steps to climb back up the path to Cliff Road. and turn right. Walk along the pavement towards Newlyn for a short distance. Look for a path leading to your right. Take the right turn onto the tarmac track.

As you walk along this stretch of path you will notice the remains of industrial activity. Stone from Penlee Quarry was transported along here in large containers on rails, pulled by an engine to the south pier in Newlyn, where it was loaded onto boats. Early on the containers were pulled by a locomotive called 'Penlee', also known as 'Janner's Engine'. Later, in the 1960s, six diesel locomotives were required for hauling the stone. The quarry closed in the late 1980s but many of its buildings along the road between Newlyn and Mousehole remained derelict and it was only after a public petition that they were removed in 1993.

You will pass a small beach known as Breakwater Beach.

12. Continue along the path which can sometimes be quite wet and muddy.

You soon arrive at a hardstanding, formerly a car park, which is home to the Ocean Pride, the only remaining Peakes built counter stern lugger in existence. An appeal has been launched to restore her to her former glory.

The beach below this hardstanding has several names, Newlyn, Bowjey or South Pier Beach and Sandy Cove. It consists of grey sand, shingle and stones. Dogs are allowed all year round. Good snorkelling at high tide.

13. After looking at the Ocean Pride walk back across the car park to exit at the gate and walk up the slope back onto the road. You are now on Fore Street. Continue along the road until you reach the short one-way system. Bear left uphill onto Higher Green Street where there is a pavement.

Not far from here, on Fore Street, is the house with probably the smallest window in the UK. (Thanks to @Throughthegaps for this information)

To your left is the beginning of the very steep, Bowjey Hill. Bowjey is the Cornish word for a 'cow house'. Higher Green Street meets the main road again.

14. Pass the Fisherman's Arms public house. Look below to see the harbour open up in front of you.

From this location you can see the whole harbour, once Britain's third largest fishing harbour.

Newlyn was home to a post-Impressionist art movement, the Newlyn School. With the coming of the railway to Penzance in 1877, a number of artists settled in the area during the 1880s including Stanhope Forbes and Frank Bramley. Their work depicted rural life and local fishermen.

The South Pier which you saw from Sandy Cove, is to your right. It has a lighthouse and is home to a Tidal Observatory. The Ordnance Survey use the readings taken at the red and white building for the mean (average) sea level used on their maps. To the left of the South Pier is Newlyn Slip. Seals are often seen inside the harbour.

Below you is a small quay. This dates from the medieval period and is first mentioned in 1437.

The modern quay in the centre of the harbour is the Mary Williams Pier.

To your left is the North Pier.

15. Walk down the hill along Cliff Road and onto the Strand. Newlyn Fish Cellar was located behind the present-day Smugglers Restaurant.

On your right you will see the Louisa McGrigor Memorial Monument.

16. Continue along the path.

You pass the new Penlee Lifeboat Station. A lifeboat station was originally opened in Newlyn in 1908 but was only in service until 1913. In 1983, the Penlee Lifeboat Station was opened in Newlyn.

17. As you continue along the path you pass many of the Newlyn Fish Market buildings on your right.

Newlyn has a busy fish market and the fishing fleet still brings in one of the largest catches in England. The species of fish caught nowadays are different to those which the port was formerly famous for but the strong export trade still exists with much of the catch being exported to be sold in Europe.

Newlyn holds an annual fish festival in August.

The Pilchard Works, or to give it its correct name, British Cured Pilchards Ltd, opened in 1905 and was the last remaining Cornish salt pilchard factory, when it ceased production in 2005. Pilchards were salted, pressed and exported to Enrico Borzone in Italy, a practice which had endured here for over four centuries, with 'Salacche Inglesi' (Cornish salt pilchards) being an important staple food in a Catholic country, where fish were eaten every Friday.

The company continues to make and sell three types of tinned traditional, unsalted Cornish pilchard fillets but from a new, modern premises. The old Pilchard Works has now been converted into accommodation and can be found on Creeping Lane in the Tolcarne area of Newlyn. If you wish you can make a short detour to view the outside of the building. The building still bears the name of the company, British Cured Pilchards.

The War Memorial stands outside the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen at the entrance to North Pier. It was dedicated c.1920. The stonework is by local stonemason Mr Snell and the bronze sculpture is the work of L. S. Merrifield. The Mission provides welfare and support to fishermen and their families.

18. Shortly after passing the entrance to Newlyn Harbour's North Pier, look for Jack Lane on your right and turn right onto it. Follow it over the bridge which crosses the Newlyn Coombe River.

Sometimes you may see swans here. The view between the houses to the sea is very picturesque. Follow the road round to the right along Tolcarne Terrace to pass a pub on your right. You now have a sea view.

Until the 1880s the road along Tolcarne Terrace was the main road to and from Penzance.

19. Walk through the car park. Ahead of you is a bronze statue.

The statue depicts a fisherman casting a rope. It is a monument to honour dead fishermen. Since 1980 over twenty local men have died fishing. Money for the statue was raised locally. The life-size bronze casting was made by local sculptor, Tom Leaper.

