Holiday in West Cornwall
To our west, Penwith offers all that makes Cornwall distinctive - its moorland, Celtic remains, surfing beaches, sailing harbours and fishing villages - in one compact and varied peninsula.
In places, you'll find the surfing culture of the rugged Atlantic coast and the sailing and beach culture of the more sheltered Channel coast are only 15 miles apart. You can pick and choose from a chain of family-friendly beaches that run all the way from Porthleven to the English Heritage site of St Michael's Mount, near Penzance and the miniature harbour of Mousehole.
Spoilt for choice from top-quality beaches
Across the peninsula, meanwhile, a network of surfing beaches runs from Portreath to the most westerly point of Carbis Bay. There are plenty of good equipment shops we can recommend, such as Down The Line on the Hayle Estuary. Stop anywhere if you are an expert, but if you want to learn, ask the wave-masters at the Gwithian Academy of Surf.
St Ives has the iconic Porthmeor Beach, but if that is too busy aim for Sennen Cove, on the Land's End peninsula, and especially Gwenver Beach - hard to find but well worth the effort.
A permanent festival of art, history and drama
If culture is your passion, though, there is plenty in Penwith to seduce. The Celtic influence and quality of light have drawn generations of brilliant artists and sculptors to the area: Barbara Hepworth, Elizabeth Frink, Patrick Heron and Bernard Leach, to name only the obvious. Galleries like The Great Atlantic Mapworks in St Just and the Porthminster and Belgrave at St Ives show the torch has passed to worthy successors.
As for those with a fascination for the past, there's an extraordinary span of visible history here, from Stone Age to Industrial Revolution. On the Land's End peninsula alone, you can condense 10,000 years into a day by visiting the standing stones at Lamorna, the Iron Age village of Carn Euny and the tin mines around St Just - then see how a successful 19th century Cornish entrepreneur spent his money in the beautiful garden of Trengwainton. 98 acres of exotic shrubs - eucalyptus, rhododendron, camellia and climbing hydrangea - many of which burst into bloom as Cornwall's famous Spring Garden Festival opens.
One of our favourite evening trips is a visit to the Minack, an open air theatre 300 ft up on the cliffs near Porthcurno. But you could spend it every bit as enjoyably dining in St Ives and wandering round this gem: beach capital, art centre, home of Tate West. An authentic time-warp of cobbled streets and whitewashed cottages interspersed with unusual shops.
It sums up Penwith: unexpected, unforgettable - and close.
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St Michaels Mount.
The Tate St Ives.