Penzance, Cornwall: Holidays, St Michael's Mount, and the Pirates

St Michael's Mount, near Penzance
St Michael's Mount, near Penzance
Image by Sheila Russell
Penzance in Cornwall, known as Pen Sans ( the Holy Headland) in Kernowek, the ancient Cornish language, is the most westerly major town in Cornwall and in England.

The town is situated in Mount's Bay and faces south-east into the English Channel, giving it a temperate climate, which is milder than most of the rest of the country. Penzance's gardens  provide a colourful backdrop to the town from early spring to Late Autumn, with many sub-tropical flowers and palm trees.

The first recorded mention of the town, under the name of Pensans, was in the Assize Roll in1284, although there is evidence of Roman remains in the area.

Golowan Festival

Golowan is the Cornish word for the Midsummer celebrations that traditional took place place in Cornwall from St John's Eve on June 23 to St Peter's eve on June 28. Since 1990 Penzance has held a Golowan Festival every year.

The modern festival is based around 3 days, called Mazey Eve, Mazey Day,  and Quay Fair Day.

Mazey Eve is centered on Penzance's harbour area, and includes the election of the 'Mayor of Quay' and a firework display.

Mazey Day, the following day, is a community and arts celebration. Artists, school children, and members of the public join in processions that include music, giant sculptures, and other artistic activities. On Mazey Day, Penzance is decorated with large amounts of greenery, a practice that mirrors the practice during the ancient festival. Mazey Day attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the town, visiting the market stalls, shops, restaurants, and public houses.

Quay Fair Day is a celebration of the harbour and of Penzance's maritime history.  Visiting boats are welcomed and are decorated to add to the festive atmosphere.

St Michael's Mount

The castle on the island of St Michael's Mount is still partially occupied by the St Aubyn family, with the remainder being run by as a visitor attraction by the National Trust. The medieval church and castle sit at the high point of the island, and date from the 12th Century. The slopes of the island are partially laid out as a subtropical terraced garden.

Accessed on foot at low tide by a causeway, or by boat at other times, the island is a major tourist attraction. Rumour has it that a senior German officer has earmarked it as his home after the planned invasion of the UK in the second world war.

The Pirates of Penzance

Penzance is probably best known as the home port of the pirates in the comedy opera, The Pirates of Penzance; or The Slave of Duty, by Gilbert and Sullivan. The opera was debuted in 1879, and has been popular ever since. The Major-General's Song, which has often been parodied, is the opera's best known song.

In recent years, Cornwall's leading rugby union team that is based in Penzance, was re-branded as the Cornish Pirates in 2005.

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