20. Follow the level path along the sea front.

The beach here is known as Tolcarne Beach. It is stony with little sand. The annual Newlyn Raft Race is held here. Just offshore is Queen's Rock, a small island (Grid Ref: SW 4645 2903). Beside the path is Newlyn Green.

The area of water here is known as Gwavas Lake due to its relatively calm water and sheltered position. This natural protection led to many fishermen using this area as a preferred landing site. The word Gwavas derives from the Cornish words 'gwaf' meaning winter, and 'bos' meaning abode. It translates as 'winter farm'.

21. Continue along this level path.

The Green was formerly the Foster-Bolitho Gardens, . In the winter of 2013, this area was severely damaged by storms. This event precipitated the forming of a community group called FOBGANG (Friends of Bolitho Gardens and Newlyn Green), who have encouraged the planting of native flora in the gardens for the benefit of wildlife and insects. Newlyn School have played an important part in this project.

22. Continue along the path.

After a short distance you reach the bowling green, home of the Penlee Bowling Club and a children's play area. In the sea you pass Lariggan Rocks and the Wherry Rocks as you enter the Wherrytown district of Penzance. Prior to 1934, Wherrytown was part of Madron parish. Just beyond this area there was once a serpentine works, the first built here in Penzance on the Esplanade. Three Penzance businessmen acquired the old Wherry Mine buildings and produced serpentine items which were shipped from Penzance harbour.

The factory was visited by several distinguished visitors including Prince Albert, who visited in 1846. The visit resulted in an order for mantelpieces and pedestals for Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Later, a larger factory was constructed which, in 1848, employed 37 men.

Together with royal patronage and The Great Exhibition of 1851, at which a number of serpentine products were exhibited, the interest in serpentine continued to increase.

London businessmen formed a partnership with the owners of the Wherrytown Serpentine Works in 1851 to create the London and Penzance Serpentine Company but in 1852 the London businessmen bought control of the company.

Several serpentine works existed in Penzance including the Wherrytown Serpentine Works and Drew's, whose factory was still in production in 1876 when he advertised his products in Penzance's first tourist guide. His grandfather had begun carving serpentine in 1828 and was the first to see the commercial value of this unique stone.

At one point in the latter part of the 1800s, there were eight other small serpentine works in Penzance in addition to Drew's establishment.

When the company closed their factory, the old works was then used as a drill hall, a fish preserving factory, a garage for GWR motors and, in 1896, as a base for the soldiers of the Berkshire Regiment, who were sent to put down the Newlyn riots. The building was then demolished and the ground became the Bedford Bolitho Gardens, gifted to Penzance Town on November 9th 1912.

Wherry Town was a hive of activity at that time with small shops set up by the former workers from the large serpentine works.

In 1906, Charles Stevens and his two sons still worked serpentine from two small cottages located on the Western Esplanade.

23. Continue along the path. Across the road on your left is Penzance boating lake.

24. Cross over the Lariggan Stream.

Water used to be collected in water carts from the Lariggan stream and sold to the local inhabitants by the pitcher at a price of a farthing.

Offshore are the Lariggan Rocks, of interest to geologists for their actinolite and 'blue elvan'. Pebbles on the beach are from a wide variety of rocks and minerals, including quartz, moonstone, garnet, agate, greenstone, granite, schists and serpentine.

Bodilly's Mill, a large flour mill, was located in this area, built in 1874, near to the site of the Wheal Wherry Mine engine house. By 1906, the mill was disused and it was demolished in 1920. The site was then used as a bus depot by Western National before becoming a Lidl supermarket in . The site is once again being redeveloped after Lidl moved to a new store.

On 7th October 1880, during a severe storm, 50 feet (15 metres) of the seawall protecting the granary was demolished by the sea and several buildings were flooded. The road between Newlyn and Penzance was washed away during the same storm.

The Ash Wednesday storm of 1962, wrought further havoc on this area, with waves higher than the houses battering the buildings for almost a mile. This seems to be becoming a more regular event with the winter of 2013 causing severe damage from Newlyn and right along the promenade.

Wherry Rocks are offshore. If you look further into the bay you will notice a red and black stripy post standing in the sea. This is Gear Pole and it marks the location of Gear Rocks. The steamer, Taycraig, was wrecked on Gear Rocks in January 1936. The storm was so severe that parts of the wreckage were thrown onto the Promenade. The vessel was not salvageable. Nine crew were saved by the Penlee Lifeboat. The Coxswain, Frank Blewett, was awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for rescuing the Taycraig's crew.

In 1778 the Wherry Mine was opened just offshore. A mineshaft was sunk below the high tide mark and a stone breakwater constructed capped by timber to protect it from the sea.

Thirteen years later, in 1791 a steam engine was installed onshore to drain the mine. During its short life, the mine produced tin ore to a value of £70,000. In 1798 an American ship broke its moorings and drifted onto the shafthead, demolishing it. This was not the end of the mine. It reopened in 1836 but finally closed a few years later. The idea was resurrected in 1967 with a temporary quay built to the nearby Lariggan rocks.

