Penzance from Albert Pier
Today had the feeling of the end of summer meeting the beginning of autumn. We often spend lazy Saturdays mooching around our favourite town in the whole world, Penzance. At lunchtime we headed to the harbour and joyously licked our way through two of Roskilly’s finest ice creams, salted caramel and toasted coconut, bought from the excellent Dreckly’s Steakhouse(and deli). We love to be tourists in the place we live. If you haven’t you should try it, wherever you hail from.
We fancied a punt on a boat trip. A number of boat trips of Mount’s Bay, the West Penwith coast and beyond are offered from Penzance Harbour so we headed to Albert Pier to see what was on. We were too late to get on a 3 hour Ocean Explorer trip with promise of seals, sharks and more but we were tempted with awaiting the weather in the coming weeks and going for a 4 hour reef and shoal trip along the north coast. Anyway it was just nice to walk to the end of Albert Pier. It’s one of Penzance Harbour’s best assets and at the moment it is a hive of sailing and boating activity.
You won’t get a better ride at a theme park.
Buses are sexy
There was still a lot of Mediterranean blue sky to be had so we weren’t about to head back indoors so we headed to the bus station a few yards away. We often play pot luck with bus destinations, although not always with success. But any ride in West Penwith is thrilling and one way or another gets your adrenaline pumping. Today was the penultimate day of this season’s run of First Kernow’s Open Top Bus, no. 300 service from Penzance to Land’s End. A family ticket is £12 but if you are pleasant and nice you can get away with being a family of just two adults. This gives you unlimited travel on First buses in the area whether or not you get back on the open top bus.
I had already eyed up our seats. On the right hand side behind the stair well. Heads are saved from branches and in this position you enjoy the exhilaration of the wind in your hair (and there was quite a bit of wind) with a view uninterrupted by the plastic windshields at the front. I felt perfectly vindicated when two tourists thought front was best and realised that the scenery through scratched plastic isn’t quite the same. Also, in the direction we were heading, east and north out of Penzance there was very little between you and the coast line.
You will not experience the drama of the West Penwith land and seascape in a car, on a train or on a bike in quite the same way as being so high up on a double decker bus. The west Cornish roads are often flanked by tall ‘hedges’ and so much of the route done by other types of road travel would completely miss out on the aerial view you get on the bus. I should also add that it isn’t just a treat for lovers of the rugged landscape and coastline here but also for the those who have a quiet appreciation of Cornish urban architecture. Walking around towns you don’t often look up. Here you can come face to face with the angel hoiked onto the facade of the Methodist Chapel.
Most of the photographs I snapped on my phone are of the coastwise aspect of the route we took but I must also mention the jaw-dropped beauty of West Penwith’s elegant hills such as Trendrine, Watch Croft near Rosemergy, Zennor Hill and Carn Galver and Mulfra in the distance. And of course lots of Cornish mining landscape to appreciate.
Who says buses are sad and for snotty teens and pensioners? You won’t get a better ride at a theme park.
Kids will love this ride. It would make a thrilling outing, especially if you swotted up on what you can see a bit beforehand.
Check the weather beforehand or take your cue from the wind direction and skies overhead on day of travel.
If you do this trip in the high season in July and August queue up early. Practise your polite but firm queuing. People will try and muscle their way in to grab the best seats. But don’t be put off. every sea from the top deck will enjoy something special. The bus is also used by local people to hop to the destinations en route so it will fill up and empty out.
If you want to do the whole route expect to spend over three hours on the bus. Unless you are particularly keen on buses I would recommend you timetabled a stop at St Ives, St Just or, if you are organised, the Gurnard’s Head.
There are several public transport options available to return to Penzance from St Just and St Ives but fewer at more rural stops. Remember you can use your ticket for unlimited travel on all of First’s other buses. For example, we hopped off at St Just, enjoyed a crab sandwich, gingerbread man and a beer before returning home on the half hourly no. 10.
Even on a sunny day wrap up. If there is a breeze blowing you will feel it. Don’t go to the hairdresser’s before this bus trip. If you have ear problems wear ear plugs.
If you don’t want to stop off for lunch or afternoon tea, take a bun and a bottle of water. It’s surprising how the exhilaration can make you hungry and thirst. It will also make the ride more fun.
We felt truly buoyed by the ride. I understood the West Penwith landscape so much better after this trip. I felt even more lucky that all of this was merely 6-10 miles from home.