Penryn – The Complete Guide

Written by: Eliot Prince

Welcome to Penryn.

Or maybe not quite welcome as you might not have arrived yet. But you’re certainly here to explore what Penryn has to offer. 

Truth is: Penryn is a quiet retreat. It’s one of the oldest towns in Cornwall, yet visitors often overlook the area. More fool them, now you’ve got the chance to enjoy this character-filled town away from the crowds.

Here’s what you need to know in quick time. You can get here easily via train or road. The food can be summed up in 3 words – homecooked, unique, delicious. People of all ages can find activities from culture to adrenaline. And yes, there’s beaches and adventures nearby.

Interested? Cornish Vybes is like a kid with a spade on the beach, we dig a little deeper.

Around Penryn

Penryn narrow street

Penryn is a quiet historic market town radiating Cornish heritage. Tudor, Jacobean, and Georgian period buildings line the cobbled streets. Lush green countryside flutters around the hillside while the scent of sea salt swirls up from the River Fal. 

Character rushes out of each corner, blending with a flourishing art scene. Your heart rate drops to a new pace of life around the town as you wander the streets. Slowly absorb the art galleries and survey the 19th century clock tower before sipping on a flat white to pass a morning. 

Stop and say hello to the smiling locals. Or get the low down on the up-and-coming places to check out from the students of the nearby university campus. (and keep reading for the juicy insights.)

How to Get to Penryn

penryn train station at night

The drive to Penryn is easy. You don’t need to stress out on small Cornish lanes.

If you’re coming from outside of Cornwall then it’s quickest to take the A30 to Truro. Once you reach Truro, it’s just 10 minutes on the Falmouth road which delivers you right to Penryn. 

Penryn train station is in the middle of town and within walking distance of wherever you need to go. It is on the Falmouth – Truro line. You can connect at Truro train station when travelling from further afield. This is super handy, as London Victoria runs direct trains to Truro, then it’s a quick change and 10 minutes to Penryn. (Plus this helps access from Bristol, Reading, Taunton, Exeter, and Plymouth.

Coaches run from London Victoria to Penryn direct. Often for less than £30 with National Express or Megabus. But it can take a good 9 hours.

What to See and Do

Penryn heritage tour sign and map

Grab your adventure hat. We’re going to explore Penryn.

First things first. You can’t land anywhere in Cornwall without hitting the beach. Now, there aren’t any beaches in Penryn but, by God, you can find several miles of sparkling sand nearby. 

Gyllynvase beach and Castle beach make a classic day out. Jump on the quick train ride or drive to Falmouth to feel the sand between your toes, splash into the tranquil waters, and daydream upon a paddleboard below the castle overlooking the bay. 

Escape the summer scrum at Trefusis Beach in Flushing. Sitting on the opposite side of the Falmouth harbour, you can peacefully spend the days swimming, sunbathing, and watching the sailors pass beyond the point.

In Penryn itself, take a gentle stroll around the heritage trail, including a visit to the free museum. There’s a 6 part geocache for your ‘geodes’ out there (Not sure that’s the proper terminology.)

Find your zen at Enys gardens, a few minutes east of town. Every season unveils new colours and scents of the woodlands which blend with the historic buildings. If that’s not enough nature, then check out Trelissck Gardens and take a river cruise with one of the local operators.

Right, let’s turn up the excitement levels a bit. Or at least, tire out the kids at Raze the Roof. You’ll have to wrestle them out of indoor play area, virtual reality centre, and laser tag zone. (To be fair, sounds like a riot whatever age you are). Plus check out Kernow Adventure Park and Via Ferrata routes nearby.

Fishing at Argal Lake or in the sea is popular too. You can ‘bend a rod’ (again, not sure that’s technically right.) while others take a walk through the woodlands and meadows. Or simply choose a rocky outcrop or bob off the coast on board a traditional fishing boat.

Where to Stay

The seven stars Penryn

Penryn has a range of accommodation options in the town along with countryside retreats within a few minutes’ drive.

The centre of town is not blessed with a huge choice of hotels. You can find a couple of pleasant and reasonably priced options, often for less than £100 a night. The Thirsty Scholar is a 3-star hotel / BnB with comfy beds and lots of character, plus the bar and restaurant services a good plate of food and local ale. The Seven Stars is a pub with comfortable rooms, again with unique character in the historical building (and an on-site microbrewery with rave reviews).

Elsewhere around town, there are more rental properties blessed with Cornish heritage. We’re talking cute cottages, BnBs, townhouses and apartments all within strolling distance for dinner or morning walks by the river. 

You can base yourself a little outside of town and get stunning country views or curl up next to a log burner if it’s a bit chilly. Perhaps try a funky airstream trailer at Falbrook House Farm. Adding to this you can find a campsite in the lush countryside like Higher Kergilliack Campsite or Goonhilland Barn Yurts

Want to keep on the move and adventure deeper into Cornwall?  Grab a Cornish Camper Rental!

