Tourist Information, Alverton Street, Penzance. 0736 2207. (posted Nov 2011): Penzance (0736 68338), Truro (0872 76825).

Until the River Tamar was bridged, Cornwall was almost an island cut off from the rest of England. It was a place apart with its own language and legends, it had rich copper and tin deposits and a cruel, desolate coastline upon which so many ships were wrecked, and lives lost.

It was after it was discovered by poets and painters that it became popular with families as a place to which they could take the children on a seaside holiday whilst parents walked the wild cliff-tops or tried their hands as Sunday painters. The county has already been given its romantic legends by Malory and Geoffrey of Monmouth. Tintagel was, they wrote, the birthplace of King Arthur and his knights rode across these moors to a part of the lost kingdom of Lyonesse at Saint Michael's Mount off Penzance. Inland the brooding landscape gave Cornwall an added air of mystery, whilst the spectacular coastline inspired tales of pirates, smugglers and wreckers. It was also geographically that piece of England where the land came to an end. Recently the area has chosen to revert to the old Cornish name of Penwith. 'Pen' meaning a head or headland and 'Penwith' is an extreme end. As a holiday resort it has 'more winter daylight' than any other part of Britain and enjoys mild winters, early springs and temperate summers. It offers wonderful walks for the energetic along a coastline which dips and rises into and out of remote bays and coves, beaches, and enough to keep a family amused when the sun goes. There are two main towns where you can make a base, Penzance, and St Ives - an art colony since Whistler and Sickert 'found it' over a century ago.

Penzance is not to be missed if only because Cornwall's marvellously varied main line ends here. Wherever you stay in Cornwall you will benefit from a ticket allowing you unlimited travel on the main line and four branches for a week. Also the port for the Scillies, Penzance boasts the only promenade in the whole of Cornwall and was probably the first of the county's resorts. Penzance seems, at first sight, to be almost surprised to find itself a resort at all. It does not go in for strings of electric lights and tableaux along its esplanade, its beaches are modest and it keeps up its important business of supplying the Scilly Isles by ship and helicopter, as well as being the distribution centre when it comes to sending the early spring flowers and market garden produce to London. It was the birthplace of Sir Humphrey Davy, the world-famous chemist and inventor of the miner's safety lamp, and of Maria Branwell, mother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte; it was attacked and burned by the Spanish in 1595; it prospered as a tin and copper stannary town and, for some reason, it was from the minstrel's gallery at the Union Hotel that the first announcement was made of the victory of the Battle of Trafalgar, and the death of Nelson.


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These rights and privileges were resented by some of 'The Town' who rebelled against 'The Gown' and many of those rights were eventually abandoned.

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