25. Turn right and pass the toilets to climb up the steps onto the western end of Penzance Promenade.

The Promenade is the only one in Cornwall. Before the promenade was built the seafront area was known as the Esplanade. The Promenade was constructed in stages during the 1800's with the Western end finished in 1893. Railings were added for the first time in 1865. A plaque, dated 1896, commemorates the extension and opening of the western end of the promenade, showing the names of those responsible for its construction - W.J. Bazeley - mayor, J. Caldwell - chairman, G.H. Small - engineer and A. Carkeek - contractor.

26. The path passes a skate park.

This area of Mount's Bay contains the remains of a submerged forest with fossilised trees sometimes visible after storms and during spring tides. Mesolithic stone tools have been found here which suggest that the area was occupied at the time when the forest was active over 6000 years ago.

27. Continue along the promenade.

To the left, at the bottom of Alexandra Road, was the site of the Winter Gardens, Penzance's premier nightspot from the 1960s until its closure in the 1980s. The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Jethro Tull. Queen, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Blondie, Dexys Midnite Runners, Genesis, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Stranglers, Sex Pistols and David Bowie are just a few of the acts who played at the Winter Gardens. Queen were paid £25 for their first performance at the Winter Gardens. The site has now been broken up into a variety of units but it stood in the area where the Thai restaurant now stands.

28. Continue following the promenade.

On your left, the building which is now the Grand Casino Amusements, was formerly the Pavilion Theatre. The theatre opened in 1911. It boasted a roof garden and cafe.

The small road on your left is Cornwall Terrace.

In 1818, public baths were constructed on the Esplanade near here. The baths were enlarged over the years under the management of several owners until Norton's baths were removed in 1883.

29. A little further along the promenade and you are opposite the Queens Hotel.

This was built in 1861 and was patronised by HM The Queen of The Netherlands, amongst other royal patrons. On the promenade, opposite the hotel, a new bandstand was built in 1905. The beach was sandy and punctuated by breakwaters.

The grey, stony beach continues below you.

You are now approaching the Jubilee Pool, built on Battery Rocks. Chimney Rocks lie in front of you on the western side of Battery Rocks. For centuries the Battery Rocks were a defensive fortification for protecting the port. Henry VIII built a small fort (barbican) here in the sixteenth century equipped with a bronze cannon. This piece of ordnance was taken during a Spanish raid.

In 1740, during the Napoleonic Wars a battery of 30-pounders was sited here and Battery Rocks were fortified again during the Second World War, when the bathing pool and adjacent area became an anti-aircraft battery operated by the army and Home Guard. Nowadays, Cornwall Wild Swimmers swim off Battery Rocks on Christmas Eve.

The Battery Rocks area is believed to be the 'holy headland' which gave Penzance its name. A chapel is believed to have stood on the headland more than one thousand years ago.

The Jubilee Pool was designed in the early 1930s and opened in 1935 to celebrate the Jubilee of King George V. It is a remarkable example of an Art Deco lido. It has recently undergone a major refurbishment. You can make a short detour to walk around the back of the pool, where you can see the Penzance War Memorial. This was built in 1922 on the site of the old battery.

On the easterly point of Battery Rocks is Carn Olven.

Continue along Battery Road. You will pass the entrance to the south pier of Penzance harbour.

This part of the harbour consists of a gated, inner harbour (wet dock). The gate is open at every high tide - from two hours before and until one hour afterwards.

In 1803, Penzance harbour was the home to the very first lifeboat in Cornwall. However, due to launch problems in 1862, the lifeboat was moved in 1867 to a new lifeboat house in Wherrytown near the bottom of Alexandra Road. The lifeboat station moved back to Penzance harbour in 1885.

30. Continue along the footpath.

On your left, the large cream coloured building was once the Trinity House Lighthouse Museum and the supply and service centre for lighthouses, lightships and buoys throughout the South West. Trinity House acquired the site in 1861 and built workshops to construct the Wolf Rock Lighthouse. Granite from Lamorna Cove was cut and prepared then loaded on to barges to be taken to Wolf Rock. The tramway can still be seen below the quay.

31. A short walk further and on your left you will notice a dry dock and shipyard.

The dry dock was built in 1814.

32. Cross the road to the pavement that crosses the Ross Bridge.

This swing bridge opens to allow vessels through Abbey Basin into the dry dock. In 1881, the bridge was named after Charles Ross, a former MP and banker. It was rebuilt in 1981.

On your left is Abbey Basin, built during the early 1800s. Its quays and slipways are Grade II listed structures.

After walking past Abbey Basin, you can see the Old Lifeboat House on your left. Now a restaurant, it was home to the Penzance lifeboat from 1885 to 1917 and is a Grade II listed building.

33. Continue along the footpath passing the large car park on your right. The entrance to the Albert Pier is a short walk away through the car park.

The Albert Pier was formerly called Harbour Pier (1845). In 1846 Prince Albert landed here during a visit to Cornwall and the pier was renamed to mark his visit. The pier was extended in 1853. The pier is a listed structure. The walk ends in the car park near the bus station.

To walk up into Penzance you can take the steps or escalator and walk through the Wharfside Shopping Centre to Market Jew Street.

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