Steeped in history, the charming town of Penryn is a fantastic choice for your next Cornish holiday. Quieter than its famous neighbour, Falmouth, there is a labyrinth of olde-worlde cobbled streets to explore, beautiful scenery to take in, a thriving art community to discover and friendly locals to meet.
A holiday in Penryn puts you in a prime position for the myriad of attractions and activities West Cornwall has to offer. There are golden, sandy beaches nearby, enchanting walks along the rugged coastline and Helford River, plus plenty of opportunities for a traditional Cornish cream tea.
Discover some of our favourite places which make this town so unique with our guide to things to do in Penryn.
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Food and drink
About the town:
One of the oldest market towns in Cornwall, the picturesque port of Penryn boasts a fascinating timeline of architecture with buildings dating back to Tudor, Jacobean and Georgian periods. Having been designated as a conservation area, it retains much of its heritage and charm with attractive granite buildings steeply sloping along the cobbled streets down to the Rivers Fal and Penryn.
Take a stroll and discover Penryn’s special character; there are more scheduled ancient monuments here than anywhere else in Cornwall. Look out for an old water pump in a tiny secluded square, an attractive clock tower and a fascinating museum in the town hall.
Located at the head of the Penryn River, this charismatic Cornish town has a proud history as a medieval port, trading fish, tin, copper and granite. Some of the granite was used in the construction of London Bridge! Today it is a centre for sailing, so you’ll find boatyards and chandlers, as well as some wonderful galleries, cafes, bars and shops to enjoy. Penryn is also home to the Tremough Campus - this campus is used by both the University of Exeter in Cornwall and University College Falmouth.
A few miles downriver is the famous seaport of Falmouth with its sandy beaches, maritime heritage, coastal walks, art galleries, shops and harbourside pubs and restaurants. And should you wish to explore further afield, then the cathedral city of Truro, the surfing beaches of the north coast and the Lizard Peninsula are all within easy reach.
Just under 3 miles from Penryn is the Cornish seaside town of Falmouth, home to four beaches, each with something different to offer families, walkers, swimmers, wildlife-watchers and activity enthusiasts.
Gyllyngvase Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Cornwall with its wide arc of golden sand and inviting sea. Popular with families, there are great amenities and it is backed by the award-winning Gylly Beach Café. There is RNLI Lifeguard cover between May and September and a variety of water sports available, plus it is also linked via the South West Coast Path to Swanpool Beach and Nature Reserve.
At Swanpool Beach, there is an excellent water sports centre where you can try your hand at dinghy sailing, kayaking or windsurfing. During the summer months, there is a bouncy castle on the beach for smaller children and a café offering a great selection of drinks, sandwiches and ice creams. Just behind the sand is a crazy golf course and Swanpool lake which plays host to over 100 species of bird.
Castle Beach is the most northerly of all the Falmouth beaches and is situated alongside Pendennis Point. At low tide, it is excellent for rock pooling as well as diving and snorkelling. There is a seasonal café with a large sundeck area and when the tide is out, you can walk along the sand to the adjoining Tunnel Beach.
Slightly further afield, 2 miles from Falmouth town centre, is Maenporth Beach - a popular spot for sunbathing, rock pooling, fishing and boating. There are excellent family facilities including a café and a range of water sports to enjoy, plus there are some superb coastal walking opportunities towards the Helford River area.
Please note, there is a seasonal dog ban on all of Falmouth’s beaches, from Easter Day until October 31st.
One of the best ways to get to know Penryn is to walk the Heritage Trail. Stop off at the Penryn Town Museum which has free entry and browse historic photos of the town and toys from days gone by, discover fascinating stories from the past and admire artefacts from the 13th-century Glasney College, Cornwall's famous medieval monastery.
For a Penryn attraction that only the locals know about, visit Enys Gardens and Tea Rooms, said to be the oldest gardens in Cornwall. Within these secret 30-acre gardens you’ll find an open meadow known as Parc Lye where the spring show of bluebells is simply breathtaking. There are also ponds, a waterwheel and a gorgeous New Zealand garden to discover, and a café serving a tempting selection of freshly baked cakes and scones to go with a pot of tea.
From Penryn, you can catch the Falmouth Water Taxi and take a scenic trip on the river to a variety of picture-postcard villages and attractions including Flushing, Mylor, Falmouth and St Mawes. Perhaps you could stop at a riverside pub such as the 13th-century Pandora Inn or visit the National Trust’s Trelissick House and Gardens. It’s a far more relaxing way to travel and you can enjoy the sights along the way. We recommend booking in advance to guarantee your place.
In Falmouth, just under 3 miles away, there are a host of other exciting Cornish attractions to visit. The National Maritime Museum is a popular choice for a taste of Cornwall’s sea-faring history, or you could head to the magnificent fortress of Pendennis Castle and soak up the spectacular seascapes.
The food and drink:
There are several restaurants, cafés and pubs in Penryn, including the 200-year-old Kings Arms, known for its delicious Sunday roasts. The Thirsty Scholar and Seven Stars Pub are also popular haunts for a pint of local ale, hearty pub grub and a great atmosphere.
When you fancy something a little special, Muddy Beach serves breakfasts, lunches and evening meals with panoramic views over the river. Relax in contemporary interiors inspired by Scandinavian interior design and dine on the likes of creamy bacon and seafood chowder with Da Bara bread and West Country game ragu with pangritata and tagliatelle pasta. Everyone is welcome here, including dogs.
Alternatively, if you’re longing to relax in the comfort of your Penryn holiday home, pop along to the local’s favourite, Mariners Fish & Chips, for some paper-wrapped, salt and vinegary goodness. For more dining options, Falmouth is only a few miles away and has a much larger selection of eateries.
Whether you are travelling as a couple, a family or bringing the dog, we have a variety of holiday cottages in Penryn to suit every type of traveller. You might like a traditional fisherman’s cottage with a roaring open fire, or perhaps a farmhouse tucked away in the surrounding countryside with a hot tub is more your thing.
Wherever you choose to stay, you’ll never be far from some of the county’s most famous attractions, including The Eden Project, the Minack Theatre and St. Michael’s Mount. Why not check out our guide, ‘Things to do in Cornwall’ for some further inspiration?
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please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.