451km (280 miles) SW of London; 124km (77 miles) SW of Plymouth
This little harbor town, which Gilbert and Sullivan made famous, is at the end of the so-called Cornish Riviera. It's noted for its moderate climate (it's one of the first towns in England to blossom with spring flowers) and for the summer throngs that descend for fishing, sailing, and swimming. Overlooking Mount's Bay, Penzance is graced in places with subtropical plants including palm trees.
Those characters in The Pirates of Penzance were not entirely fictional. The town was raided by Barbary pirates, destroyed in part by Cromwell's troops, sacked and burned by the Spaniards, and bombed by the Germans. In spite of its turbulent past, it offers tranquil resort living today.
The most westerly town in England, Penzance is a good base for exploring Land's End; the Lizard Peninsula; St. Michael's Mount; the old fishing ports and artists' colonies of St. Ives, Newlyn, and Mousehole; and even the Isles of Scilly.