Eating and Drinking

Stop scrolling right now. Stop, stop stop. You need to know about the food in Penryn. It flies under the radar for places to eat in Cornwall. It’s straight-up underrated for foodies. But you’ve made it here so you can join me in my favourite feasts.

Leave the masses gorge in Falmouth or Truro and follow me to join in an epic feast. We’re talking the fresh pillowy pizza, hot bowls of ramen, sticky bao buns, and crispy fish and chips.

Bango Kitchen is hands down the best Asian restaurant and takeaway around. Make sure to grab your lunch here during the week as it’s only open during the day (and until 8pm on a Saturday. 

Two pizza joints are not to be missed. Pizzapls throws out tangy Neapolitan style pies (woodfired of course) – complimented with big vibes and cocktails. Over in the industrial park, seek out Verdant Brewing. The taproom in the brewery has got its pillowy pizza nailed and the beer = juicy, hoppy, hazy pales, IPAs, DIPAs and plenty of it.

verdant brewing pizza oven penryn

For a refreshment stop Muddy beach cafe is ready with hot drinks, brunch, lunch, and the odd cocktail on a sunny afternoon by the water. The Warehouse from Origin Coffee is where you’re going to head for a fresh grind and a slice of brunch.

Warehouse cafe Penryn

Looking for classic English grub? Mariners takeaway is a great shout for locally caught fish and chips. And on a Sunday follow your nose to the nearest local pub for a big ol’ roast.

Shopping in Penryn

penryn town centre

Penryn is a residential town and area, so you’re not going to find yourself in the midst of a dramatic shopping spree. Of course, it’s got all of the essentials covered with grocery stores dotted around along with an ASDA on the A39 outskirts and a Lidl at the bottom end of the road towards Falmouth.

As you make your way down the main street you’ll come across cute independent stores to find a unique pieces, souvenirs, and gifts for loved ones. More than likely an art gallery will catch the eye and draw you as you lose track of time.

 If it’s a bigger shopping trip you’re after, the best bet is to head into Falmouth where you’ll find all shops including big chain brands, independent retailers, and everything in between. You can grab new clothes, upgrade surf equipment, or find a piece of artwork to take home.

Surrounding Area

Falmouth bay

One thing about Penryn is that it makes a handy base to explore the local area while staying away from the crowds, particularly in the summer months.

If you’ve read this far, you’ll have noted that Falmouth is nearby. Close enough for a walk in less than an hour from centre to centre or a 10 minute drive / train. Falmouth is a vibrant town with energy seeping out from the University and sailing community. This breads hundreds of businesses and attractions. You can spend a day shopping, eating, drinking, and learning the history at the National Maritime Museum. Or just hit the beach…

In the other direction lies Truro, the only city in Truro. It’s not a huge city, more the size of a market town. It’s a popular destination to explore on a rainy day, including a famous Cathedral, shopping, restaurants, and indoor markets.

Slightly further afield, you can drive deep into west Cornwall. There’s way too much to mention here. Highlights have to be Porthleven, its historic harbour and surrounding sandy beaches. Or venture to the Lizard Point, and don’t miss out on Kynance Cove (It’s one of those Instagram-worthy locations).

Penryn – A Quiet Retreat, Well Worth a Look

Penryn has such a friendly atmosphere. And when combined with its historic character, yummy food, and ideal location to explore Cornwall, it becomes a little gem that’s well worth a look. Or even better, a place to base whether you’re on holiday or moving to live in the area.

Decent transport links via train and road make is painless to arrive in town, even from far a field. Although, the nearest airport is in Newquay or Exeter which can be a mission. 

Once you’re here there’s unique accommodation from BnBs and pubs with comfortable rooms, townhouses, apartments, and peaceful retreats on the outskirts. Restaurants, cafes, and bars continue to pop up serving homecooked British favourites and wonderful international dishes.

Shopping is a little limited, but never fear, you can quickly get to bigger urban areas like Falmouth and Truro for a shopping trip or a big day out. Plus as with most of Cornwall, there are enormous sandy beaches just down the road.

FAQ about Penryn

Is Penryn Cornwall nice?

Penryn is a peaceful and historic Cornish town. It offers a quieter retreat compared to more well known areas, so if that’s what you’re after then you’ll love it. Yes, Penryn is nice and a perfect location to explore the area on day trips.

Is Penryn worth visiting?

There are plenty of interesting sites to visit in Penryn. It is particularly notable for its historic buildings. Much of the town retains its ye olde charm, including a stunning clocktower and museum. Plus as an up-and-coming holiday destination, new restaurants and family-friendly activities open in the area every year. 

Does Penryn have a beach?

No, Penryn does not have its own beach, although it sits alongside the Penry/Fal river. There are several nearby beaches in Flushing and Falmouth including Trefusis, Gyllynvase, and Castle beach.

Why is Penryn called Penryn?

Penryn derives from the Cornish word Pennrynn, meaning ‘promontory’. That’s another word for headland or a raised land mass that projects into a body of water. 

How old is Penryn in Cornwall?

The bishop of Exeter founded Penryn in 1216 making it one of the oldest settlements in Cornwall. The town has now grown to be home to around 7,000 people.